Foxygen singer Sam France sits in a New York dressing room scoffing Fizzy Worms. He’s rattling off the band’s extensive back catalogue. “‘Electric Sun Machine’, ‘Cat Food Dog Food Motor Oil’, ‘The Jurassic Explosion Philippic’ – that one’s a 30-track space-rock concept album where a little African boy gets abducted".
You’ll be hard-pushed to find these recordings online. They’re the home-taped garage experiments of Sam and guitarist Jonathan Rado, who met a decade ago at school in Westlake Village, Los Angeles. The early stuff sounded “like Beck mixed with Flaming Lips, but with immature fart noises”, says Sam.
While most pre-teen bedroom bands split up after failing to win the school talent show, Foxygen stuck around. One night at New York’s Mercury Lounge, Sam and Jonathan handed a demo to Shins member Richard Swift, who immediately called them back, became their producer and helped them sign to Jagaguwar last May. An EP, ‘Take The Kids Off Broadway’, was released in summer 2012 and their anarchic live show became the surprise hit of last year’s CMJ. Now the audaciously titled ‘We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace And Magic’, Foxygen’s first proper album, arrives this month. “It’s about dealing with the future,” mumbles Sam. It has “sunny, white, yellow, red, ummm, vibes, futuristic vibes”, he adds, cryptically.
The album’s nine tracks form a psychedelic Bohemian hymnal, drawing countercultural inspiration from both the east and west coasts. The chorus of ‘On Blue Mountain’ sounds suspiciously like ‘Suspicious Minds’. “You cracked the code! I totally ripped it off!” says Sam. “I hope we don’t get sued.”
“We tried to get an Elvis impersonator to sing it with us when we played in Vegas,” adds unofficial fifth member and sometime backing singer Elizabeth Gomez.
These retro stylings are a shrewd move when it comes to charming older fans – like Sam’s nan, who is one of their biggest supporters. She gets a shoutout on ‘No Destruction’, as the “Grandma who lost her arms in the war”. But that’s a ruse, says bassist Justin Nijssen: “She does actually have limbs.”
Brace yourself for Foxygen’s UK shows next month: they’re bringing peace, magic and weirdness for all the family.
NEED TO KNOW
Based: New York for Jonathan. Sam is “of no fixed abode”
For Fans Of: Ariel Pink, The Rolling Stones
See Them Live: They’re due back in the UK in February
Buy It Now: ‘We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace And Magic’ is out on January 21
See Them Live: They play London’s Lexington on Feb 4
Believe It Or Not: Mac DeMarco puked on Foxygen’s guitar bag during CMJ. “I think he pulled his wiener out onstage, but we don’t do anything like that,” says Sam.