Sam France and Jonathan Rado, the core duo of the glam psych-rock force known as Foxygen, have quickly risen to success over the last few short years.
When they were only teenagers growing up in the heat of California, they self-recorded hundreds of songs, many of which were a mishmash of original material sewn from their own creativity to make up entire albums.
It wasn't until 2011 when they were "discovered" by producer Richard Swift after handing him their EP "Take The Kids Off Broadway" at a show in New York. Since then, they've released their 2013 follow-up "We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic" and "... And Star Power" last year.
As they've steadily earned a name for themselves in the indie rock scene, the duo have always been garnering a reputation for their sometimes-chaotic live shows, rumored backstage feuds (mainly fueled by the Internet) and other qualms.
Recently, it was announced that Foxygen's current tour will be its last, with a scheduled stop in Milwaukee on Apr. 7 at Turner Hall Ballroom with special guest Alex Cameron. Does this mean that France and Rado are calling it quits? Not necessarily so.
OnMilwaukee.com got the chance to speak with Rado about Foxygen's adolescent beginnings, their album "... And Star Power," on stage antics, alter egos and their current tour.
OMC: Let’s briefly go back to the very beginning. I’ve read elsewhere that you guys met when you were very young, a time before your voices broke. When did the idea of playing music and forming a band come about?
JR: We were always called Foxygen. Even when we were 15. We were always making music. I think we started taking it seriously when we were like 19 or 20. We realized that you could actually write sit down and actually write a song rather than just pile a bunch of instruments on top of each other.
OMC: From what I've read, you guys recorded quite a few songs when you first started out.
JR: Yeah and full albums. A lot of them were like 20 songs. There are hundreds and hundreds of stuff. They're not great, you know, but they are songs.
OMC: Have you listened to any of those recordings recently? If so, was that a mortifying experience?
JR: Yeah, yeah. I'll throw them on every once in awhile. It's rustic for sure. They were pretty crazy records we were making.
OMC: Let's talk about your latest album, "… And Star Power." It's undoubtedly complex and with 24 tracks, you guys were busy. What was in the inspiration behind it?
JR: I think we just wanted to be able to have complete creative freedom on an album. We recorded it ourselves and sort of almost went back to basics like the way we would make an album when we were 15 or 16. We just had a lot of time to write. It was important to us to put every idea we had into an album. That sort of just formed into the basis of it.
OMC: When preparing the album, did you guys have a certain concept in mind or did you just take it in different directions?
JR: Yeah we had a concept, but the concept was mainly that anything goes (laughs). The concept was that anything can happen on it. It was like a complete cluster f*ck of songs that'd change genres and styles every couple seconds. That was kind of the idea so that's why it's kind of all over the place.
OMC: You had a similarly longer EP in 2007 for "Jurassic Exxplosion Philipic," which had a staggering 36-track list. When conceptualizing "… And Star Power," did you guys just think it was time for a longer album?
JR: I don't know. In all honesty, it probably wasn't the right time for a long, sprawling double album. I just don't think we could've done anything else. Once we get an idea into our heads, we can't really abandon it, so we just had to do it. A lot of people would probably tell us it's a mistake, but I think it's one of those things where you can look back at whole discographies of people's whole lives and be like, "Oh this is interesting; this progression here."
In my mind, like looking back thirty years on Foxygen, it's kind of an interesting follow-up in my mind. You know, some kid might find "... And Star Power" and be like, "This is cool. This one is really f*cked up and weird" (laughs).
OMC: Were you or the label nervous about the ambition of the album? The reason I ask that is because it’s specifically rare to see such an album with a long track list nowadays.
JR: I wasn't. I didn't really care (laughs). I think the label probably were a little weary about it. For a double album, you know it's the second record by a band that's kind of quote-on-quote crazy rock band. I think it went over pretty damn well. We sold a pretty good amount of records.
OMC: On the album, you’ve had guests, or cameos so to speak, from The Flaming Lips, Of Montreal, White Fence and Bleached. How did you get those bands on board?
JR: They're all our friends. We've toured with Of Montreal. We know The Lips through ... I ran into Wayne (Coyne) on the street and we just became friends. Tim from White Fences lives in LA and Bleached lives in LA.
OMC: Were there any bands that you wanted to include on the album but couldn’t?
JR: Yeah. At one point we wanted Paul McCartney and we wanted Stevie Nicks on the record. But those were unattainable (laughs). It would've been amazing to get some really classic rock figures on there. We did good with current bands, but it would be cool to get some old time-y rockers on there.
OMC: Sam's approach on stage has been described as bewildering, chaotic and intoxicating. He's been known for hurting himself onstage. Have there been any moments when you thought either during or after a performance that he needed to take it easy?
JR: Yeah, yeah. I mean he hurts himself all the time. There are moments where it's like he should take it easier. Sometimes he'll go all out at some show where there's not many people (laughs), like some radio broadcast where there's not anyone there. But, you know, I think that's what the show is. I understand why he goes that hard, but been trying to figure out ways for him to stop hurting himself. We've been looking into kneepads, like protective kneepads (laughs).
OMC: I'd imagine that after awhile, you just get into a groove on stage.
JR: Yeah, totally. For me, I don't even see most of the show. I play the keyboard so I have to actually look at them. I'm like not that good (laughs). I don't really see what goes on.
OMC: I’ve read that that Sam has taken on alter egos and has created this character named Star Power Man, who’s been "driven insane by paranoid illusions of alien abductions." Do you have any alter egos or is it just him?
JR: Sam goes hard with the alter egos. I think, in theory, I'd like to have alter egos, but I've got too much going on in my head to supplement another complete lifestyle. I couldn't live that way. It's more of a stage thing. That's the character, you know, what he's doing.
OMC: So, I’ve read a rumor that this farewell tour isn’t Foxygen’s last, but rather the last tour with the nine-piece line-up as Star Power. Is there any truth to this or is this, or as you’ve described the early break-up rumors, utter bullsh*t?
JR: It won't be Foxygen's last. If you look at the thing, it doesn't say Foxygen's last, it says Star Power's last tour. This particular show ... this extravaganza is the farewell tour to the nine-piece rock n' roll thing that we're doing.
I think people looked into it a little bit too much. I think you'll read about 20,000 articles that say that Foxygen is breaking up. People love to say that. It's not the first time that we've gotten that headline.
OMC: From last summer through the fall, you went on tour for your last album. In what way will this tour be different than the last?
JR: It's much more of a show. It's almost like theater. There's a bunch of skits going on ... a lot of gags. It's a fun show. It's like a rock n' roll review. It's like some sort of weird performance piece at this point (laughs). It's less a concert and more like an extravaganza.
OMC: After this tour ends in August, what's next for Foxygen?
JR: We're working on a bunch of new stuff. It should be coming out soon. You'll know when it happens (laughs). I don't want to spoil it yet, but it'll be something different for sure.
For tickets to see Foxygen with Alex Cameron at Turner Hall Ballroom, click here.
Colton Dunham's passion for movies began back as far as he can remember. Before he reached double digits in age, he stayed up on Saturday nights and watched numerous classic horror movies with his grandfather. Eventually, he branched out to other genres and the passion grew to what it is today.
Only this time, he's writing about his response to each movie he sees, whether it's a review for a website, or a short, 140-character review on Twitter. When he's not inside of a movie theater, at home binge watching a television show, or bragging that he's a published author, he's pursuing to keep movies a huge part of his life, whether it's as a journalist/critic or, ahem, a screenwriter.