You Can’t Kill Foxy Shazam You Can Only Make Them Stronger
I’m late to the game on this one, but I would feel remiss if I didn’t write about this a little bit.
Foxy Shazam, the experimental/screamo/glam/metal/post-hardcore/neo-soul group out of Cincinnati, Ohio announced that they were breaking up last month. They added a “for now” caveat to the announcement, saying that the best was yet to come and that this breakup was only temporary, but I have my doubts. Many a band has said that before only to have nothing come of it. In my experience, announced hiatuses either last a few months of a few decades – and with Foxy my money is sadly on the latter.
And that’s too bad, because Foxy Shazam is the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band on earth.
(I refuse to talk about them in the past tense)
I discovered Foxy Shazam in 2010. I was assigned to review their self-titled third album, and major label debut, knowing nothing about them at the time. Listening to that album for the first time was the kind of experience a critic dreams of: going into an album completely cold only to immediately fall head over heels in love with it by the time it is over. I firmly remember writing my review, skimming over the CD for the “weak spots” and just thinking “no, this song is the greatest fucking thing I’ve heard all year, oh no, wait this one is, no wait, THIS ONE IS OH MY GOD THIS IS THE GREATEST ALBUM EVER AND I HAVE TO TRY TO SAY THAT IN A REVIEW AND SOUND PROFESSIONAL.”
One of the best things about being a writer who covers relatively unknown acts is that you can usually score interviews with them because they need all the coverage they can get. That was the case with Foxy, and I had the unbelievable honor of interviewing frontman Eric Sean Nally later that year. Much like the album review was a challenge for me as a reviewer, the interview also proved to be a herculean task, as I struggled to maintain my professional dignity and not just break down all Chris Farley style and ask HOW ARE YOU SO FUCKING AWESOME? I’ve interviewed bigger and more “important” musicians in my day, but that interview remains my favorite. Eric was humble about his band’s current status, but he undoubtedly confident that his group would one day be the biggest rock band in the world. That was always his goal with Foxy Shazam, and it was one that he approached without a hint of irony – and I supported that goal entirely.
I got to see Foxy live for the first time at Lollapalooza that year. And while I was in love with the group before then, I fell head over heels obsessed with them after that performance.
I’ve said this before when talking about Foxy Shazam, but I feel as if its the best comparison. There’s a scene in the film Almost Famous where Jason Lee’s character is defending his contributions to the band, as he feels threatened by the guitarist, who is far more talented. He lets loose and screams “I work just as hard or harder than anybody on that stage. You know what I do? I connect. I get people off. I look for the guy who isn’t getting off, and I make him get off!”
That scene always reminds me of what Foxy Shazam tried to do when they performed live. Unapologetic and intense, with an unending desire to get the audience off and look fucking awesome while doing it. If that meant climbing scaffolding, doing handstands on stage or eating half a dozen lit cigarettes just to get a reaction out of the crowd – so be it. And all while sounding perfectly on point. I’ve never seen a band perform as manically intense but musically on point as Foxy.
I got to meet Eric in person for the first time after that show, briefly chatting with him in the press area. His soft-spoken and humble nature off the stage surprised me. This was a man who I saw not an hour ago flying across the stage and vaulting over his guitar player. Now he was shaking my hand and seemed more nervous to meet me than I was him. Sometimes I feel that Eric has a multiple personality disorder that he’s just channeled for his live performances.
Over the course of the next few years I saw Foxy live several more times. I saw them at a Rock And Roll Hall of Fame charity event where he repeatedly stage-dived directly on my head (later he said he did that because he’d know I’d catch him); at a dive bar in Columbus where he threatened to kill the promoter mid-set and destroyed the stage during the last song; opening for far inferior bands like Amberlin and Panic at The Disco; in a basement bar outside of Youngstown where me and the band got tacos from a shady food truck after the gig; in a shit club in the worst part of Toledo, Ohio.
Between 2010 and 2013 I probably saw Foxy Shazam live 10 times, and while the band got bigger and bigger in my mind, the venues did not. They probably peaked sometime in early 2012 with the release of their fourth LP The Chruch of Rock & Roll, but as that album failed to catch steam, the group’s bookings seemed to decline. They had a reverent fanbase in my city of Pittsburgh, PA, where they could routinely play to near sell-out crowds in the medium-sized Mr. Smalls Theater, but everywhere else they just seemed to be faltering.
And I could see this taking a toll on Eric. While his live performances were still filled with unbounded energy and charisma, the shows sometimes took on a darker turn. He certainly seemed angrier than before. And his stage banter occasionally went melancholy and even dark at times, with him spending more and more time lamenting on the pressures of touring and how much he missed his family. Maybe it was just part of the act, but it sure didn’t seem that way.
In my interview with him back in 2010, he was clear in his goal. He wanted to Foxy to be the biggest rock and roll band on the planet, and he wanted to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Now, just a few short years later, those already lofty goals seemed to be even further away, not closer. And I know he couldn’t figure out why. I sure as fuck couldn’t. How could a band this amazing, this fearless, this…undefinable, not break through to the mainstream? What the fuck was wrong with people?
The last time I saw Foxy was on New Year’s Eve of last year, just a few days before I was hopping on a plane and moving to Tokyo. They had a meet and greet before the gig and I got to say hi to them one last time. They said they remembered me and my friends (I believed them) and they talked about wanting to go to Tokyo to play a view gigs. I offered them my apartment. Eric, looking unrecognizable with a new haricut and dye job, seemed to be newly reinvigorated. The band played an incendiary set, and I was happy that was to be my last concert before leaving the country.
Just a few months later the group released their fifth album, Gonzo. Now without a label, they dropped it with no promotion and for free online. It was a good record for sure, but it was definitely more stripped down and restrained when compared to their previous releases. They continued to tour, but the hype behind them seemed to be grinding to a halt. Maybe they could tell. Or maybe they just got sick of their seemingly non-stop touring.Maybe it really doesn’t matter why. Because the sad truth is that the world is now without one of the greatest bands ever, a fact made even sadder that most people will go their entire lives without ever hearing of them.
Eric, Loren, Daisy, Sky, Aaron, Alex. Let me tell you this: Foxy Shazam was the biggest band on earth. Fuck that. Foxy Shazem IS the biggest band on earth. It’s not your fault that the people of this worthless little planet are too fucking stupid to know it. I hope one day that people realize do realize it though, and that when do reunite it will be Pixies style, with a new found respect and awe that you’re truly deserving of.
Just remember, Foxy Shazam will be eligible for induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2029 – so don’t take too long of a break okay?
And that offer to crash at my apartment still stands.