The members of Foxing will be the first to tell you that 2015 was a strange year for them. It started off normal enough: The rising quintet from St. Louis, Missouri began the year with plans to write their follow up to 2013’s much loved debut T he Albatross ( Triple Crown Records), which bears much in common with inventive post-rock groups like Sigur Rós and Explosions In The Sky while still retaining an exciting, emotional edge. It was at that point when things started to get murky.
“I read a really scathing review of our album that was very, very cutting,” begins bassist Josh Coll, one half of Foxing’s songwriting team alongside vocalist Conor Murphy. “The thing about that review was it spoke to me because everything that person was saying about our band were the things that I thought when I was feeling really low, in a moment of weakness or depression. It sent me spiraling. I had this idea on tour, like, ‘Why don’t we get away? Not have any cellphones or internet.’”
The band made plans to decamp to a secluded cabin in northern Vermont in February to write what would become Dealer, initially worried the sessions would result in failure. “We had just gotten done with the longest stretch of touring we had ever done, and tensions were very high,” Coll explains. “None of us have spent that long together in one particular place,” Murphy elaborates. “On tour, you can get away. With this, we’re all in the same house all the time. It made us all grow a lot closer to each other in a lot of ways.”
After having left the cabin with a batch of demos in hand and plans to record in Seattle with well respected producer Matt Bayles (Minus The Bear, Mastodon) weeks later, the band began doubting their work. “We had about six weeks before we went into the studio, and we started re-working the songs. That was a huge challenge for us,” Coll says. “When we went to Matt, the only thing he had heard were the cabin demos, and we came to him with these completely different songs,” remembers Murphy. “There was a lot of Matt telling us, ‘You guys have to remember why those songs were great in the first place, and why you took so much time to record them when you were up there.’”
The end result, Dealer, is an incredible piece of art that feels honest and true, emotionally resonant at its core and brutally honest in its lyrics. “On our last record, we really worked in tandem on those lyrics, editing each others’ stuff, but
there were times when we felt uncomfortable with this record lyrically a lot,” Murphy admits.
“At one point, I told Josh what I wanted to write about, and it was something really dark for me. And we matched each other with how dark we wanted to be and how vulnerable we wanted to be. It’s hard to edit someone’s lyrics when they’re talking about the darkest moment of their life.”
While Murphy and Coll keep their lyrics vague enough to be open to interpretation, it’s clear the duo are digging much deeper than your typical lover’s lament on tracks like the lush “The Magdalene,” the chaotic storm of “Eiffel” and the fragile apology found in “Three On A Match,” which finds Murphy repetitively pleading, “I’m sorry.” Their bandmates match their lyrical intensity with equivalent musicianship, and the result is a record that couldn’t have come into existence without the struggle and self doubt that came from both being in this band and just being a live.
“We’re always in this weird looming feeling of ‘Everything’s falling apart,’ or ‘Everything’s gonna fall apart,’” says Coll. “Some people might say that’s good for the art, but I don’t think it’s that great.” He laughs. “I think I could’ve written the same lyrics without that.”
“We’re a band, and someday we won’t be a band,” Murphy says, reciting Foxing’s unofficial motto. “Dealer felt like it was make or break. If we don’t do something that we can be proud of and other people can be proud of, this is all for nothing and we might as well not be doing it.”