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Foxygen

Interview — Mohamed Sqalli
Illustration — Trentesixquinze Meuble

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In two years only, Foxygen have lived what every normal band generally lives in a decade : they released 40 tracks, they went through break-up rumors or girl scandals. They even suffered several serious injuries. The latest one, a lung dysfunction, prevented Sam France to attend our interview, letting the delightful Jonathan Rado do all the job.

Hi Jonathan, how are you?

I’m fine. My girlfriend and I celebrated our 7th anniversary in Paris yesterday. So yeah, it’s great.

Tell me about Sam, is he better now?

Sam is fine. We were in Amsterdam and he had a collapsed lung. From what I understand, it’s like your lung is not fully inflating for some reason. Maybe it’s because of the plane, but we don’t know.

So, Foxygen’s back with a 24 track album? Where did you find that much inspiration? 

In lots of places. We came with that concept of a double album. We wanted to make a long album after the first one, that was so short. After we decided that, the songs came pretty easily. It evolved into a concept album. In the beginning, the idea was to make a Fleetwood Mac album and then it dissolved into this album. It starts with the easy-to-digest songs and then it becomes a little bit creepy before turning into a chaotic trash rock music.

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When the album will be out, you will have released something like 40 tracks in less than 2 years. Does it mean you’re especially prolific or that the others are lazy?

(Laughs) I think both. I think we’re more prolific than other artists. Spending years perfecting songs is an idea of music that I really respect, but it’s not ours.

What was your intention writing this album? To surprise people ? To make them live an experience?

We wanted to take people on a journey and expose them to sides of Foxygen that maybe they weren’t introduced to before. We wanted to make punk songs, heavy metal songs and maybe some seventies soft rock, and spacey stuff… It’s also a way for us to introduce new people to our music. Maybe someone will listen to our first album and would think, “fuck these hippies”. But that’s not really us; it was just an experiment we wanted to make. 

I have the impression that you're kind of reluctant to become a pop band and that this album is your way to cover your tracks. Is that right?

I don’t think we’re reluctant to become a pop band : in a perfect world, this album would sell as much as the Arcade Fire. I would love it to become a huge record.

You didn’t stick to the idea of recording in a mental home. Why?

Well, after all the things that happened in the press last year, I think we don’t even need to do that. “Sam’s crazy”? Well, everybody already said that.

You also released a solo album last year. Tell me about this experience. Was it different compared to what you usually live with Foxygen?

It was weird because I didn’t really intend for it to be like a solo album. I just wanted to release them under the radar. Sam and me have put out solo albums, like forever. But the problem is it got released at the time everyone was interested in the drama around Foxygen.

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The things is that, even if you’re quite used to release solo albums, this time it was refused by Pitchfork. And of course, it got really famous…

I didn’t necessarily want that. I really wanted it to be a lot smaller than it was. I didn’t even tour or anything behind it. I just put it out.

With Foxygen, you have a turbulent relationship to the Internet. How do you deal with all these rumors that are told about the band on a regular basis?

At the time, it was annoying because there was kind of a catch-22 that was there. You couldn’t deny that it was there. But you know, Internet is a bad place for gossip because it spreads like wildfire. I think in the long run, it ended up helping us in a weird way. People became very interested, like in a soap opera, even if there never was a danger of breaking up. We definitely had our fights, like that time in Canada when we had a fist fight with Sam.

It's funny because I have the impression there’s some kind of 60’s revival around Foxygen. A lot of 60’s references are associated to you musically. Even in the controversy, people try systematically to make comparisons with the 60's. Journalists will talk about a Yoko Ono situation issue between Sam and you for example. How do you respond to it? 

People try to pin that on us. The fact is I don’t give a fuck about the Sixties. I love the music, and I would read Keith Richard’s biography or something… But I no way would like to live like that. Recreating that sounds so unappealing to me. But we asked for it, our first album was an ode to the 60’s. This is why now every time there’s a fight it’s like “Mick and Keith!”. It’s easy. It’s uncreative journalism, that’s what it is.

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Is Blonde On Blonde still your favorite album of all time?

Yeah. Without hesitation. It’s an amazing record.

And, do you like Bob Dylan, the person? 

I love him. I saw Bob Dylan play in Santa Barbara in 2005 and it was terrible. Me and my dad both hated it. But I love him and I think that his ability to change is great, I respect it so much. I love the 60’s electric Dylan and the kind of crooner Dylan of the 70’s.

You also played Coachella this year. Tell me about that experience.

It was bizarre because it was two weekends. You play one week end, and that you just got to chill … and then you play EXACT SAME THING in the same place to a different audience. It was weird because it was our first show with a new band. It was like “practice, practice, practice … Coachella !”. (laughs) We never played more than 200 people before that.

In the last video for “How Can You Really”, you’re all wearing suits and you’re in an office, etc… What would you be if you weren’t a musician? 

I would like to work in a parking garage… I feel there’s something so cool in the fact of working in a tiny booth and watching shitty TV. Your whole job is to press a button to le people in and out of this parking garage… I don’t say that I would like it to be my career forever but that it would be the first job that I would go after.

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