With their new album, Black Foxxes have tackled their demons and come out swinging. "I'm in a much better place," explains frontman Mark Holley.
"We're a really exciting band, and people should take note of that," laughs Mark Holley, plucking the words out of everyone's mouths; but then, that's what Black Foxxes have always done.
Debut record ‘I'm Not Well', with its scrawled confusion and bold confessions, took anger, frustration and loneliness and gave it a voice. Follow-up ‘Reiði' digs a little deeper. It's more dynamic, more considered and moves with real purpose. Keys, strings and space litter the record but the band haven't lost that fire in the pit of their stomach. That rage, it's there in the title, and it makes itself at home throughout.
"I consider [opening track] ‘Breathe' almost an extension of what ‘I'm Not Well' was mentally and the lyrics reflect that," Mark explains. "As the album goes on, it's me understanding who I am and finding out how I cope with all this. With that first record, I'd never had those feelings of anxiety or depression before. I didn't know what the fuck was going on. I didn't want to be there; I didn't want to write about it. These weird, angsty, bold lyrics we flying out of me.
"This time, there's a lot more measure. There's a lot more understanding of what's going on. I'm in a much better place mentally, but I always find myself reflecting and writing lyrics that are super dark. That's why we've called the album 'rage'. You can balance your mental health out. You can feel a lot better, but it's always a part of you. I've found that rage is always a part of me.
"It just seems to come out when I'm writing; I don't sit down and think about lyrics. They just come out of me. I don't know what I'm singing about, then I listen back, and it makes a lot of sense. I understand rage. I did understand everything a lot more by the end of this record."
And despite everything, Black Foxxes have never stopped pushing forward. “I don’t know (why I didn’t take a break from the band),” admits Mark. “It’s all I ever wanted to do, and I saw the bigger picture. I saw a place where I would be happy making music again, because I’d been there before. Also, it’s the only thing I consider myself any good at, it’s the only thing I truly love doing. I knew that love would come back for it, and it did.
There's a lot going on with ‘Reiði'. Their first record was "just loud scuzzy rock," but this time out the band are far more playful. ‘Oh, It Had To Be You' is a gentle sparkle-burn, ‘Am I Losing It' is based around an acoustic guitar, while ‘JOY' captures the band back in their scout hut rehearsal space, surrounded by walls of feedback and playing like no one is listening.
"That's the way we write; it's just three of us in a scout hut or a dingy room. I don't know what it is with us and dingy rooms, but we tend to write songs in practice spaces. If they can sound good in a small space, it's going to sound fucking great on a stage or in a recording studio," Mark says from another dingy room, today a barn in Cornwall in the middle, writing for album three. "We found with these songs; they had so much space." It allowed the band to toy with trumpet, strings and keys. "It's not that it changes the Foxxes sound, it enhances it. It takes a song that sounds great to a different area. That's something you've got to do album to album."
"You can hear, it's a lot more ambitious," he continues. ‘Manic In Me', a song about how "other people can balance out this rage that's inside me," came about after listening to loads of Feeder and Oasis. "I wanted a ‘Buck Rogers' moment. I think every songwriter does," while the likes of ‘Flowers' and ‘The Big Wild' see Black Foxxes give themselves more options. "This album could fit into so many different worlds. We really tried to evolve and bring in these new elements. The lows are much lower; the highs are much higher. We just tried to make a fun album that doesn't get too tiring from start to finish."
There's a confidence to Black Foxxes. More than listening to industry hype or the promise of the next big thing, it comes from a pure belief in what they're creating. Truth, honesty and knowing they're not alone. "Everyone just wants that hit. They want you to be massive overnight. We've never been one of those bands. We want to create the best body of work we can, we want to record a shit-ton of albums, and when it happens, it happens. If that's ‘Reiði', it doesn't matter. I'm just really proud of it and think it'll sit really nicely in the collection of Black Foxxes records."
“I was never the vocalist in bands growing up; I was always the backing singer. When we wrote the first record, I very much still had that attitude. I didn’t really believe I was the strongest singer, so I covered it with yelps and shouts but this record, I was a lot more confident. I found my home for where my voice is, with those stutters and the intimacy of the moments where I’m almost speaking. We wanted to be a lot more artistic and abstract with this record, and my voice just naturally found a home with that.”
The thing is, it’s easy to find yourself in ‘Reiði’ too. “The people that will really reflect on it are the adventurous souls. Those people who don’t feel like they’re in the right place and they just want to leave. They don’t know why they just know they’re in the wrong place and they’ve got this eagerness to just escape.”
Black Foxxes are an exciting band, and people should take note. "We've got this spark as the three of us. How we write and what we write about, that eventually will take off. There are real moments on this record where people will go ‘Oh fuck, this band really can bounce around genres. They're not going to be doing one thing. What the fuck is their third album going to be like?' And that's what I want this band to be like. I want people to second guess us and not know where they stand with us. We'll always just do our own thing. We want to make people ask questions, be on their toes and not know what the fuck is going to happen next."
Taken from the April issue of Dork - order a copy or subscribe below. Black Foxxes' album 'Reiði is out now.