Moxy Fruvous: Those crazy Canadians once again descend on MITBy Yaron Koren
This Friday, that wacky foursome from Ontario known as Moxy Früvous will once again play at MIT, bringing their unique mix of soaring vocal harmonies, solid musicianship, deadpan humor, and outspoken political views. I had the opportunity to speak on the phone with Mike Ford, a member of the band who, in addition to vocal duties, plays the guitar, harmonica, keyboard and drums. As would be expected with any Moxy Früvous interview, straight answers were hard to come by.
I started off by asking Ford about Live Noise, their new album coming out on May 19, which will contain recordings from various live shows. Here was his response: "Live Noise. You strap on the Früvous world, stick your head inside the universe of Früvous. It shoots into your ears and comes out your pores. It's digital perspiration."
How did the group decide to put out a live album? "People have always said that Früvous is all about the live experience," Ford said. "We want to do a favor to the people in all the seven continents, who shouldn't have to worry about getting all the way to our shows, because it's a long drive We wanted to finally let the two worlds meet, live Früvous and studio Früvous." He called the new album "a summation of stuff we've done until now." He said that Live Noise will contain songs from all four of their studio albums, as well as unreleased material performed only at concerts and live songs that are substantially different from their recorded versions.
The band's next big project is an as-yet unspecified delve into musical theater. "We worked quite a bit on musical theater side projects in our early days before Früvous got its start," Ford said. "The possibility has always been alluring We're once again spending a large amount of time on that burner, and now we're throwing in some big chunks of meat and meat-substitute. Maybe the entrée will come sooner than we think."
When pressed for more detail about the project, Ford responded glibly, saying that one idea they had developed, which was later unfortunately scrapped by producers, was "Volkswagen!' - a history of the great car from its origins in the Third Reich all the way up to its present state as a placebo for guilt-ridden yuppies." He insisted that they had not yet formulated a specific plot: "Right now we're more just getting our sea legs for such a project, getting our juices running."
I asked Ford how the band felt about their substantial following in the MIT community, and being labeled as geek rock.' "We're muscling up," he said. "Geek rock doesn't pay enough. We're getting contact lenses, and spending a couple of hours in the gym each day to beef up. We've also started beating up on each other." When asked about the inevitable comparisons to other quirky bands such as They Might Be Giants and Ben Folds Five, Ford said he was pleased that people made these connections: "They Might Be Giants have an incredible history, and we've been big fans of theirs for a long time. Ben Folds Five are also an incredible band. There's nothing geeky about either one that music got meat on it."
He called the show they performed at MIT last year "literally one of the best shows we've had in a long time." He then revealed the big news: a section of that show will be featured in the live album. Included in this section is the band reading out a letter to the crowd that they got before the concert, from "Institute Professor Jack Florey," thanking them for their music on behalf of various MIT departments.
Curious about the extent of their eclecticism, I listed for Ford several musical genres which the band has not yet covered in their recorded output, trying to find any that the band would refuse to play. In response to my listing of blues, gangsta rap and heavy metal, he claimed that Moxy Früvous have already written and played songs in all of these styles, but that it has all gone "unreleased." I finally found a genre which the group considers off-limits: electronica. "No, no way" was his response, and he seemed to suggest that the band considers electronica mindless and vapid. "We're waiting for that computer program to come out where we press a button and feed in our music and out comes the techno version," he said.
I asked Ford if the group has mellowed politically in recent years, as evidenced by the lack of real political commentary on their last album, You Will Go To the Moon. Ford denied this wholeheartedly: "We do quite a few political musical things, and the order they come in isn't necessarily reflected in the way they come out [in the albums]." He mentioned one of their latest projects, a song called "Today's the Day That We Fight Back." That song, and the short movie they made to accompany it, was a protest against the Mike Harris government in Ontario, which Ford described as "a very pure form of Thatcherism, and it's ruining most of the things that we were proud of [about Ontario] in a very short period of time."
Their approach to singing about politics "depends on how ephemeral, or how eternal, the issue is that's being sung about We're always trying to be thought-provoking," he said. "Only listing the things you hate, it's good cathartically, but it doesn't provoke much thought. We're trying to write songs that are questions."
The question on everyone's mind had to be asked. The band's favorite Spice Girl? "Uh, Ringo Spice. Actually, Talented Spice. They kicked her out because she was too good."
When he heard that Honest Bob and the Factory Showroom would once again be the opening act for their show, Ford said to tell everyone to "make sure you're there good and early for Honest Bob, because it's music to roll up your sleeves to." He said the band was "very excited about once again being in the hallowed halls." "It'll be a feel-good Friday'," he said. "Bring the kids. But leave them in the car. With the window open a centimeter."