Look, I’ve already had my realizations of Melbourne’s Foxblood being the defunct Glorified (you can find those ramblings here), but after spending a lot of time with their debut record, I must say that Foxblood is a whole other beast entirely.
This new outlook and chapter in the quintet’s book is a powerful one at that. Despite a name change, they still retain their solid songwriting and tight musical chops for their debut, ‘The Devil, The Dark & The Rain’. Except now, the choruses and melodic hooks are a far stronger focal point of the music. For singer Chris Millward, they aren’t going to hide or shy away from their humble past.
“It’s ancient history to us now musically, and we now want to start fresh. But we make no secret that we used to be Glorified. It just reached a point where we had taken that band, as an entity, as far as we could take it. It had run its course. We had been recording during that whole time and had wound up with an album that for all of us was unprecedented; as it was something we had created together for the first time. Before this, I hadn’t been that involved in the writing process since I joined. This turned out to be something that was so special and so personal to all of us that it wouldn’t have done it any justice to put it out under a band that was, at the time, winding down.”
‘The Devil, The Dark & The Rain’ isn’t an album that one would have necessarily associated with Glorified. This record isn’t from the same band that once wrote ‘Momentary Cartography’ & ‘…And Then The World Fell Silent’. Especially with a song like the delicate ‘Ghost Town Medicine‘. But Foxblood doesn’t look back on those Glorified years with disdain, because as Millward puts it, “That was a good time for us.”
So maybe the band won’t “reinterpret” their older music (a la Stories with ‘Dreamwork‘), but one must move forward. So the Beale household [brothers/bandmates Tom & Aaron Beale] became the in-house studio for Foxblood’s debut record, where they all “drink beers and yell into microphones”, or so I’m told. However, while their debut was engineered in-house, it was Adam “Nolly” Getgood (of Periphery) who mixed & mastered it, which was of course for the best.
“We wanted this to be really polished. As we were so proud of the integrity of the songs that we wanted a polished mix to back it up” says Millward. I am inclined to agree with him, as that’s what all bands need; someone who knows what they’re doing behind the desk who can ensure that your music – your artistic baby, essentially – works sonically. Especially, now that the band is “out of their pigeonhole”.
Audio engineering aside, the visual aesthetic of this record was paramount to Millward. When looking at the cover, you have three components, three ideas; The Devil, The Dark, and The Rain. I personally viewed this as a trio of acts playing out a complete story. Act one being The Devil; the temptation & the idea of sin. Act two is The Dark; the shit hitting the fan moment and initial conflict, whatever that may be. Three is, of course, The Rain; the resolution, and not necessarily a profoundly happy resolution at that. The frontman expresses joy when I tell him of my interpretation, and delves deeper into the ideas behind the album’s name.
“These three ideas are all very personal to me. The Devil draws a religious parallel of sorts to someone’s will to sin, but is separate from the conventional religious context, and is more about our vices, our addictions, our regrets. The Dark is the masquerade mask and it is faceless. We represented this as a white elegant, graceful character because it [darkness] moves within us freely. The Rain is the one in the gas mask. That’s sickness and the slow decline to death, to toxicity, to depression.”
As for the lyrics, it turns out they’ve been compiled from a book that Millward wrote (a story for another time, I suppose). Of course, reading a song’s lyrics without the musical context playing means that these songs are essentially books – very short books, mind you – but they are literary pieces nonetheless. They all convey a particular feeling, even before the music is merged with it.
“When I say that the lyrics have been taken from a complete body of work, I mean that they’ve been lines from varying pieces and have been adapted for the songs” clarifies Millward. “The initial words remain. When I’m writing, I do have a certain…feeling and vibe in mind. When you take that and apply the music to it, it creates a whole new context and you can find a whole new perspective on it. When anyone listens to our record and this narrative, I only hope they find whatever they want out of it. I’ve heard from a few different people about their interpretations, especially Die Young, and I enjoy hearing that. Becuase the music doesn’t owe you anything and it doesn’t make any promises, and you can take away from it whatever you want. That’s what I one hundred percent want people to get out of this – whatever they want.”
He continues, “As a kid, I loved sitting down with a new album and going through the lyric booklet as the songs went by. That’s something I don’t do anymore, which bums me out. I think having the lyrics there in the physical copies and having people be able to go through the music and the lyrics will be a win for us. I loved the visual and physical elements of music; I love that there can be so much more than the music itself.”
To some, that may be a slight cop-out – and who knows, maybe it is – but that idea shows the beauty of not only Foxblood’s music, but of music in general. The fact that the authorial intent can be digested so differently among listeners can open up great discussions about the art in question. Hopefully, that’ll apply to ‘The Devil, The Dark & The Rain’, but that wouldn’t be the case without the lyrics. I’d say one of the most poignant lyrics in ‘Die Young‘, for example, would be “So take a good hard look at these tired eyes because they’re going to be tired for some quite some time”. The way that line is delivered is just such an incredible moment, and it’s just so telling of the singer’s inner thoughts. As for any lyric, song, idea or piece of imagery Foxblood present in their art, all of it’s premeditated by Millward and his bandmates.
“In every shot of every of every clip or every line of every song, it is all calculated. Everything is there for a reason, and it has to be as profound as it can be in every moment. I wanted this consistent universe that the album and the videos take place in. On that particular night, and with filming the clip for Die Young, it was actually so emotionally draining that I had a breakdown in the living room. I was just lying there in the fetal position. Because that film clip is so genuine, it was like dragging myself through hell each time we did it. But ironically, it was easiest that way”, concludes the singer with a slight chuckle.
That emotional and physical taxation was well worth it in the end. The final product of ‘Die Young’ is exceptional, and it stands as a personal favorite video of yours truly for 2016. In fact, two scenes that really stuck with me was when The Rain kills himself in front of Millward, and later on when The Dark is shown killing The Rain but is seemingly unaware of her actions. The narrative implication here being The Devil has set her down this path to committing manslaughter, as he claps at her anguish and remorse. Her shaking hands and body language implies her regret, and that she perhaps wasn’t aware of her violent actions. Now, that’s some really heavy shit right there, and I wondered if there was actual anecdotal truth in there. After all, to quote author Margaret Atwood, “There has to be some blood in the cookie to make the Gingerbread Person come alive.” Now, Millward didn’t spill the beans completely, but he was elated at my observations.
“If you can look into those scenes and get that much out of it, then I am so, so happy!” He adds, “With The Rain character in that clip, he actually represents an age, a constant timeline in the clip that we die a thousand times over on our way to death. He’s constantly on his way to his passing is how we are all careening towards an eventual end. Something’s going to kill you one day, all you can do is paint it with a theatrical undertone. It is a bleak universe, but some people live with that for their whole lives”.
Goddamnit, it seems like Millward has been watching a lot of Final Destination films lately, which coincidentally enough, he’s actually a fan of. (Here’s hoping that 6 & 7 won’t be utter fucking pants like the fourth entry was.) But in terms of going beyond the music and cinematography, the descending drone shot and the constant back and forth tracking shots in ‘Die Young‘ are so effective. Not enough props can be given to director Ed Reiss. Collaborating with him really was for the best, as his skill behind the camera merged with band’s music and vision resulted in something truly special. Millward can only agree, saying that “Ed just made it all work and he made everything about it so practical too.”
When it comes to tracking shots, like that famous single take from season one of True Detective, they’re huge undertakings. If you fuck up even once, you have to stop, go back, and do it all again. For ‘Die Young’, which was filmed inside of a two-story mansion in St. Kilda, Melbourne, there are a handful of edits (and some quite obvious transitions) that allow the fifteen or so scenes to flow seamlessly together. But what makes that work so well is the actual house that they used to film in. It feels and looks so…lived in, which works so well for the clip characteristic. That seems like such an obvious thing to point out, but it can be sorely overlooked. For instance, as Millward comes down the stairs during the first verse, there’s a pair of thongs right by the door. I haven’t the foggiest about whose shoes they were and neither does he, but it just feels so…normal, and that’s what makes it all so relatable.
“It’s funny, that’s not something we ever planned on. We really lucked out on this house. I wrote it with Powell’s house in mind originally, but we found this mansion in St. Kilda. People were coming and going as we filmed and if the house were empty or not lived in, it wouldn’t work. But you know how I said earlier about everything was there for a reason? Well, everything except for the shoes! I saw it in the final cut and realized that we hadn’t accounted for things like that. But the house having being lived in worked for in our favor, definitely”.
On the flipside, there’s the more recent ‘No Heroes’, which had a whole other vibe entirely. Instead of a modern, upper-class house in Melbourne, this was fi;med in the middle of the night out in rural Victoria. Despite the polar opposite setting, was that video just as physically and emotionally taxing? Yes…but not in the same way.
“Honestly, the hardest part of that shoot was how late it was. We shot the story scenes after the band left and it was 2am at that point. I got my roommate to drive me home at 5am, as it was such a long night. Jason Eshraghian, who directed it, formulated how to keep the universe consistent, and he just told me what to do and he tied it all together. I have the utmost gratitude for him because of it. He did exactly what I wanted and he did it justice. It was less stressful than Die Young, but just the fact that we were out late in this forest, tripping over shit and playing all night. We were all fucked by the end of it!”
Just a labor for what you love, really. Now, Glorified’s final song was the banger of a single, ‘Set Me Alight’, a song that I adore. Unbeknownst to myself and fellow listeners at the time, this was the first taste of what would eventually become Foxblood. However, it was removed from YouTube earlier this year to make way for the band’s re-branding. Yet, here it is now on their debut record; it’s subsequent new home. According to the band, it’s simply an “administrative reason as to why it’s there.”
“We were writing this album with the pretense that we’d release it as Glorified. But where we were at when it was finished, it would not have done the record any justice. So we released Set Me Alight just to test the waters first. We’ve since made the conscious decision to leave it on the record and it’s now a Foxblood song.”
While ‘Set Me Alight’ marked the transition between the old and new, its moment in the spotlight for the band’s live shows may be over soon, as they don’t want to look like they’re “milking it”.
As we’re now days away from the release of ‘The Devil, The Dark & The Rain’, there now stands two music videos, and three songs overall (the third, ‘Swan Song‘, was released just this week). As discussed so far, both portray hefty narratives & visuals that ensure that they aren’t merely glorified playthrough videos (pun not intended, I swear). Thankfully, the band hasn’t written themselves into a corner just yet and have even more plans for future releases.
“This universe will definitely continue and these characters will return. There is a whole story that we will play out for you all, and you can take away whatever you want from them. It’ll always be conceptual and we will always go to great lengths to portray dramas and theatrics. Becuase I think that that’s such a fun part of music that not enough people take advantage of. That’s what all of this has been based on – fun.”
Which is what comes down to; being fun. That’s encompassed by Millward as a person, and to some small extent, him as a singer. Actually, that says it best; he’s more a singer than he is a screamer. Whereas the band’s former vocalist, Miles, was much more of a screamer. Both are great in their own right, and that’s not to say that Millward cannot scream. He most certainly can, as each of these 11 songs show flares of his harsher screams and lower growls. But it’s obvious that the band’s sonic change has followed suit with a new member’s input, not solely because of it, but it’ll definitely remain in Foxblood’s identity moving forward. However, the singer admits he’s not some powerhouse vocalist.
“I don’t have a solid vocal technique, and I never have. I started when I was 15 and I used to sing along to Senses Fail’s Let It Enfold You [good pick, mate], and there is just no control on that whatsoever. My whole life, I’ve just been trying to make noises with natural voice, which is probably why people say that I either sound fucking terrible or that they’ve never heard vocals like this before”, laughs Millward.
Well, that “different” technique & sound gives him an edge I feel, as the band can now potentially step away from the crowd because of it. Which is what you want – people remembering your band, for better or for worse. This should hopefully be the case come November for Buried In Verona’s final tour. Excluding BIV’s latest record, and especially with Arkive and Capture The Crown being the heavier bands on the bill, Foxblood is bound to stick out as the opener on the lineups they’ll be joining.
“I do like us being the sore thumbs on bills”, states Millward. “With playing these venues, there is a lot of engineering that goes into our live show and so to have live venues that will be able to put our best foot forward will be great. I feel that every show will be fantastic on this tour”.
Right on, and I’d be lying if I said I that wasn’t going to one of those shows to solely see Foxblood play.
Finally, during my hour or so chat with the band’s kind-hearted singer, someone who isn’t necessarily fond of long phone calls, he briefly mentioned something that I thought was fitting to help wrap this piece up.
“If you were a fan of Glorified, and you now listen to Foxblood because you were a fan, then who am I to take that away from you? I’m just glad you’re listening”.
That sentiment acknowledges anyone who ever gave a shit about Glorified, a small metalcore band from Melbourne, and it addresses those that now care for Foxblood, a band with so much more promise. It states that whether you’re an OG fan or a newly initiated listener, all are welcome to be a part of the exciting time the bands currently finds themselves in. To quote the album’s title track, ‘We followed your churches, followed your gods. We followed your virtues, we followed you“.
So, will you follow Foxblood?
Foxblood’s ‘The Dark, The Devil & The Rain’ is out this Friday, the 16th of September via MGM Distribution. Get it when it comes out and do not sleep on this band. ‘The Dark, The Devil & The Rain’ is now available for pre-order via Waterfront Music and through good old fashioned iTunes.
Their album launch show goes down at The John Curtin Hotel, Carlton on September 25th, with Pridelands, Death In Bloom, & Advocates in support. Tickets are available through The John Curtin Hotel. Foxblood is also touring with Buried In Verona, Capture The Crown & Arkive. Dates below, tickets here.