Written by Isaac Rogers
There are some times in life where things just seem to fall in place, like some kind of cosmic energy seems to guide you into a circumstance that fits like the proverbial puzzle piece to fill a void you were either unaware of, or unwilling to accept existed. For me, that moment came in 2014 when I happened across a live studio rendition of a song called ‘The Medic’. After going through the most substantial relationship breakdown of my life to date, something drew me to find a band that could somehow pen everything that I was feeling into a seemingly perfect 3 minute summation of loss, despair, and fear of the unknown into to which I was cast head first. That band was a quartet from St Louis, Missouri, called Foxing, and I was lucky enough to talk to their vocalist Connor Murphy to learn more about their latest (and utterly stunning) new record ‘Nearer My God’, their approach to playing to entirely new fans and the philosophical significance of 20/20 hindsight.
What are you up to at the moment? Are you touring or are you taking a break before you come over?
It’s a bit of a break, we’re home for the next 2/3 weeks then we hit the road with Coheed And Cambria, and then immediately when that tour is over we’re coming to Australia.
It’s been 6 years since The Albatross was released, what makes now the right time for Foxing to come to Australia?
Somebody finally asked us to come [laughs]. We’ve all been wanting to come to Australia for a very, very long time, since I was a tiny kid I’ve wanted to come to Australia, I think all of us have. It seems like the most beautiful place in the world, I don’t know what its actually like but I guess I’ll see soon. But we are absolutely so excited for this, it seems like every year since we’ve been a band we’ve asked our management or our label to go to Australia and its like well, “you’re going to lose so much money if you go over there is this really what you want to do?” And were like well if we really want to go we'll take a vacation there if we're going to lose money anyway. But right now Farmer and the Owl asked us to come do the festival and I think we're guaranteed right now to break to at least break even which is totally worth it.
Is it exciting, not only to come to Australia like you said before, but also to play for people you’ve never played to before?
Oh yeah, its so rare that we get to play in cities that we’ve never been to. Just because we tour in America so much, it would be surprising to me if there were many cities left that we haven’t played to. I think we’ve hit ever major market in the US and most of the non major ones [laughs]. Every time we go over to Europe we venture a little further into the mainland, so we reach a little further each time. Every time that happens we’re so excited because, not only do we really like travelling and seeing new people, but the experience of playing to new people in a city we’ve never been to is really cool. You just don’t expect anybody from another part of the world to know who you are and to know your music and just getting to watch people sing the words back to you in a place you’ve never been to is a really surreal experience that’s really what I’m looking forward to most about Australia, I’m hoping that people know our music and know our songs but if not that’s okay, hopefully we might be able to convince some people [laughs].
Without giving too much away, what can Australian fans expect set list wise? Looking at current set lists it’s quite ‘Nearer My God’ heavy, do you like to change it up when playing to new audiences?
That’s the thing, we just have no idea what we should do. We have to prepare before because we don’t know how to play all of our songs, and we’re definitely not the type of band that can take requests, which sucks, we would love to but we have so many samples and things that we have to prepare before we play so its near impossible for someone to say “play this song” and we actually do it. As cool as that would be. But we actually don’t know what to do about it because I know there are a few people here and there who will reach out to us on the internet and say “come to Sydney” or whatever and that’s been happening since our first record came out, and we’re always like “yeah we really want to”, but also, because this is the first time we’ve been asked to come to Australia, we’re not sure if that means we should be playing more of our last record? It’s really confusing because we have 3 records, we have a limited amount of time, and we don’t know what people actually want to hear in Australia. I don’t know, do you have any recommendations?
I guess every album start to finish would make everybody happy wouldn’t it?
A lot of bands who come over here often do support tours which means they have a VERY limited amount of time, however the headline tour gives you a little more leeway in terms of being able to fit in a few more songs, would that make it easier or harder to design a set?
It's always easier on a support tour, especially when there’s some magic times when a band will ask you to come out with them and say “you have a 30 minute set”, which is so great because 30 minutes is just enough time to play your top 5 Spotify songs and that’s pretty much what we will always do.
We have like 5 songs to play to fill up 30 mins so lets play the most popular songs we have. Those are awesome but it's so much more complicated when you have to play for an hour because you’ve got to play something from each album, but you also have to favour one more than the other, so for us usually that tends to be playing more from the new record, but that’s really tough playing in Australia because we’ve never played before so we don’t know if fans over there only like our first record or our second one or our new one, so I don’t know, we’ll just take a wild guess and hope for the best. That’s pretty much our motto right now.
So it’s take about the new record, Nearer My God, it feels a huge step sonically for the band, do you think that was an organic change of sound or was it more of a calculated direction? What brought on the change?
I think that we knew going into it we wanted to make it a specific way, we wanted it to sound a certain way throughout. What that was is not like we want it to be different from the other records, but more we wanted it to sound dark and scary in some parts but at the same time uplifting, we wanted to have a lot more depth, we wanted the stereo range to be as vast as we possibly can to really reward people for listening through headphones, I think we had all these goals in mind for it and, at its core, all those things are different from the previous records for sure, but I don’t think we intended on that being the case.
I think its great that it is, because we’re more proud of it than anything we’ve made before, but in our eyes it wasn’t this major departure. I guess in the end, I think we realised “maybe this is a big departure and we hope people like it”.
What was it like working with Chris Walla (Death Cab For Cutie)? What did he bring to the sessions that was different to ‘Dealer’ or ‘The Albatross’?
Well, working with him was the most different thing that we’ve ever experienced because he’s such a different person, and in no way am I saying he is a weirdo, I mean he definitely is a weird guy [laughs], but we're all extremely weird ourselves. We just got along so, so well with him. He’s got this aspect to of a spiritual guru vibe to him which is kind of everything you could really hope for in meeting someone you look up to like him. You know, I think there’s a lot of artists who you look up to and say, “I hope I never meet them” in my head because they’re this sage of music that encapsulates being a rock star, and Chris is the exact opposite of that.
When you meet him, not only does he live up to what you want him to be, he goes way beyond it in the way that he will guide you through whatever problem you’re going through with so much confidence. Like if you’re going through something personal he is able to guide you through that with some kind of life lesson, and then when it comes to musical questions its like he knows everything about music since the dawn of time. He reads so much, we really weren’t prepared for when he came to St Louis to work with us, because we recorded at our studio, we really weren’t prepared for how awesome he was, and how much we would learn from him. It was a really great experience, way better than anything you would expect.
There’s a lot of parts on the record that are pretty wild vocally, in terms of the intense layering and going from mid register, to falsetto and then break out in a scream; how did you find the vocal sessions personally? It sounds like your voice was pushed to the absolute limits on a lot of the songs.
I think the best part about it was working on it at our studio, which made it extremely relaxing. To be able to take as much time as I needed, to be able to record a full take of a song one day, then a month later be like “you know I really didn’t like the way I did that” and then go back and do it again. And have that whole month of just listening to it over and over again. In a lot of ways it makes it feel like it's never truly done, there’s some songs on there that I listen to and I’m like; I could have done that part better, but at the same time it really gives you no excuse to feel that way, because I really had all the time in the world to do it. But that’s what I came up with and that’s how it sounds, it's extremely satisfying.
Because it gives you so much time to experiment, to experiment with my voice, and so much time to talk to Eric, John, Rick and Chris about how to make my voice sound, like should I do my mid range voice for a bit? Or falsetto? Or something that I’ve never tried before? We were able to experiment with these things without worrying about if my voice was going to give out, because if it does, we can just try it again a couple of days from now, or a month from now, it doesn’t matter.
So that’s really the best part of it, for the whole record, just the extreme amount of experimentation we were able to do and that’s what I’m hoping that we’ll be able to do for the next record too. Just to go out on a limb and try whatever the fuck we want.
If you were standing in front of yourself as you walked out of the studio after recording The Albatross, what would be the best piece of advice you could give to your younger self at that point?
Oh man that’s hard, what I initially want to say is “do a better job on that record, record those vocal parts better buddy, because you really goofed it”. But also, there’s so many things I would do differently on ‘The Albatross’, but it’s just so important to remember and to remind myself that we wouldn’t have had any of the opportunities that we have now if it wasn’t for that record. And I think that it had to be recorded exactly that way to get us to where we are right now. And where we are right now is a place that we’re all very, very happy with.
So I guess what I would really want to say to myself would be; you’re going to go through a lot of hard times, you’re going to be on a lot of tours you wish you weren’t on, and you’re going to be a really, really depressed person, but it’s all going to get a lot better, and you’re going to be a lot happier. And I think the number one piece of advice I would give to myself in whatever that was, like 2013 or 2014, would just be “go to a therapist, go to a therapist NOW, not way later” [laughs].
Thank you so much for your time Connor, I’ll see you at the show in Brisbane!
Thanks! Awesome, see you in Brisbane!