Foxy Shazam Embrace Irony, Miss Mystery, Fear ‘the Rock Star is Becoming Extinct’
Ilya S. Savenok,Getty
Irony can be a polarizing concept in rock ‘n’ roll. On one side, you have hipsters in their vintage Journey t-shirts, distantly indulging in classic rock. On the other, you have the earnest diehards who will accept nothing short of the most genuine, by-the-book appreciation of the genre. Somewhere in the middle, straddling the two solitudes in tight leather pants you have rock ‘n’ roll avengers Foxy Shazam.
“I think irony has been a part of rock ‘n’ roll from the beginning,” Foxy Shazam trumpet player Alex Nauth tells Spinner. “Lyrically, especially. Even back to blues, where it came from, there’s some really ironic lyrics, like these old blues artists wanting to get rid of their wives and stuff. So I think that should just come with it. I don’t see it as a negative thing.”
That doesn’t mean that the Cincinnati band don’t take their music seriously, though.
“It’s not a joke. It’s not a Weird Al Yankovic parody. But [irony] is always going to be there,” says Nauth. “You shouldn’t try to let it not be there. Rock ‘n’ roll and any music is only borrowed from the past. Everything’s been done before. It’s just how you rearrange it and how people make it fresh and different. So it will just have to be there as a consequence of borrowing.”
Foxy Shazam’s latest and freshest rock rearrangement is The Church of Rock and Roll, their fourth album and first on the recently resurrected IRS label. With it, the band have crystalized their career-long vision to bring the magic and mystery back to their favourite beleaguered genre. Packed with thundering ’70s riffs, Queen-y melodies and fist-pumping bombast, the Justin Hawkins-produced record is nothing short of a rock ‘n’ roll revival.
“To be clear on rock ‘n’ roll, I’ve always thought of rock ‘n’ roll as being more a spirit than a genre of music,” says mustachioed singer Eric Sean Nally. “I think there’s a spirit that’s just not in music anymore.”
“We’re challenging that to come back,” adds Nauth. “Not just for ourselves. For music as a whole. For other bands, other artists.”
“The rock star is becoming extinct,” Nally continues. “It used to be all about mysteriousness and you never knew [too much about rock stars], but there was a personality that they would have that was only for their career. Everybody nowadays… what you see is what you get. At least that’s what I notice. And I think there needs to more things that you don’t see, that you don’t get. But you want it real bad.”
Foxy Shazam admit that creating and maintaining that kind of aura is almost impossible in the modern social media world, but they don’t believe that eschewing things like YouTube, Twitter and Tumblr is the solution, either. In fact, the band members have strong and intriguing presences in these various places.
“I agree that [social media is] partially deteriorating the whole mystique when it comes to artists or music in general,” explains Nauth. “But, at the same time, you have to get inside the machine to destroy it. It would be very naive on our parts not to use these tools that are out there for ourselves, and so we use those in a way that we think is best for us without using them too much.”
Nally agrees with his trumpet player.
“I think there’s really creative ways to make what you’re doing be the way you do it. Like, it has to look like Foxy Shazam, sound like Foxy Shazam, taste like it, smell like it,” says Nally. “So we try to make sure that everything is really cohesive with each other through what we do. Even what our live show is on stage, we try to apply that same notion to the tweets we do, or the pictures we post or whatever. So it all kind of has that same mystery, but we’re still utilizing it.”
Although response to the multimedia Shazam initiative to save rock has been largely positive so far, the band aren’t really sure how much progress they’ve really made in the greater war on boring music and dull and obvious musicians.
“I think it’s a hard thing to gauge ourselves,” Nally shrugs. “I don’t know if we’re going to be the ones to call it at the end, when it happens. But I think we’ve got a great record that we’re really excited about, so that’s a first step.”
And even if they can’t see the finish line, Foxy Shazam at least know that they’ve given the musical faithful something to believe in with The Church of Rock and Roll.
“Here’s an album and it’s from our hearts and it’s real music that we really made,” says Nally. “And I can tell you that for a fact because we made it. And it’s worth putting your faith into because it’s just real music. If you enjoy that type of music, it’s worth it to invest yourself in it.”