Musical duo of Sam France and Jonathan Rado, who grew up and met in Westlake Village, California, where they started making experimental music together in 2005. Their first album, Take the Kids Off Broadway, was released in 2011 after a brief stint in New York, followed by the 2013 sophomore album, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic, both on Jagjaguwar. They have gained notoriety for their off-the-wall live shows, especially for the antics of lead singer France. Now a nine-piece group, Foxygen will release their third album, …And Star Power, on October 14.
It’s lunchtime at Canter’s Deli in West Hollywood when I meet Foxygen’s Sam France and Jonathan Rado, who are quick to warn me that the food is not good. While I heed their advice and stick with a coffee, the two disregard the diner quality and order meals that prove challenging to talk through as I shoot them questions about their new 9-piece set and Sam’s hair color (a mixture of pink and peroxide).
Despite a rough 2013, today, over a turkey reuben and bowl of mish-mosh, the two 24-year-olds seem in perfect harmony. France, in a tight blue almost crop-top and grey leisure suit, happily claims the role of zany front man, with famously energetic live performances in which he bounces around the stage and gyrates his hips, usually in something sequined. Rado, on the other hand, is wearing beat-up Adidas and maintains a more inconspicuous air, at one point pausing to wipe a drop of pickle juice from my phone.
The duo is just a day away from setting out on a cross-country tour to promote their third album, …and Star Power. The double LP, bursting at the seams with 24 tracks, broaches new territory with catchy songs woven between less accessible instrumental tracks that range from 1 to nearly 7 minutes. The signature, throwback sound remains, with the undeniably cheery single, “How Can You Really,” and 70s crooner, “Coulda Been my Love,” but the opener, “Star Power,” among others, showcases a more experimental and free-flowing sound. Below they talk to us about high school, daddy issues, and how they are nothing like the Black Keys.
Rachel Ellison: Where are you coming from?
Jonathan Rado: The Valley. Sam’s living in Westlake Village.
RE: Are you living with your parents?
Sam France: Yeah. It’s cheaper than paying rent. I’m kind of dangerously used to it. I don’t want to get too settled.
JR: [I live] in Woodland Hills with my girlfriend. It’s in the Valley, it’s like the furthest end of the Valley. I never really wanted to live in Echo Park or something, it just seemed too stressful. It’s a great place, I like spending time there. I lived in Manhattan for five years so I got all the city living that I need out of my system and now I’m just ready to not live in a big city.
SF: [I lived in New York] for eight months or something like that. I didn’t really like it.
JR: I think in retrospect you come to enjoy New York a little more or something.
SF: I like New York City but I didn’t like living there. I’m not very organized and I was really bad on the subways and stuff and I got really stressed out and there were just too many people and too much stimulation for me.
(Looking at the menu and talking to each other)
SF: I ate ribs yesterday.
SF: We went to Wood Ranch and I ate ribs. I haven’t eaten meat in a year and a half or something. It was horrible.
JR: That’s because it’s Wood Ranch.
RE: Are you touring right now?
“Now we have a more
thing. We put together
a dream band.”
— Jonathan Rado
JR: We’re going to leave tomorrow. Phoenix [is the first stop]. It’s US and Europe. We go to Europe in the end of October. Halloween is our first show. We’re figuring out what the theme is going to be. What do you think Sam?
SF: We talked about “The Shining.”
JR: “The Shining” theme seems really good. There’s only like six characters in that movie. But then there’s the bear. The girls in our band—we have background singers—so they can be triplets of the twin girls. I was going to be Danny and ride out on a tricycle.
SF: He’s going to be the little boy and I’m going to be Jack Nicholson and I’m going to murder you. Or try to.
JR: Shaun will be Shelley Duvall. I just don’t know what Kevin could be. Kevin could be Scatman Crothers.
RE: How many members do you have now?
SF: We’ve had a few lineup changes. I guess we’ve lost two people in the past few years. We’ve kicked two people out of the band.
JR: Over the last year there was always a rotating fifth member. Now we have a more solid nine-piece thing. We just put together a dream band. Our new guitar player, Kevin, we didn’t really know too well before he joined but he’s awesome. Besides that everyone else we knew.