Eric Nally of Foxy Shazam
Foxy Shazam! The musical battle cry heard round the world. With their latest self-titled album, Foxy Shazam injects some much needed life into the music world with their over the top stage presence, genre-bending sound, and addictive songs with very few boundaries. Led by the voracious vocals of their fearless leader Sean Nally their songs boast a perfect ecclectic mix of keys, horns, guitar and a booming rhythm section. While their sound is not easy to put in a box magnetic front man Eric Nally said it best “When I listen to a Foxy Shazam record I think of Evel Knievel, Bruce Springsteen, my childhood, Van Morrison, my old friends from high school I don’t talk to anymore, Elton John, the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and beyond, Iggy Pop and my first kiss.”
Daring to go where no band has gone before (at least not in recent memory) they actually know how to have fun and simply put they’ve honed in on their innate ability to bring back a little something to music that’s been missing for quite some time – the desire to want to be a part of something. Make no mistake, it’s definitely Foxy Shazam’s party – but you’re all invited. And should you accept, the party never ends, at least not while on Foxy Shazam time.
Before their latest album was even released the single “Unstoppable” made an appearance on a little known event called “The Super Bowl” and since then the band has been chasing rainbows and their mission to become “the biggest band in the world”. I don’t know about you but I’m thinking they just might.
I recently had a chance to chat with Foxy’s leading man Sean Nally while the band was out on the road with Hole.
Interviewed by: Mary Ouellette
So I wanted to start out with talking about your latest (self-titled) album – You’ve said that you never want to make the same album twice so what’s the process when you go into writing a new album to ensure that doesn’t happen?
I don’t really think I have to do anything to be honest; the way that music should be written is it should be about what you’re going through and what you’re experiencing in your life. So everything that I write is just a mirror image of we as a band are experiencing and the things we go through as our lives go on. It’s never really hard to write something different because we’re always moving forward and experiencing different things, places and people, from personal lives to our music careers so it’s pretty easy to always have a different album because the album always stands for the time that we’re in.
Yes, the trick is to just embrace where you are in life and write about that and not try to go back to where you were before just because it worked. I know a lot of bands nowadays do one thing that works, and this is how you get stuck making the same album twice, you do one thing that works well and you feel like you have to do that again and again. If that’s the case you should just be open with what you’re going through and make the music that defines you. W hen this whole thing is said and done I want to have a trail of breadcrumbs that shows where I’ve been. I want to be able to retrace my steps when I sit down and listen to all of our records and just remind myself of where I was and what I was experiencing.
“Count Me Out” is one of my favorite songs on the album. Lyrically it talks a bit about the uglier side of love and from what I’ve read comes from a personal experience of yours, can you tell us about the song a little bit?
I’ve never actually experienced anything personally in my life that was negative about love but I do have a lot of friends and family who have gone through some pretty hard times. This was just a song that encompasses the negative parts of love. I’m extremely inspired by love and I don’t really have anything but positive things to say about it because I have a family that loves me so much and a wife that loves me and I couldn’t be happier. So I thought it would be interesting to put myself in a whole different scenario because I know that there can be negative love and that song is about that. I tried to take myself out of what I normally feel and try to see the opposite side of it because I thought it would be an interesting song. It’s one of my favorite songs too because it’s so negative in a positive sounding way.
Yeah it really is, so was that a challenge for you given you’ve been so “lucky in love”?
It definitely was very challenging to change the way that I naturally feel about something for the sake of a song but the challenge is what I’m in this thing for. I want to be challenged. I feel like people don’t challenge themselves enough when they’re doing creative things so that’s definitely something that I try to really like to be challenged.
You wrote the song “Unstoppable” specifically hoping it would be play at sporting events which seems like a really direct goal to have with a song – were there any other songs on the album that you approached with such a clear vision like that?
That kind of comes back to the whole challenge thing, I thought it would be interesting to sit down and write a specific song. The best way to write a song is to feel it in the moment and let it flow but I thought it would be interesting to totally not follow those rules and sit down and write a specific song. So this song was inspired by that old song by Chumbawamba – “I get knocked down, but I get up again” – that song was the inspiration for this song. I was horrible at getting up out of bed for school, I’m not a morning person so in high school it would be hell for my mom to try to wake me up to get me to the bus on time. I would always oversleep and she’d have to drive me to school because I missed the bus and it was always this big deal. She would always play that song on the way to school to hype me up. I feel kind of cheesy saying it but as corny as it is, it really did work. So I always wanted to write a song that was an enthusiastic, encouraging song to help people do things –whether it was winning the Super Bowl or getting out of bed. Before our album even came out “Unstoppable” was on the Super Bowl this year, and that was great because it’s a good feeling to know that we did what we wanted to do with the song.
I thought this quote of yours was brilliant “When you listen to our record, think of your favorite things and it’ll make sense to you as well.” For me personally I think that’s what describes a great album as a whole, something that anyone can listen to as an individual and apply your own perspective and draw from personal feelings. So with that in mind I wanted to ask you what you thought were the key elements for a great album?
I definitely feel like that that’s a big one. That’s something I’ve always felt. For any music that you listen to, if it reminds you of something that you went through in your life, it’s really strong. Have you ever listened to a song and it just reminded you of something and you get tingly? I just love that feeling, when you’re really moved by a song and it reminds you of something. There’s some songs that I like that are so stupid and so crappy technically but that doesn’t matter because that song, even though it’s a really simple or corny song, still takes me back to, for an example your first kiss. That’s really important, I think music needs to take you back to a memory, so that’s one important thing to making a great album. The other thing is the way that the album looks. Every album that is significant throughout history, you remember what it looks like. I know I always say this in interviews but it’s a whole lot easier to understand a sound when you can see what it looks like. I feel like the art side of the album and the visual parts of it (videos, merchandise, etc) is so important and bands overlook that nowadays because it’s not cool to worry about that. “It doesn’t matter what you look like, just play the music” – which is the truth at the heart of it all but on the same side of things music is just a way to express yourself and image is the same thing so it’s just as important to actually combine them together.
You definitely put as much work into the visual side of your band and it all seems to go hand in hand with the music. I think music fans really embrace that and I think it gives bands an identity and helps us relate to the music better.
When you’re in a band sometimes you don’t want to worry about it because there are so many other things going on but I feel like an image of a sound is really important to direct the sound and steer it where you want it to go. I feel like our label has been extremely cooperative with us regarding that because I’ve heard horror stories from bands not being able to really express themselves, but our label has left it up to us so it’s been really awesome to have the resources to do what we do.
So let’s talk about your musical background a little bit. You’ve mentioned how supportive your parents were of your musical passions growing up, how did you fall into music and end up becoming a musician?
My musical background isn’t really very musical. My grandma played piano a lot but other than that, I just had that feeling I told you about. I don’t remember where I was or when it happened but my mom listened to music a lot when I was a kid and I’ve just always been really moved by music. I know some people are moved by art and some people are moved by athletics, everyone kind of has their thing and ever since I was born I’ve been so moved by music. You know when you’re a kid you get different things each year for Christmas based on what you’re currently into? One year you’re into Barbies, one year you’re into clothes, and it always changes because you lose interest. Well music has always been something that I never lost interest in. It’s always stuck with me and it’s just something I was born with I guess, a natural passion for it.
A couple of the guys in the band have classical training and it seems that each of you brings a pretty unique perspective to things – do you ever find yourself at odds when it comes to new song ideas because of this diversity?
It’s a really easy process actually. Whenever you get six guys in a room and working on one song it’s a little hectic but I think for the most part it’s pretty easy for us. I always had trouble in school, I can barely read, I’m almost illiterate, and I’ve never read a book in my life. So I have a really hard time learning certain things and when I was in school they would always put me in smaller groups and that always worked better so I’ve tried to bring that over to writing music. When we write we usually break in groups two. We’ll get together and write a song and after we get the basic groundwork done we’ll bring it to the rest of the guys. Smaller groups always work better.
So let’s talk about your live show because anyone who has ever seen you live knows that it’s quite a spectacle and something that everyone should experience. What songs are most rewarding for you to play live?
I think just naturally the most rewarding songs are always our newer songs. I’m always most proud of what we’re doing now. Our new album is the best thing we’ve ever done and I felt the same way about our last album. If we were ever not as proud of our new stuff as we were of our old stuff we probably didn’t do something right so naturally I’m always proud to show people our new stuff. I think on this tour we’re only doing our new songs because of that very reason.
You’re sound is described as genre-bending and I think that’s pretty evident by all the elements you explore throughout the album – do you ever feel that people might have a hard time “getting” you because of that diversity?
I do think about it constantly. That’s another thing that’s not cool anymore – to worry about what other people think. But to be honest that’s all just kind of bullshit to me. My ultimate goal is to be the biggest band in the world and go down in history for doing what we do. I know we’re a long way from that and I’m not suggesting we’re even anywhere near that but I tell everybody that. I feel like if that were the case, that you shouldn’t worry about what other people think, you’d be sitting in your basement, with no one around, playing an acoustic guitar to yourself. If you really didn’t care what people thought, you wouldn’t be trying to make a career out of it so sometimes I cross paths with bands that say “why do you worry about other people” and while I am making music for myself, I’m trying to make it for the world too and that makes it even harder. I just want people to like our band and I’m not ashamed to say that and I’m not ashamed to try to find that balance. It’s really hard to write something that you really love and feel passionate about and try to make everybody else feel the same the way. But like I said, I love challenges so I’m always up for it. I definitely consider that it might be hard to swallow some things but I think that because of that it actually makes it easier to get us. It’s hard to explain but the more people don’t understand it, the more drawn to it they are. Being mysterious and unchartered intrigues people and I just love it.
That kind of reminds me of the quote from Willy Wonka “The suspense is terrible… I hope it’ll last.”
So I’m a big proponent of the moustache and clearly you have an award winning one. Historically who are some of your favorite mustachioed musical men?
I don’t think I have any favorite musical mustachioed men but in general I think somebody needs to bring back “the man”. I feel like somebody needs to bring back the hair and the muscle, like James Bond. He wasn’t really ripped; he was just a big “man”. I think someone needs to bring that back and I feel like a moustache is a part of that. Hair isn’t really considered to be attractive anymore and I feel like we need to change that too. Sean Connery had a cool moustache at one point; I think Johnny Depp looks great in a moustache.
So you’re sort of rallying that cause? To bring back “the man”?
Yeah. Aside from my body size, since my wife and I can pretty much share the same clothes, so I feel a little petite sometimes but my goal in this life at some point is to bring back “the man”. I think Sky is more likely to do that than me but at least I’ll be a part of it.
You’ve mentioned your wife and I know you have two adorable kids. The video of you and your son in your Bengals jerseys having a shootout is pretty much the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. (Watch it here) I think your success of balancing a family back home with life on the road is very inspiring and a great example to others. How hard is it for you?
The only reason I’m able to balance the band life with the family life is because of my family. It’s not because of the band and it’s not because of me. If my family didn’t support me with what I’m doing I couldn’t do it because naturally I feel like that they love and believe in me so much and that gives me the power to do what I do. When people really love you, they want you to do what you really want to do, and they can tell what you really want to do and my family can tell that this means everything to me. They support me in everything and that gives me the power to do it. Them being there, struggling financially, just gives me more motivation and more reason to keep going and become the biggest band in the world.