Smile Politely

Harmonies and memories with Foxing’s Josh Coll

An Emo/Post-Rock/Math-Rock outfit out of St. Louis, Foxing exude delicate, honest vulnerability, married with energetic, raw spasticity. I spoke with bassist Josh Coll about the band’s evolution, their peculiar love of The Rock, and what it’s like being crammed in a van with four to five other human beings for months on end.

SP: You guys are no strangers to Champaign. You’ve been through a few times, right?

Josh Coll: We haven’t been to Champaign in a while. We played at the Red Herring, I think? It was like a cafe, I’m pretty sure. And we’ve played Skeletal Lightning twice. It’s been a while though. I think the last time was in 2013. It was definitely in support of the first album [The Albatross].

SP: Foxing has two full lengths, The Albatross (2013), and Dealer (2015). How has touring in support of Dealer been going?

Coll: I’d like to think it’s been received well. People have been kind. We knew it wouldn’t be as “immediate” as Albatross was. When it first came out, people seemed to realize it was going to take awhile to digest, and those are my favorite kind of albums – the ones that grow on you. It’s rewarding, because it kind of begs for repeat listening.

SP: Any tracks that you’ve been particularly enjoying playing live?

Coll: The songs definitely evolve live. “Night Channels” and “The Magdalene” have been good. “Three on a Match” is definitely one of my favorites to play.

SP: You share lyric-writing duties with singer Conor Murphy. What’s the process like for you?

Coll: It’s kind of like having an empty vessel that Conor and I can both pour our lyrics into. Everything is rooted in fact. We have definitely both taken big strides to be open and honest. “Indica” [from Dealer] is about as autobiographical as it’s ever been. Before, even if we were trying to be honest, even if we thought we were being honest, we’d hide the meaning down in metaphors and pretty words.

SP: How does the music come together?

Coll: A lot of times, it starts with like a fragment or an idea or a skeleton of a song, like a chord structure or something, and when you have a basic skeleton like that, it really can become anything. We had 25 or so, and every day we would pick up another one and just see where we wanted to go with it. Even after that, we are already writing new material. So I don’t think it’s even about consciously trying to keep it fresh, I think it’s about evolving. Like evolving the way that we work together. We used to write more linear songs, and now we are writing with more structure. Structure is kind of a challenge for us, because we all come from instrumental bands where a chorus doesn’t really exist.

You should always be challenging yourself, and I think that for a lot of bands, they will go two or three records before they realize that they don’t have to have a chorus. For us it was the opposite – the challenge was not being afraid of repetition, or trying to find something in a song that feels familiar enough to a listener or to ourselves where it’s something that you’d want to come back to.

It’s not something that we actually have sat down and made like a mission statement, it’s just that we know what we can do really easily, so why keep trying to do that? Like, we were really bad at writing choruses, so when we started doing that it was like, “Oh this is kind of hard.” So to a degree, Dealer was an exercise in that, and hopefully through that experience we learned something we can take to the next one.

Cover of Dealer.

SP: You’re evolving.

Coll: Maybe? Maybe that’s evolution. I don’t know. I guess so. We’ll go with that. [laughs]

SP: Are you more at home on stage or in the studio?

Coll: I think we all have a lot of fun playing live in front of people. It’s a very like… communal experience. Depending on the crowd, it can feel very cathartic, and there’s like a oneness, and it feels really good. You feel very full of love.

Honestly, even though writing is a lot more challenging, and requires a lot more from us – because I think on tour you can kind of go on autopilot, it’s like, “Get to the next city and play, get to the next city and play” – we are definitely a band that really likes to write. I think Dealer had been out for 3 months and we were already itching and writing stuff and getting back into that mode, so, I guess maybe it’s split.

photo by Mitch Wojcik.

Someone once told me that you should love being on tour, but not enough to never want to go home, and you should love being home but not enough to never want to go back out on tour. And I think that’s kind of the way that we look at it. There are ups and downs to both of them, and goods and bads to it.

As we’ve toured pretty consistently for like three years, for the majority of those years, I’m excited to wind down touring somewhat soon, I guess, and work on stuff that is in front of us.

SP: You guys are on the road a lot. I know it’s rote, but any good tour stories?

Coll: Ha! My favorite tour memory is – and this will show how boring of a band we are to be on tour with – but we stayed in a hotel once where we had two rooms, because we are a pretty big band to have on tour, and we turned on the TV, and were flipping through channels, and we turned on The Rock. Then I hit up the next room, and they had found The Rock as well! So we were both just watching The Rock. [laughs].

We went to Universal Studios, and we went to Iceland. I don’t know man. We made some good friends, we’ve had some great food. I just like hanging out with my band, and I like watching The Rock.

SP: So you’ve got 6 people in a van, touring for months at a time. Any advice on keeping things positive as a band, and not getting into band drama?

Coll: Everybody is prone to that, so just like knowing that, you have to look at the people you work with as people. Everybody has ups and downs, and we’ve all seen each other at their lowest. I think that when we first started the band, we were friends starting a band, and I think there was a while there when I don’t think we even were friends anymore. There was a lot of tension and anger. I can just speak for myself on that. Now, I think we’ve become like family, where I think we see and accept a lot of the same exact things that are hard to reveal to other people. When you’re on the road, you really only feel commonality with like…truckers. [laughs] It’s a very lonely and distant place to be on the road for as long as we have been. So you see those parts of people in the same way that family just accepts all parts of someone. That’s just where we slowly moved towards as people, which is good. As far as advice, I have no idea. Every band is different. We’ve had really bad times. We’ve gone through really horrible stuff. Like we’ve had all of our stuff stolen from us, we’ve had our van break down on us. We had a van break down on us every single day on one tour. We’ve definitely cut our teeth just fine. Enough for me! Right now our A/C doesn’t work. We’re doing alright as a band, and we don’t have A/C! [laughs] Things just happen. You realize, music should always be fun, but if you put so much emphasis on it always being fun, you’re going to break up pretty quick. But like if it’s something that you love doing, then you have to understand that you take the good and the bad with it.

SP: Do you get time to hang out and see bands?

Coll: I’m in the middle of making another music video for us, and we’re working on songs and stuff. I know there are bands I want to see. We don’t live too far away from Champaign, so I’m not sure when we’re even going to go up there.

SP: Is this your first Pygmalion?

Coll: The first time I went to Pygmalion was like 2007. My girlfriend at the time went to U of I, and I would drive up there all the time. I went to see a bunch of bands, and it’s pretty weird to be playing there now.

SP: Do you remember any of the bands that played?

Coll: Oh yeah. I know I saw Owen. Like…Mike Kinsella. We ended up playing with American Football later. It was cool. Those dudes are super amazing. Like really, really good guys. I saw…Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. Those are the ones that stuck out to me. I’m not sure what else. I had just seen Casio in St. Louis around that time, and nobody was there, but I mean he killed it. And then when I saw him in Champaign right after that, he was playing to this like packed out room that was just like dancing and loving it. I just had no concept of the highs and lows of touring, and I was just thinking, “This is crazy!” To go from this to this. It really kind of blew my mind.

SP: Thanks for taking the time!


Foxing is playing Pygmalion at 6:15 pm on Friday, September 23, at The Accord Outdoor Annex Stage TWO. Visit the Pygmalion website for more information and to purchase tickets. Don’t miss it!

More Articles