SXSW send-off show with Maszer, The Exbats
Tuesday, March 14, 8 p.m.
There is a sentient cup out there right now wondering about the meaning of its life. Like a character in a Tom Robbins book, the cup can't get beyond whether it is really half full or half empty and is too wrapped up in the quandary to see the big picture. The cup, sadly, may never finally realize it is actually empty and full, half and whole, at the same time.
For Tucson's Foxx Bodies, there is a similar argument to be made. Do they belong to Tucson or the world? One thing for sure is that their particular cup is more than half full. Foxx Bodies are practically over-flowing with talent, luck, charisma, catchy tunes, and just about every other ingredient that makes a band great.
It's both easy and hard to believe Foxx Bodies have only been a band for little more than a year. They've the fresh-faced optimism of a baby band but rock like seasoned vets, and they have no figurehead—each member is integral to the overall sound, and they know it. We'll say it: the band—siblings Bella (vocals) and Matthew (bass) Vanek, guitarist Bailey Moses and drummer and Adam Becholz—are one Tucson's most compelling bands to come along in a long, long time.
According to Bella, it was necessity that brought them together.
"I kind of had a little bit of a psychotic breakdown and I didn't really know what to do except sing about it," Bella says. "But I don't really play any instruments. I worked with Adam at a movie theater and I lived with Matthew and Bailey, so I asked Adam if he wanted to come over and play drums while I screamed."
Bella continues: "Bailey started playing guitar to it and all the instruments were in Matt's room, so when he came home we were just like (in a deadly serious and deadpan voice) 'Learn bass,' and we just kind of jammed and we made 'New Recording 25' and 'Annie' right away."
Those two songs are the third and fourth ones (respectively) on Foxx Bodies' eponymously titled 11-song affair, which is as good of a debut album as any you'll likely ever find. They're powerhouse tunes, reflective of everything that make the band (and record) ridiculously listenable. The nimble mix of fuzz-punk-surf guitar, explosive drums and in-the-pocket bass throbs uphold thrilling, unpredictable vocals. And "Annie" features this stunner of a line (one of the best lyrics this digit heard in all of 2016): "All I know is every time I get a paycheck I lose my mind."
Bella, who resembles a young Penelope Houston (of first-wave San Francisco punks The Avengers), demands listener attention, either on record or live. The diminutive blond singer reels you in with a charming half-smirk—facially and vocally—while the band builds a killer blend of early '80s punk, '60s garage surf, and '90s riot grrl into a catchy, clever, and intricate roar. Her words are filled with intense yarns and you feel the psychotic breakdowns, but not in a bad way. It's more of a "I don't give a shit if it is half full, I'm still going to pour it down my throat or throw it in your face" kind of a way.
No, the band ain't fucking around. While they sound familiar at times, they're not aping any one band or genre.
Moses, who, during the day, can also lathe cut a record, breaks it down: "Dick Dale, (pauses) and Shannon and the Clams are really influential to me," he says. "Acorn Bcorn, Katterwaul, Lemon Drop Gang ... Punk, surf, and '50s stuff. Anything in those genres gets me amped up. We're all really influenced by early '90s riot grrl movement stuff."
The guitarist lights up as she talks about one of her faves.
"Bella, Adam, and I all really like Sleater-Kinney," she says. "We kind of started the band with that kind of mindset. A lot of the music Matt and I were making by ourselves was much more like a '50s doo-wop, western-style band. We kind of combined those songs with the songs Adam, Bella, and I were making and out came this weird blend."
Before Foxx Bodies, Matthew had not picked up a bass guitar, but his playing and ability to follow both Moses and Becholz shows a band strength. Matthew provides, in a way, the heartbeat of Foxx Bodies with his stripped down, unassuming style that's always there where it needs to be. He's a tall drink of water, and has one of those deceptive onstage personas that makes it seem like he's not really doing much, but when you listen closely, he's almost secretly tying everything together with bass runs.
"Everything I know about bass is really just learning to play with Bailey. I love rhythm now," he says.
Foxx Bodies is a true collaboration, a sum of parts. That fact is not lost on Becholz, who moved to Tucson about six years ago.
"I've been playing drums since I was 15," he says, "and I'll be 30 this year. Always being a drummer, I've learned to listen to everybody else. I write my parts by taking pieces from everybody and just sort of mesh them together."
Moses, the Vaneks, and Becholz played their first show not long after that first fateful practice that produced their first two recorded songs. They opened for Tucson rapper Lando Chill at Club Congress, where they will play one of their few Tucson shows before moving to Los Angeles in May, which is definitely the "cup is half-empty" bit of this story.
"There is a wall that you hit in Tucson," Bella says. "We want to get out and do more. We want to get out and do what we want to do. We're trying to press our luck and see what we're capable of."
Moses chimes in: "We love Tucson, but we just want to try it."
"It's building opportunities," Matthew says, fittingly. Because, if you want to belong to the world ...
Foxx Bodies cover The Clash on KXCI Radio: