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21st Century's 'Groundhog's Day' with Foxygen

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Foxygen - ANGEL CEBALLOS
  • Angel Ceballos
  • Foxygen

Touring in support of their 2013 Jagjaguwar breakthrough, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, hasn't always been bliss for Jonathan Rado and the rest of his Foxygen counterparts. In fact, it's been quite a drag.

With nearby festival appearances at Forecastle Festival and Pitchfork Music Festival, I caught up with Rado over the phone, chatting about the benefits of playing festivals, the monotonous touring lifestyle, and much more.

NUVO: Are you particularly looking forward to Pitchfork or Forecastle and do either of those festivals mean anything particular to you guys as a band?

Jonathan Rado: I don't know what stuff means something to us as a band, but I'm excited to play both festivals. I really like playing festivals. We certainly are playing a few of them lately, and I think we've sort of realized that we're pretty good at it. We're like a festival-type band or something.

NUVO: When it comes to that, what is your best festival memory as a performer so far?

Rado: We played Solid Sound [Wilco's Music and Arts Festival] last weekend and it was maybe the best we've played at a festival. The show was really good, and then there were some other things that happened that weren't so great. But the show was great.

NUVO: What do you enjoy most about playing festivals?

Rado: It's different than playing a concert or something because not everyone is there to see you. In a weird way, they're not as likely to be let down. I feel like people go to a concert and they're like, 'I paid $25 to see this concert for you and you let me down. You didn't play as well as I want you to' But at a festival it's like, 'I'm stoked to see all these bands. Oh, there's Foxygen. They're good.' Or if they don't like it, they can still watch another fucking band. They don't care. But most people are into it.

NUVO: Have you gone to festivals in the past as a viewer and enjoyed it?

Rado: I went to Coachella in 2005, but that was it. I really liked it. I remember I saw the Chemical Brothers. It was awesome.

NUVO: I know you guys were touring pretty extensively. What is the worst part of that kind of lifestyle? What did you not like about it?

Rado: Everything that's not the show. Pretty much everything about touring is not really how a person is supposed to live. Our bodies and minds are not really created for living that way, or if they are, I'm definitely not that type of person. Everybody who has any sort of job does the same thing everyday. But when touring, it's such a confusing doing-something-everyday because everything is different and exactly the same everyday. You drive all day through America or wherever, and then you play a show in some club that looks exactly the same as the club you played last night. Smells the same, but it's in a different town. You go stay in some hotel that looks like every hotel. You wake up in a new town and you drive. Every gas station in America looks exactly the same. There's nothing that changes. It's like living Ground Hog's Day over and over and over and over again, but in completely different places. It's extremely confusing.

NUVO: From your point of view, what makes a show successful as a performer?

Rado: I think it's just having a connection with the audience. I feel like most people would say that. I mean, I've definitely played poorly as a musician, but the audience has been receptive, and it didn't matter. I'll screw up a guitar chord, but no one gives a shit. We've definitely played shows where we played efficiently enough, but the audience was just not having it for whatever reason.

NUVO: I know you and Sam [France, co-founder of band] have played together for a long time. How did you go about finding the rest of your band that you're touring with now?

Rado: Pretty much, they're just friends of ours. Me and Sam grew up with Shaun, our drummer. We went to high school together. He's like a few years older than us, but we just asked him to play drums. Justin was just someone we met. Sam went to college with him. So yeah, they're just our friends who play music.

NUVO: Is there any part of you that misses the earlier days of playing music with Sam?

Rado: There's a large part of me that misses that. I think it's sort of like an innocence lost kind of thing. But yeah, I mean, I really miss it a lot.

NUVO: Are there any plans to re-release any of the work you did with him prior to the studio albums?

Rado: I've only put out one. I put out this one called Jurassic Explosion Philippic. I put a link on our Facebook a while back. And people have managed to find some of the stuff, and I don't know how.

NUVO: Yeah, I was trying to find some and I couldn't find much of it.

Rado: There are like two albums on YouTube that people found. I don't know which one of our old friends put them out, but somehow people got a hold of it and I haven't even had to leak anything. But if you want to hear some of it, there's a Mediafire link to one of our albums on Facebook.

NUVO: Are there any particular songs on either of your last two releases that mean something specific or meaningful to you?

Rado: I really like all of Take The Kids Off Broadway. I love the new record too, but I have strong personal connection to the songs on Take The Kids Off Broadway. I don't know why that is, but definitely all of Take The Kids Off Broadway is pretty special to me. The new one is too, but in a different way. On the new one, I really loved the experience of making it and working with Richard Swift and writing all those songs. I think maybe because Take The Kids Off Broadway took us six or seven months to make. It feels like this labor of love, and I feel really strongly about it. The new one took ten days, so that's a big difference.

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