Interview with Foxy Shazam’s Sky White on theFIVE10.com
Tuesday afternoon theFIVE10.com’s Clay Lancaster took a walk with Foxy Shazam’s Sky White in San Francisco to discuss their new record The Church of Rock and Roll and the meaning behind it, their tour with The Darkness, the censorship fight over lyrics to their current single “I Like It”, and Foxy’s new-found rise in the rock world.
theFIVE10: You’re listening to Clay on theFIVE10.com and I’m here with Sky from Foxy Shazam. Just rolled in from Los Angeles… you guys got a big show tonight; is tonight sold out?
Sky: Yeah, every show on this whole tour, I believe, is sold out. It’s been awesome every night, and playing with The Darkness is great… they’ve been killing it every night, so…
theFIVE10: Actually from what I’ve read up, I’ve been hearing more chatter about your set than theirs. I don’t know how that feels for you guys.
Sky: That’s very flattering, because they’re good friends of ours that are, like, great musicians, great performers, great dudes… all across the field. I love those guys. And we’ve been putting a whole lot into our stage show and trying to dig deep into the depths of rock n’ roll… and put on the best show people have ever seen.
theFIVE10: You were saying that your new record, The Church of Rock and Roll, was kind of a commentary on your view of the current state of music was?
Sky: Yeah. The Church of Rock and Roll, to us, is… there was a void in anything we could personally believe in, in music. And we set out to fix that, just by making it ourselves; Something that meant something to us and hopefully would mean something to listeners, to fans, to people, to people who have never heard us before, and it’s been going great for us so far.
theFIVE10: You were talking about a void… what are some of your go-to records that personally do it for you?
Sky: Well, I’ve been going backwards. That’s what’s been happening with all of us. There is no modern music, so we started going back and listening to all the good old classics… and completely realizing that our generation is just losing it. Just not getting art. Not getting good art. And I know there’s stuff out there, I believe there’s stuff out there, but not as much as there should be.
theFIVE10: It’s few and far between, and crowds these days don’t have the attention span for a guitar solo. Or a drum solo. Or actual drums, in some cases.
Sky: Yeah. The state of the music industry… the industry has to do that stuff because that’s where the money is, like right now. People download singles, people don’t buy entire records barely anymore. For the industry to survive, they kinda had to make that… which is depressing because the industry kinda seems like it should do what’s “right” for music but if you’re a business trying to stay afloat, you can’t always do that.
theFIVE10: Yeah I think you nailed it right there. It’s a business. So on some level I don’t think you can blame them for not taking a chance on things that they don’t think are gonna sell.
Sky: Yeah, exactly. Or won’t sell easy. Because it takes money to push something that’s not easily digestible… sampled drum and bass background stuff with auto-tuned vocals. And like, that’s ok… people do that, and that’s fine… but the fact that there’s that, after that, after that, after that, until the end of time… as far as it looked like.
theFIVE10: And then you think about it, for like the last ten years… you know, what’s a big stand-out band that has come around?
theFIVE10: Exactly. (laughs)
Sky: We have a few Pop stars, kind of… but the rock bands? Like, Green Day is still the biggest… it’s all bands that have been around for 15-20 years or more. There are no new big rock bands.
theFIVE10: So, social media… you guys have been at this, you said, for what 8 years? Have you relied on social media before? Because now you got some big pushers behind you.
Sky: Yeah. At the beginning that stuff was really, really helpful. It was right at the beginning of Myspace being really big… and Pure Volume… and we didn’t know what we were doing. My guitarist just sat there and added people on Facebook for like months and months. And we had good music then, and we were still putting on a crazy show, but we had no idea what we were doing. We were a bunch of poor Cincinnati guys that had no idea what we were doing. We knew we needed to tour, so we knew we needed to have fans outside of Cincinnati… so in order to do that, we needed to start finding ways to make fans outside of Cincinnati. So we paid for ads on multiple social media things, and then we started touring pretty much immediately after that. Just kept hitting the road for years and years and years. Played shows in a steak restaurant, putting some tables together…
Sky: …these shows have been awesome. We have a headlining tour coming up right after this…
theFIVE10: Yeah that’s in May or something, right?
Sky: Uh… no… um, March? I think?
theFIVE10: Maybe I got the “M” month wrong.
Sky: Yeah I do that all the time, don’t worry about it (laughs). We have this, then we have like 10 days home, or maybe a week home, and then we go straight to SXSW, and from SXSW we have a headlining tour pretty much right after that. And I said earlier we were just starting to get radio… every city there’s been radio station people coming out that have already been playing our single “I Like It”…
theFIVE10: That song is catchy as fuck, by the way. And I heard the chorus and was like, is that “the biggest black ass…” (laughs). Yeah that song rocks, man.
Sky: As soon as we decided that’s the first single, people are like, “You can’t say that! You’re not allowed to… radio will never play that. You have to change the lyrics.” And we’re like… this is a positive song. There’s nothing that…
theFIVE10: That’s not normally what they let through, but it is a positive song.
Sky: Yeah. So we were told that they were gonna censor “black”… and we brought up that they were actually creating racism in this situation.
theFIVE10: I don’t think anybody would notice it otherwise!
Sky: Yeah! So radio stations just started playing it, and then we got a few of them around the country at first… like San Diego and Cincinnati, a few places in Michigan… and as of right now, we have the #1 most-added single in the country. So “I Like It” is being added to more stations every week than any other song in the country right now. And from all that kind of stuff, we have radio shows that are popping up over the next 6 months. So we’re playing radio festivals and radio show things, and been doing acoustic performances and all that stuff.
theFIVE10: Well good for you guys. Because it’s about time somebody stopped being so PC about everything.
Sky: Yep. And there’s been no blowback at all. Everybody “Likes It”. (laughs)
theFIVE10: For songwriting purposes, is it a collective thing? Or is somebody a principal songwriter in the group?
Sky: It’s complicated, because we have 6 members in the band and songwriting is also something that kinda comes in waves. For the last record -not for The Church of Rock and Roll, but the record before that (Foxy Shazam) – we went into the studio with like 270 songs, and we came out with like 35 that we fully recorded… and then we picked 12 for the record. With this one, we went into the studio and literally sat in a room and wrote a song from beginning to end. We wrote 12 songs, and 11 of them are on the record.
theFIVE10: So nothing on this record is carried over from the last record?
Sky: There’s little bits of writing techniques and styles and stuff…
theFIVE10: Maybe little riffs here and there…
Sky: Yeah, exactly. But “The Church of Rock and Roll” (title track) was the only one that was almost completely done like 6 months before the rest of the record. So once that song was done, we had the idea of the mood and the feeling… that’s when we got the idea of everything for this record – what we wanted it to represent, what it meant to us – and from that everything fell into place; writing and recording 16-17 hours a day. We were in Lowestoft (UK) with Justin Hawkins from The Darkness recording. So that was great.
theFIVE10: Well more power to you guys. Honestly if anybody deserves it, you guys do… and other bands like you. It was a super refreshing record for me to hear. I can see why a lot of people might not latch on to it right away, but it’s one of those things that if you let it grow… honestly, in my mind it’s a step in the right direction for modern rock music in general.
theFIVE10: So keep at it. Please don’t go the opposite direction any time soon.
Sky: Thanks for believing in us!
theFIVE10: Thanks for giving me the time, I appreciate it.