Foxing, a four-piece indie rock outfit from St. Louis, has been making waves in the national music scene following the release of their widely acclaimed sophomore album “Nearer My God.” Ahead of their Pygmalion set, buzz spoke with Conor Murphy, the band’s vocalist, trumpet and sampler player, and discussed touring, musical influences and how the band names their songs.
buzz: You guys are currently on tour. How are you guys feeling about that? What have past experiences on tour been like?
Conor Murphy: We’re actually taking the same route we usually take every time we do a full North American tour. This is kind of just a comfortable route for us where we know how long the drives are, which routes to take. I actually just got very very sick, I’m on a bunch, or taking a bunch of shit right now. But we’re wrapping up here now, getting to the last shows. It’s one of those things like I don’t think we’re really in a position to cancel the shows. I mean I’ve seen some of my favorite artists perform when they’re really sick and it’s always kind of a unique experience – so I’m hoping it’ll be kinda like that, but where it’s like “ah, you won’t ever see that again.”
buzz: Is there a specific venue or city you guys are especially excited to visit this tour? Why?
CM: Yeah, we’ve played a bunch of them already the ones were really excited about. Portland is always a really great city that we love performing in. Seattle, we recorded our second record in Seattle. We love that place a lot. Denver we always have really great shows there. I think the biggest one we’re excited about though, is the St. Louis show because you know that’s where we’re from. And we’re really excited to you know – we’re very nervous about it I think but its a venue we’ve played before called Delmar Hall. It’s huge, it sounds really nice but our whole families and friends will be there so we’re excited about it but also very nervous. But honestly Pygmalion has been really exciting – we played a year or two ago but this year we’re really excited about all the artists playing. Also, “Last Podcast on the Left” is playing- we’re currently listening to them right now.
buzz: You said you guys are super excited for Pygmalion. How are you guys preparing for this performance? What’s your process when preparing for shows in general?
CM: For the most post we just try to get everything set up like technically and then really try and just take in each city if we have the time. I think that’s the best prep any of us ever have. Being able to walk around and enjoy the city. It’s always really cool when we’ve played in Champaign in the past because we really like that town. And for this one, we’re super excited to see “Last Podcast on the Left” do their live thing.
buzz: Your newest album, “Nearer My God” is doing really well right now. Can you tell us about your inspiration for the album? How much can we expect to hear from the album at Pyg?
CM: Well, we’re playing the majority of the album. I think the (inspiration) behind it is that thematically it’s very apocalyptic. Just because for this record we really tried to like put out what we’re going through, which is what most people in America are going through, and in the world which is like a general serious anxiety with the way everything is going in like a sociopolitical way. So rather than like offering specific examples and solutions to it- because we don’t have any- it’s us just lamenting you know, kinda lamenting how scary everything is. So a lot of it is about fear and control, lack thereof, and trying to find a happy life in such a… shitty earth.
buzz: Do you guys have a favorite track from the album?
CM: I think everybody has a different one. My favorite is “Heartbeats.” I think we argued about it the most, it’s got a really weird beat to it that kinda throws everyone off when we play it – in our band I mean. So it’s like a hard one to play but that’s what makes it the most fun to me. It’s confusing but challenging.
buzz: My favorite has to be “Bastardizer.” It’s beautiful, and it’s got a really interesting title. Some of the other tracks do too – “Five Cups,” “Trapped in Dillard’s” and “Crown Candy.” How do you choose track titles?
CM: We really just go track by track, we usually just use working titles until the lyrics are all done. So like “Five Cups” for instance is a song about friends passing away, communicating with the dead. So”Five Cups” is a tarot card that the song is a reference to. It’s kinda witchy. Then “Trapped in Dillard’s” is a song about having kind of an existential crisis in a mall. As a kid, I would always get lost in department stores and get really scared. So that one’s kind of named aptly. And then “Crown Candy” is actually the name of a restaurant in North St. Louis, they’re like an ice cream and bacon shop and they make really really good food, and it’s been this jewel of St. Louis for just so long, like decades. But it’s in this area of St. Louis that’s really known to be like this rough area. And I guess the whole Idea of naming it that… was that there’s a lot of gentrification in St. Louis. A lot of stuff where its like places will get abandoned and never revitalized, and St. Louis is a huge part of that. So “Crown Candy” is a just this place that’s stood the test of time, and they could’ve moved anytime – it’s a popular location. But they decided to stay there and plant roots and say we’re not afraid of anything, we’re gonna stay here where our home is. And it’s just this really inspirational thing that we wanted to appreciate in some way on the album.
buzz: What inspired the title of “Nearer My God”?
CM: So it comes from this old hymn called “Nearer My God” to me. It’s the song the orchestra played as the Titanic sank. Also, CNN made a doomsday tape for when the world ends, where it would be the last broadcast from CNN. Ted Turner had this idea that CNN would be around until the end of the world and to prove it he had this doomsday video commissioned. It’s basically alluding to the story of Jacob’s Ladder from the Bible. The whole idea is that like- even if I’m burning alive, nearer my God I’d like to be. Like if I’m dying, I’m closer to God. So It’s this super creepy thing. And I grew up Catholic, I’m ex-Catholic, and for me, you know, the scariest stories in the world are the ones in the Bible. To me, the most visceral stories are the ones from Revelations and from Genesis. It’s weird that this song “Nearer, My God, to Thee” has this weird kind of last rights place in history so we wanted to kind of bring it back up in 2018, in that part of history I guess.
buzz: Do you have a set ready for Pyg? Tell us a bit about what inspired your set for it and what you’re planning.
CM: So we don’t have exactly what we’re gonna be playing for, but we have one set that we use when we play in the U.K. then we have another set that we play in North America, and the Pygmalion set will probably be a combo of the two. The big thing is trying to play as much of the new album as we can get away with. All we really wanna do is play songs from the new album, but we do know that people coming to a show wanna hear songs from past albums. So we do try to include songs that we know people really wanna hear. But for the most part is songs from our new album.
buzz: In some aspects, you guys remind me of U2 with your sound sometimes. Do you guys have any musical inspirations or bands you kind of modeled your sound after when you first got together?
CM: Well, I think that it’s really weird because I feel like we never really had a specific band that we were all like “hey this is who we need to sound like.” I think we all have such wildly different tastes in music that that’s been pretty hard to nail down. We all really respect Radiohead, and we all really love Deftones. There’s a ton of bands where like two of us will love a band and the rest will hate it. Like three out of the four of us love Fleetwood Mac and the fourth doesn’t like them at all. But I mean the three bands we can all get behind are like Deftones, Radiohead and then Slipknot probably. One huge thing is that all of us know better than to reference another song while we’re writing one of our songs. So like if one of us comes in like “hey what if this part of the song sounded like this one song from so and so” – and I know better than to do that because everyone will just be like “No.” Because that sounds like something else and we’re not making that. So I think that it’s this weird thing where we’re all just secretly inspired by bands that we like, so the guitarists are like secretly inspired by Metallica, or maybe I’m secretly inspired by some Sufjan Stevens song. And you know, John, our drummer really likes jazz so he’s secretly inspired by things that go way over our heads. But it’s actually this cool thing where at the end we all at least feel like we made something original. Even if it’s just a collection of ripoffs or something.
buzz: Your top tracks, “The Medic” and “Rory” have 11.5 million hits collectively on Spotify. Do you have any insights or guesses on why the song has done so well specifically? What do you think people are connecting with?
CM: Well, I mean those songs have been around for like, six, seven years now. And I think that those are the two songs from that first album we made – really the only two songs from that album- that have a verse and a chorus. And I think that’s a pretty telling thing. The other songs are things that you might just want to listen to in the context of a record but those two are songs that can really stand on their own.
buzz: Anything else you’d like people to know?
CM: There’s a lot of other really cool bands that’ll probably be playing at the same time as us, and we respect anyone that’ll come out. We’d love to see everyone there.
Catch Foxing at this year’s Pygmalion Street Stage on Saturday, Sept. 29 from 10 to 11 p.m.