Foxing // Conor Murphy

Arguably the most interesting point of this interview is that Foxing frontman, Conor Murphy, has a beautiful little chow chow dog. But a band, sadly, cannot tour the world off of the merit and cuteness of the dogs that they own. No, it’s all about the great music made, not the pups. In this case, 2018’s ‘Nearer My God’ LP – one of our honourable mentions for 2018 – has not just been the American group’s most varied and ambitious work, but perhaps also their best, too. It’s my personal favourite, anyway. As apart of their world tour for the ‘Nearer My God’ cycle, and ahead of their February/March Australian stint, seeing the band perform at this year’s Farmer & The Owl festival, I chat with Conor as he reflects upon various parts and elements of Foxing’s latest and greatest release. So, let’s get it on!

Conor, I remember that quite a lot of the interview discussion Foxing had leading up to ‘Nearer My God’ was about that dire theme of the end; of something ending, doomsday’s, and what not. It seemed like while this record was an immensely creative and interesting time for you and the band, it was also a challenging and somewhat gloomy time too. So, I’m wondering how you and the rest of Foxing are feeling about the record now that it’s been out for quite some months, but as well as the band’s trajectory and mental health too? 

I can’t really speak on behalf of everyone else in the band and their mental health, obviously. But for myself, it’s collectively the most proud we’ve been on something that we’ve made for the band. We knew that it was gonna be our own favourite record, even if no one else likes it. Since the release, it was just such a giant weight off of our shoulders. We truly didn’t know if many would like it too. For us, we put out our first record, and people liked it, then we put out second record, and people seemed to not want us to not go in the direction that we were going. So we just doubled down on that [laughs]. Moving away from that traditional emo stuff. Most die-hard twinkly emo fans didn’t seem enjoy it, but people who hadn’t heard of us before or at least didn’t like our first two records, seemed to really come around to it. At this point, we’re so happy with it. We are so much happier as musicians and as creative people. Now it’s like, “what do we do next…?” Do we now double down on what we already doubled down on? [Laughs].

Dude, that makes me so happy to hear that! It’s such an interesting and different record, but also a great listen – not simply because it’s something very different. It’s my favourite Foxing album, at least. It sounds like you guys just had so much fun creating it at points too. ‘Heartbeats’ and ‘Won’t Drown’ are things that I’d never thought I’d hear from you guys, but it’s sick. And those bag-pipes on ‘Bastardizer’? Just so awesome. 

Yeah! Thank you. It’s not that we don’t like the tappy emo stuff, the sound that we came from, but it was this aspect of what we were doing that we didn’t feel was the most important part. When we made our first two albums, the emphasis was on orchestration, dark themes, and rhythmically challenging parts. The tapping and emo sound was just another layer on top of that. But it type-cast us for a while. We’ve never been concerned with genre tags, but what was really cool was that we’ve had friends who got real with us for this album and said that they didn’t actually like the first two releases but that they really liked this one. Uncool that they weren’t honest with us at first, but really cool that they finally were upfront with us now and enjoyed it.

Well, at least they were upfront with you guys now! There’s so much going on with this record, and I’m really wondering with this upcoming Australian tour, how tricky are some of these songs and arrangement may be to pull off live? I’m sure there’ll be some samples and backing tracks and some dynamic changes too. 

They are actually really difficult to re-create exactly live. For instance, with the bag-pipes on ‘Bastardizer’, those bag-pipes are recorded at a different speed because the specific key for bag-pipes cannot be transposed. So we recorded them at one speed, we did all of the math on it, and then we slowed them down so that they were now the same key as the song. We couldn’t have bag-pipes live. But we are making up for how we play these songs by changing up the dynamics and putting much more energy into how we play. Just so no one’s bored and wanting us to bring out a bag-pipes player [laughs]. Which is the case for a lot of the songs that have these extra elements. So we now have three samplers on-stage with us. With ‘Heartbeats’, there’s all of those string orchestrations, which are all taken from a Rachmaninoff symphony. The big thing is just to put on bigger energy and performances, knowing full well that we cannot replicate every single instrument on the original recording. We leave a lot of the samples and stuff up to Eric [Hudson, guitar], and the more rhythmic sample parts up to Jon [Hellwig, drummer].

Hey man, whatever works! It’s really cool you talk a lot about the samples used in Foxing’s music and how you guys approach that stuff too. 

Well, with the samples, we know what we can and can’t do. Obviously, we’d never get away with using a full Beyonce song on one of our records, as cool as that would be. We don’t worry too much. As we just put the samples in there and tell our manager what we used. [Laughs]. That’s one of the giant luxury’s of having a team and a manager working for you. As we don’t wanna get too bogged down while writing and creating and thinking: “this is so cool, but I don’t know if we can use it“. I suppose it’s a backwards process for working with and being creative with samples these days. It’s better to get everything else done and then work out what you can do, and replace things with other parts if need be.

Before we wrap up, Conor, I just wanted to say that I liked how you re-used that same outfit across all three of the music video’s for ‘Slapstick’, ‘Heartbeats’ and the title track, almost connecting them into the same universe and narratives with this “The Botanist” role.

Thanks! In terms of the narrative of this record, that janitor costume that I wore, which was made by Allison Pearce, who is a really great designer, she did such a good job with it. I told her that I wanted it to be a suit that some kind of space-man or scientist would wear whilst working. And she just nailed it! It’s more like a suit used for a fighter jet pilot but it fits. What with the whole point of that being that the music videos are set in these future or alternate timelines where the world is almost ending and there’s this science fiction vibe. I’m actually not sure if we’d ever continue this kind of narrative, though. It would maybe only happen if the next record continued the thoughts of this one. And I’m honestly not sure one way or another. As I’m also not sure if we’d wanna just start from scratch over again. Which is what we always do with our records.

Foxing Australian tour 2019:

February 27th, Reverence Hotel – Melbourne

March 1st, Factory Floor – Sydney

Saturday March 2nd, McCabe Park – Wollongong

March 3rd, Crowbar – Brisbane

Tickets here.

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