Locals Only: : 21st-Century Foxy

Foxy Shazam! discovers the fabled passage between abstract music and broad appeal

 
Foxy Shazam


Foxy Shazam!



The preconceptions I had about Eric Nally were completely wrong. Based on his vocal performances, a manic mix of camp and barking that rivals Mike Patton's absurd intensity, I fully expected an arrogant and overbearing type. Instead, Nally was quiet, modest, even a bit shy, and upon hearing his artistic vision for the band, the image of a baffling genius emerged, more akin to Perry Farrell or Anton Newcombe. This unlikely hero has charted a course to turn the music world on its ear and captained Foxy Shazam! past the point of no return.

The band itself is an improbable success story. When your closest musical kin are Mr. Bungle and Frank Zappa, you expect an uphill battle for recognition. Not so for Foxy, as evidenced by overwhelming grassroots support on

 
Foxy Shazam


Foxy Shazam!



The preconceptions I had about Eric Nally were completely wrong. Based on his vocal performances, a manic mix of camp and barking that rivals Mike Patton's absurd intensity, I fully expected an arrogant and overbearing type. Instead, Nally was quiet, modest, even a bit shy, and upon hearing his artistic vision for the band, the image of a baffling genius emerged, more akin to Perry Farrell or Anton Newcombe. This unlikely hero has charted a course to turn the music world on its ear and captained Foxy Shazam! past the point of no return.

The band itself is an improbable success story. When your closest musical kin are Mr. Bungle and Frank Zappa, you expect an uphill battle for recognition. Not so for Foxy, as evidenced by overwhelming grassroots support on myspace.com and the necessity of a second pressing of their debut, The Flamingo Trigger. They've also been met with very enthusiastic (if slightly perplexed) crowds.

"We think they're going to hate us, but people always get into it," says Nally.

"We've been lucky."

"It's like people are missing something in their musical life, and for some we hit that spot hard," adds keyboardist Sky White.

Mainstream acceptance of Progressive acts such as The Mars Volta and Coheed and Cambria has helped pry the door open for non-traditional artists, but the floodgates aren't yet agape. Even so, Foxy doesn't consider these bands models.

"There's a certain way to be different," explains Nally. "There's a formula to Experimental Rock. We try to avoid that as much as regular music and just write whatever."

He's right. Much of Neo-Prog is stale, like '80s Jazz Fusion — creative, but clinical. Foxy is anything but. Plus, they have an advantage over some of their more far-out brethren in that they aren't sadistic when it comes to dissonance. Any snippet of a Foxy track is perfectly digestible, it's the mischievous assembly that gives listeners pause. While somewhat disconcerting, their mutations are perfectly enjoyable the first time around, like a stained glass picture window that is shattered, then reassembled in a way that makes no objective sense but is just as beautiful.

How the band arrives at these freakish creations is another mystery. Nally shares lyrics and melodies with White, a trained Jazz pianist. Once a song is fleshed out, they approach the rest of the band, guitarist Loren Turner, bassist Skylyn Ohlenkamp and drummer Elijah Rust, who add elements with varying degrees of heaviness and syncopation.

"They constantly surprise me with the parts they come up with," says Nally. "Sky says none of our songs make sense, they shouldn't sound good. Doing it wrong sets the style for us."

"I believe I am responsible for keeping the music sane enough to understand," claims White. "But I never hesitate to pull out a deer hoof and play a solo with it."

White came from The Maladroits, a family affair including brother Eli, the latest bass player for MOTH. This connection led to MOTH's Brad Stenz masterfully recording and mixing Foxy's disc, giving their fanciful style the solid keel needed to explore uncharted territory.

Lyrics are another oddity, culled from an ever-growing collection of Nally's writings, Limousine Door, a fantasy world that ties together all of the seemingly random lyrics and song titles. Entertaining, but again, how does one explain this to potential listeners?

"I just say soulful," says Nally. The Shroder High alum continues, "I love black families, the warmth, the honesty. I want to convey that in our music."

"I feel like we are going to stick out no matter where we go," adds Rust. "But I think Foxy will be a giant breath of fresh air to the music world.

This summer, Foxy embarked on their first full-fledged tour. The van made it to Florida and back, but broke down on the exit ramp, leaving them to push it the last few miles home. It's an anecdote that makes you believe Foxy will achieve their ultimate goal.

"Nothing's cool until it's made that way. The first time you hear anything, it's stupid," explains Nally. "We want to lead the way and be the band that makes it OK for people to play whatever they want. I can't die until we've done it; I know we will."



For more on FOXY SHAZAM! go to foxyshazam.com.