It was a merging of artistic oeuvres – a band making an album inspired by film imagery while taking on the role of a new set of characters. The result had Jonathan Rado and Sam France, the rock duo behind the California band Foxygen, release an ambitious double album (”… And Star Power”) in which Foxygen became Star Power in order to become Foxygen again.
Sure, it sounds a bit odd and esoteric, but it also explains the ranging ”… And Star Power,” a 24-song experiment in pop and ’70s rock which maintains a firm indie aesthetic. As the pair bring their band of nine to the 40 Watt Friday night, France took time to discuss the challenges of making a double album and how losing yourself in another character is not always the best policy.
When it comes time to write music, do you have any specific goals in mind?
Sam France: Yeah, I think in general we have a vision of an album that we want to make and sometimes we write songs according to that – we think of it like a film and a lot of imagery comes with that and we try to follow that imagery until the album is done.
There was a lot of imagery this time then since this was a double album. Besides this album, what is your favorite double album?
SF: I think it would have to be “Tusk” (from Fleetwood Mac), or, and I haven’t listened to it that much recently but it’s always good when it comes on, the “White Album.” I think that’s maybe the first double album that many people fall in love with. Falling in love with a double album is a personal thing, and a lot of those albums weren’t the most popular money wise. But the “White Album” is deep in me like it is in a lot of people.
You look back and you see how many great double albums there are – “The Wall,” “London Calling,” “Blonde on Blonde,” “Exile on Main Street”. You spent six months recording ”… And Star Power,” how do you feel now having done a double album?
SF: We’re very happy with it creatively, we made our own version of a masterpiece and we’re really happy with that. It was weird, a little meta for us, because we were making it in the vein of these archetypal albums, so even though we’re in a different time period, we knew it would be challenged or scoffed or it could be isolating. We knew it could mean all these things to certain people and that was almost the point, too. Having gone through it now I think it was a little bit difficult and a little traumatizing in that I think the world we created with the album wasn’t really relevant to modern culture and it doesn’t really fit in anywhere to anything that’s happening in modern times. We were this very isolated kind of ’70s characters for the whole process of making it and for touring it we weren’t interacting with anything modern.
We got a little tired of playing those roles and on this tour we’re kind of exorcising those characters and getting into these new different characters which is natural. But in general, looking back, we’re just proud of the work.
You’re coming to Athens, and in the latest album you had (of Montreal frontman) Kevin Barnes working with you. How did that come about?
SF: He believed in us really early on, before “21st Century” came out, he was on to it somehow and he took us on one of our first tours ever – we opened for of Montreal on one of our first tours. He’s always been so supportive and so cool to us, and he was just in town and we called him in with the band and he did some vocals. It was fun.
What is it like playing these songs from ”… And Star Power” live? Is there a different kind of attitude that you bring to them away from the recording process?
SF: I listened to the record the other day and the songs sounded docile, they sounded tame and exhausted and tired and slow compared to the way I hear them every night which is very fast and very loud and tight – we have a bulky sound at this point, songs are shocked with adrenaline when we play them live, they’re very energetic. It’s a different sound actually.
Are you working on new material?
SF: Oh yeah, we’re dropping a new song hopefully in the next few weeks. It will be free, we’re going to be dropping our material more like hip hop artists do right now, so the next one is like a hip hop song.
Is the live process influencing the new material?
SF: We’re at kind of a weird crossroads because we’re recording a lot of hip hop music but the live show is still the Star Power show, but I don’t know, the show is becoming a little funkier, more soulful and yeah, it is a little connected.
Do you find your personalities are different than the music you make or are they one in the same?
SF: It should be a little alarming if our personalities are the same. Sometimes I found myself in the last year being a little lost in the characters that we were making and I ended up in the hospital three times in one year, I had this kind of idea of what I wanted do and then I realized that maybe it was not healthy to do that. Sometimes it’s bad, sometimes it’s good, but it’s always a gray area. Our lives are always intersecting with music, but it’s very gray.
You guys have been a band for 10 years now and the 10th anniversary is a big thing. I was curious if you were doing anything to celebrate?
SF: That’s awesome, we never really thought about celebrating an anniversary like that but we should, that’s a great idea. We haven’t thought about it, but now we will.