by Jordan Green
The four young men of Foxture take an intentional stance on trying to create an environment with their music where fans will feel welcome and included.
“We want it to feel like home at our show,” said Marlon Blackmon, the band’s vocalist and keyboardist.
“We never want people to feel uncomfortable,” added guitarist Eddie Reynolds. “Like if you’ve had a rough day, this is a place you can just let loose.”
The sound the band is going for — ambient, with some curveballs of tonal weirdness — is described by bassist Ross Barnes as “what it feels like to be in a room where the temperature is just right — almost like air conditioning.”
Foxture, as a solo project by Blackmon, became a band when Reynolds responded to a post on the “Musicians of the Triad” Facebook page. Blackmon had been offered a gig at UNCG in August 2014, and was feeling some pressure to flesh out his sound. Reynolds responded that he was interested, adding that he could also bring a bass player and drummer.
The four members share an interest in cultivating a unified local music scene. They take care in curating varied show lineups so different bands can cross-pollinate their audiences. It’s paid off, with a booking earlier this year at Phuzz Phest in Winston-Salem — where they shared billing with some of their heroes like Foxygen, Ex Hex and Hamilton Leithauser — and a string of shows at the Blind Tiger in Greensboro.
Similarly, they want to promote the local arts scene, and to that end they enlisted Kendall Doub to design the cover of their new five-song EP, Circles, which depicts a fox curled into itself.
For the band’s EP release party at the Garage in Winston-Salem on Oct. 17, Foxture put together an eclectic supporting roster that pulled off the trick of assembling a diverse array of listeners.
The multigenerational lineup began with Vel Indica, a band whose members look old enough to have kids in college, that has a highly original sound matching emotive vocals with dynamic instrumental interplay. With a viola carrying some of the high end on the band’s range, high tenor vocals and the occasional use of an acoustic guitar, Vel Indica’s sound sounds vaguely reminiscent of bands like REM, Camper Van Beethoven and the Waterboys in the late ’80s.
The next set by 1970s Film Stock marked a signal pivot from conventional pop-rock song format into uncharted guitar and electronic territory. The project of former Jews & Catholics guitarist Eddie Garcia, 1970s Film Stock has functioned in the past as duo with drummer Ben Braxton, but on Oct. 17 Garcia was performing solo. Aided by a handful of guitars with different tones, Garcia presented an array of compelling songs, each with different textures and emotional colors. On some, he played bright and clean note runs reminiscent of William Tyler; on others, he unleashed snarling garage-rock riffs worthy of early White Stripes. He sang on some songs, while on others, the cathartic scream of his guitar supplanted the vocal in dialogue with an overdubbed rhythm track. Garcia’s stylistic reference points — generationally situated in the era from 1991 to 2005 — are likely to appeal to listeners with young children.
The bill also included Spirits & the Melchizedek Children, an Atlanta psychedelic shoegaze band, but they didn’t make the gig, reportedly because of traffic problems traveling from CMJ Music Marathon in New York City.
It was just as well, considering that it was a little after 11:30 p.m. when Foxture took the stage. Many of the Vel Indica and 1970s Film Stock fans who stuck around for the headliner were unfamiliar with Foxture’s music. That could be a recipe for disappointment or a pleasant surprise, depending on one’s appetite for adventure.
As relative youngsters — two members attend Forsyth Tech and another goes to UNCG, while one works in a daycare — Foxture’s music is markedly more soothing and gentle than that of their angst-ridden elders. And whether it was due to their sound or their ecumenical outreach, the audience waiting when Foxture took the stage was strikingly diverse for indie rock — with black, white and Asian listeners almost equally apportioned.
Blackmon’s voice stood out most immediately. High pitched and with a fluttering quality, it delicately worked melodic twists in a way that vaguely suggested Sade and Carol Bui — admittedly an obscure reference, she’s a Vietnamese-American guitarist who came out of the DC punk scene with one of the most ethereal voices in popular music during her brief music career.
Blackmon’s keyboard playing built an architecture of jazzy effervescence around his vocals, with Reynolds’ chirping guitar mimicking the singer’s vocals. Andrew Irving likewise approached the drums with a jazz player’s sense of restraint, providing playful dynamics with a light touch. Similarly, Barnes’ bass playing laid down a groove that acted as a comforting blanket, rarely if ever rising to the level of stridency.
Occasionally, the groove would reach a crescendo, and then a key shift would signal a harmonic catharsis highlighted by Blackmon’s expressive vocals.
The audience was attentive and appreciative, while somewhat more restrained in their applause than during the two previous sets. Total pros, the members of Foxture more than reciprocated.
“You guys are beautiful,” Blackmon said. “Jesus Christ. Thank you for being here so much.”