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Crazy Like a Fox

Cincinnati's Foxy Shazam poised to break big with major label debut album

By Brian Baker · April 6th, 2010 · Music
Foxy Shazam might have signed to super-conglomerate Warner Bros., but they’re not reining in their enthusiasm for unhinged craziness and uniquely eccentric creativity.

Witness the recurring lyric from the spasmodically dancable “Bye Bye Symphony” from Foxy’s about-to-be-released eponymous major-label debut, a line at once wildly hilarious, supremely confident and nonsensibly pragmatic: “Life is a bitch, but she’s totally doable.” That sentiment belongs on the bumper of every car in America.

“Me and Alex (Nauth), our trumpet player, write a lot of the lyrics together and we co-wrote that one,” Foxy frontman Eric Nally says, checking in from the band’s tour stop in Jacksonville, Fla. “That’s kind of what life is. It’s kind of tongue in cheek, but life’s serious and you can get through it if you don’t worry about it and don’t take it so seriously.”

Foxy Shazam’s imminent new album, a world-class release dripping with potential for mainstream breakthrough, completes a fantastic hat trick for the band in 2010. The single “Unstoppable" was featured in the soundtrack of Super Bowl coverage this year, perhaps the first dividend of the band’s Warners contract. Most recently, the blogosphere has been buzzing with breathless reports of the Foxys’ killer run of shows at last month’s South By Southwest festival. Nally takes the praise in stride.

“Yeah, it was great,” he says with all humility. “South By Southwest is always really intense. We played three different shows in one day, all in different corners of the city and they’ve got the streets shut down so you have to lug your equipment around. But we really pulled through and I’m really proud of us because we did some of the best shows we’ve ever played down there. That’s cool because a lot of the crowd are tastemakers and people who work with bands so it’s cool to show them what we’ve got.”

Foxy Shazam’s sudden rise is far from unexpected. The Cincinnati sextet — Nally, guitarist Loren Turner, keyboardist Sky White, bassist Daisy, hornblower Alex Nauth, new drummer Aaron McVeigh — didn’t get bitten by a radioactive spider or doused with physics-defying chemicals in a lightning strike: They’ve been superheroes all along.

Nally has said for years that he wants Foxy Shazam to be the biggest band in the world. The world has just begun to listen.

“That has always been our ultimate goal, to go down in history doing what we do,” Nally says.

“I know we’ve got a long road ahead of us, but this album is a good step in the right direction toward that ultimate goal.”

That determination to reach Rock’s highest echelon has permeated every note of the band’s first two albums (2005’s self-released The Flamingo Trigger and 2008’s Introducing for NYC indie label New Weathermen) and defined every Foxy Shazam performance. From the band’s formation six years ago through various personnel shifts and up to their major label debut, every move has been a considered decision, not with the cold calculation of a business intellect but with the shrewd acumen of cracked creative masterminds on a wildly plotted mission.

“We always take our career step by step,” Nally says. “We never skip steps, we never go backwards, we never stand still. We had that in mind while we were writing this thing … we never want to make the same album twice. We definitely thought on a much larger level for this album.”

That might be the understatement of the year. From the shrieking Rock and Soul opening of “Bomb’s Away” and the sparkling Pop shred of “Count Me Out” to the swaggering balladry of “Bye Bye Symphony” and the fist-pumping anthemics of “Unstoppable,” the new Foxy Shazam album is wrought with contemporary classicism.

Foxy comes off like the second coming of Queen with the smirking ass-kick of Eagles of Death Metal, smushing together the Pop majesty of Elton John (with The Darkness as his backing band), the orchestrated vaudeville Pop madness of Sparks and the visceral pinwheel of Spoon, all of it arranged by Berry Gordy and Burt Bacharach with extra dollops of Soul and cool. Like 500 Miles to Memphis and The Lions Rampant, Foxy Shazam has crafted a local album worthy of the nation’s Top 10 lists this year.

“The first (album) was us getting our groove. We were still in my mom’s basement and doing it all on our own,” Nally says. “The next album, we’re on the indie label and we’ve got our foot in the door. This album is definitely more mature, but not in the way normal things are mature. This is a Foxy Shazam maturity. We’re still Foxy Shazam, the album is still crazy and wild and I always want to do something that people won’t expect. I think this album is definitely that.”

Many artists can’t listen to their work after it’s done, but Nally isn’t afflicted with any crippling self-doubt. He revels in the thing that Foxy Shazam has created, bringing the same unbridled passion to listening as he did to writing and recording. And his pride in Foxy Shazam is understandable and completely justified.

“Whenever I put it on, I get goosebumps and my eyes get watery,” Nally says without a trace of arrogance. “I can’t believe that something that came out of me makes me feel that way. Well, I can believe it, it’s just really awesome. I’m just proud of the album as a whole. Every song does something for me and makes me feel a certain way.”

Typically, the references Nally makes when explaining the new Foxy Shazam album transcend any standard interview answers.

“We didn’t have too many musical influences on this album, we used things to inspire us like certain smells from when I was a kid,” Nally says. “Like the way my dad smelled when he came in from cutting the grass and the way burning wood smells. Every time I listen to the album, there’s some kind of thing that takes me back to a place that’s important in my life.

"I’ve never been able to pinpoint that musically before, but with this one I hit it right on the head. And the other guys in the band have things involved in the album like that, too. Every time I hear it, it makes me feel really special, and that’s what music’s all about.”

Is Foxy Shazam ready for their global close-up? Is mainstream fame just around the corner? That bitch is totally doable.

FOXY SHAZAM plays Covington’s Mad Hatter Friday with The Young Veins (see Sound Advice for more on them), Bad Rabbit and Vaudeville Freude. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.

Foxy’s self-titled Warner Bros. album will be released April 13.



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