Foxing / Ratboys / Kississippi / Cave People at Union Transfer
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If you've ever looked at an old document and noticed brown spots on it, what you are seeing are signs of aging. It's not exactly clear what specifically causes them, but one day, the page will completely brown over and be no more. This is called foxing.
A group of St. Louis musicians took this idea and turned it into a band. «From the conception of the band, we realized: we're not gonna be around forever,» says Foxing singer Conor Murphy. «There's classic literature that over time grows really old. But hopefully, you can make something that meant something at some point and will mean something down the road, even if it is aged and dated. That's always what keeps me going, the idea that we're writing something now that we won't be able to write in ten years.» At only 21, Murphy is wise beyond his years and Foxing's debut album, The Albatross is indisputable proof of that.
The Albatross has an epically beautiful, almost cinematic quality to it, a fact which the band members, some of whom were film students, are acutely aware of. Listening to their song «Rory» along with the music video they made for it is not only an emotionally jarring experiences but highlights the fact that Foxing have a bigger picture in mind than simply making music. It's not just a sound, it's a deeper, fuller concept fueled by a palpable sense of raw honesty and soulbearing. It's not just a band, it's the most vulnerable parts of their lives, reflected back at them.
Coll and Murphy write the lyrics together and cull from their lives and current real-life experiences. They are open and genuine about themselves in their lyrics, almost to a fault, sometimes putting a strain on their relationships with those around them. «The people that those songs are about, there's no way they wouldn't know it was about them,» says Coll. «Sometimes, there's the desire to not put your life so far out there. But it's also important to not hold back.» The two have a unique process of co-editing each other's songs. «When we were writing the record, one of the biggest things I'd talk to Conor about was: I don't care if people like this record or not. I mean, I want people to enjoy it, but the one thing that would gut me would be if people said the lyrics are disingenuous.»
Foxing's forthright lyrical honesty paired with their stunning orchestral sound quickly started earning them devoted fans, some of whom have been so emotionally moved that they've openly wept at the band's live shows. It's something Foxing didn't expect and certainly were not prepared for. «I was really surprised at the reception we got from this record because it's very, very specific and personal so it's weird to have people grasp that and feel a kindredness to it, that's insane to me,» says Coll. In addition to the new fans who were responding to Foxing's music in such a personal way, the band also caught the attention of Triple Crown Records. The label took notice of the organic buzz surrounding the band and are re-mastering and rereleasing The Albatross.
Although The Albatross has a distinctly timeless quality it about it, Foxing recognize that while they're proud of the album, it won't hold up forever. Much like their namesake, the pages their words are written on will eventually brown over and fade away. «The thing that binds everybody together is the idea that death is completely imminent. age is an ever-looming idea that we can all agree on,» notes Murphy. «We make this music, we release it, and then, one day, it dies.»
Born out of fierce friendship and a mutual affection for melody, Chicago’s Ratboys – anchored by the partnership of Julia Steiner and Dave Sagan – aim to ‘write songs that tell stories and honor the intimacy of memory,’ according to Steiner.
GN, the group’s second full-length album via Topshelf Records, offers a bevy of tales, laments and triumphs, which recount near-tragedies by the train tracks, crippling episodes of loneliness, remembrances of a deceased family pet with freezer burn, and on and on. The songs shift and breathe as worlds all their own, tied together by the group’s self-proclaimed ‘post-country’ sound, which combines moments of distortion and a DIY aesthetic with a devotion to simple songwriting and ties to the Americana sounds of years past.
Drawing influence from the down-to-earth sincerity of late-90s Sheryl Crow and the confessional confidence of Kim Deal and Jenny Lewis, the songs on GN (aka ‘goodnight’) “largely detail experiences of saying goodbye, finding your way home, and then figuring out what the hell to do once you’re back,” says Steiner. The songs chosen to close both sides of the record – the slow-burning ‘Crying About the Planets’ and quizzical ‘Peter the Wild Boy’ – unpack the respective journeys of two real people who were quite literally lost and found. ‘Crying’ tells the survival story of Antarctic explorer Douglas Mawson from a first-person perspective, and ‘Peter’ reflects on the life of a feral child in Germany who was eventually adopted by the King of England,’ according to Steiner. ‘Writing as and about these people is the best way I can attempt to empathize with them and really just wrap my mind around these bits of history that otherwise might not get talked about. And it helps me understand my own experiences a little bit better,’ she says.
Certain personal stories – the tour adventures recapped in ‘GM,’ the struggle to learn to show affection as divulged in ‘Molly’ – find Ratboys just as eagerly exploring subject matter that comes from within, and then illustrating the highs and lows with soaring hooks and plaintive ones. Even in the moments that lie somewhere between bliss and misery, a tension persists between Steiner’s sweet vocal delivery and Sagan’s physical, almost-off-the-hinges guitar playing that lends each song a deeper sense of color and movement.
�Steiner and Sagan felt the impulse to make music together from the get-go – they first met as university students, quickly put out an EP together, and started performing as an acoustic two-piece in dorm rooms and backyards. During the next few years, the friends traveled separately, eventually reunited, and recorded what would become the first Ratboys record, AOID, which the folks at GoldFlakePaint describe as ‘a gleaming, joyous, raucous display of melodic indie-rock.’
�After a year and a half of touring the US and Europe as a plugged-in full band (featuring the additions of drums, bass, and trumpet), the members of Ratboys returned to Chicago and holed up at Atlas Studios for two weeks to record with engineer Mikey Crotty (who had previously worked with the group on the songs ‘Not Again’ and ‘Light Pollution’). ‘This time around, we were lucky enough to feature the talents of friends who play the pedal steel, accordion, cello and violin to give the songs an extra something,’ says Steiner. ‘Dave finally got to show off his ridiculous skills on the pocket piano, and the whole thing felt like one big loving experiment.’
Ratboys keep the good times going in 2018 with a new EP called GL (aka Good Luck). Featuring four songs recorded shortly after the GN sessions, this new companion piece expands upon themes of isolation and memory, while focusing closely on the ups and downs of personal relationships.
‘Each of the songs on GL sounds like its own little world, which is what we set out to do,’ Steiner says. With each song sounding distinct from the rest, the EP offers up four different takes on the sounds of heartache.
On the heels of their newest release, you can find Ratboys on the road, playing songs old and new all over North America and Europe.
Since 2014, Zoe Reynolds has been making music under the Kississippi moniker, but the release of her debut full length signals a significant change for the artist. Following a series of demo releases and EPs including the 2016 standout We Have No Future, We’re All Doomed, Reynolds believes she has finally found her voice, calling the album an honest recognition of the music she always wanted to make.
Reynolds’ hushed but courageous soprano whispers tales that immediately nestle and lodge themselves in your heart. Words for these stories came to her during the most commonplace of everyday activities; situations like washing the dishes, filling the bathtub or sitting on the porch late at night became a place of inspiration.
Recorded to voice memo and later brought to life in the studio, Reynolds wanted the songs on this forthcoming release to be as true to her nature as possible. And that desire for intimacy and sharing even the most painful of experiences with listeners is etched and apparent in every note.
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