WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Welcome to Witchpolice Radio. I'm here with someone who is new to the podcast and relatively new to me as well. I definitely had heard of your band before, I think just through my sort of obsessive following every local band I can find on social media. The name came up, so when you reached out, I had a vague familiarity of what you were doing. But I figured the best way to start this off is if you want to introduce yourself and give a bit of background about what it is you do, what Foxwell is, and we can go from there because I know there's a lot of exciting things happening in that world at the moment.
MIKE FOX: Yeah, my name is Mike Fox. I'm a Winnipeg musician. I've been on been playing the Winnipeg scene for probably coming on about twelve years now. But Foxwell is my sort of most recent project.
It is a five piece band and we've been going for just over a year now from our first show. And we just released our first EP literally two nights ago.
WR: Before you released the EP, you had some live videos that came out and things like that. And so who else is in this band? Because, I mean, based on the live videos, you have a lot of people who are relatively well known from their roles with other bands in the city.
MF: Yeah, certainly so, yeah, the band consists of myself, I'm the lead vocalist, the songwriter and guitar. And then we have Gage Salnikowski. Gage is sort of the renaissance man of the group. He plays largely plays cello in this project, but also plays flute, a little bit of violin and a little bit of guitar.
And then we have Devon Gillingham on bass. Yeah, Devin's just like an old friend. Fantastic bass player. Theresa Thordarson plays keyboards and sings backup vocals as well. And then Justin Alcock is on drums.
MF: And basically everyone in this band also has their own projects and plays in a bunch of others.
WR: It's a fairly accomplished group of musicians you have there as far as just what they've done within the local scene. Are these all people you've worked with for a long time or is this sort of a relatively new incarnation?
MF: You know, I've played with them all, I think, in different groups. I'm from Brandon originally and went to the Brandon School of Jazz with Justin there. We went cross paths in school. And then Theresa, I think she did the classical program, but we knew each other from that school. And then I played with in I was in incarnation of Marshall Birch's band, Marshall Birch and the Buddies, for a little while. And then Devon, actually I played in his band years and years ago when he was just like he was probably like 17. Then he went away, did some schooling, came back. He's a little more in like, the jazz scene and yeah. So I just kind of was wanting to put together a really tight band and these are all people that had the time and were fantastic, what they do.
WR: And not to throw you a question that everyone hates answering right away, but how do you define the sound of what this is? Because, like you just explained, all these people have very different backgrounds and you do yourself as clearly you got a lot of jazz players in this group and classical and things like that. And I don't think either of those genres define what it is that Foxwell is doing at all. I mean, I can I'm sure there's influences that are seeping in, but what do you call it? Do you have like a Coles' Notes way of describing it?
MF: Yeah, certainly. I mean, the terms I usually throw out are like art rock, indie rock, psychedelic rock with a bit of like a new way of influence as well. It's got a lot of up-tempo kind of driving bass drum kind of songs, a lot of synthesizers. But we have a few ballads where I'm playing acoustic and that's more of like your big sort of ethereal synth sounds over top of that. Definitely a lot of the Aussie psych scene is one of my favorite genres.
So like, King Gizzard and the Lizzard Wizzard, Tame Impala kind of stuff and then huge Flaming Lips and Destroyer fan and then a lot of new wave stuff. As you know, it's a little tricky. It jumps all over the know, even if my EPK that I put together to try and book stuff, it's a little tough to pin down.
But also, the fact of the matter is I booked the first show to sort of just get my ass in gear and be like, all right, let's just play a show and we'll put everything we have out there. So basically all the songs I had were all over the map and sort of tried to rein them in and just develop more of a cohesive sound. But it's definitely like in its infancy in terms of defining what that is going to be going forward and because all of us like a lot of different things and have a lot of different skill sets, it's going to be ever changing.
WR: Sure. And I imagine that whenever your next release comes out, that'll be more honed to whatever the sound is and so on and so forth, right?
MF: I would hope so, yeah.
WR: So with this being sort of your project, I mean, it's got your last name in the band name. What is sort of the process for writing these songs? Are these all songs that you have written sort of prior to putting this band together and then you brought to these other musicians?
MF: Yeah, I think everything's been written over the last couple of years.
I wanted to do this band just before the pandemic and had maybe three or four songs together and was like starting to seek out a band to put together and then that really slowed me down when the pandemic hit and I kind of just didn't pursue it much. But then coming out of the pandemic, I was like, Now's the time. And then one of those song every week clubs I don't know if you're familiar with those, was in one of those with some great musicians and that kind of spurred me on to write some more stuff. So it's just been a collection of songs I've had for the last some of which probably started in their infancy five or six years ago. Sure. Yeah, it's just been a collection of songs I've been working on for a long time.
WR: I'm assuming you bring these songs fairly, fairly basic to the group and then they flesh out all the other sounds and instruments. Are these songs that in their original forms could be performed solo or are they sort of made for a larger group?
MF: Yeah, they're probably made more so for an ensemble. I think I could probably do a lot of them solo, but some of them are sort of the bass groove is a prominent feature in one song. The synth line, it's like those don't really make sense. Just me playing acoustic guitar and singing. Most of them were written, probably starting on an acoustic, but some of them are just me and logic, putting together all these little pieces, and then I bring it to the band, and a lot of the melodies and ideas are there. And then I'm not a great multi instrumentalist or anything, so it's just kind of like now everyone can kind of take it and flush out their parts and come up with something a lot better than what I had.
WR: Cool. What has the reception been so far to the EP? Because I know at the time we're recording this, it's very new, but I mean, you've had the show, you've been kind of hyping it up with these live videos and releasing singles and things like that. Has it been a positive response so far?
MF: Yeah, certainly. I mean, I've gotten a lot of good feedback. I think I was a little there's obviously a lot of work that goes into releasing an album and trying to promo it properly, et cetera. And I was a little late on submitting it to some things like that. But all in all, I've gotten very good feedback and this is the first one. So I'm not expecting something to go get signed by this or that or anything right away. But yeah, the feedback has been very good and the show was very well attended.
I booked it at Lowlife, which is a really unique venue for something like this. I know they had like a Begonia listening party, but I don't think they had any other shows there. And then I had a friend of mine works in film. He kind of helped me out with bringing in some really cool lighting and setting that up. So it was a really unique show and well attended and yeah, it was great.
WR: Well, that's kind of leads into what I was going to ask you next, actually, is because of the psychedelic aspects and because of the kind of the range of instruments you're using. And like you said, there's the heavy synth stuff. It definitely seems like it lends itself to good visuals, right? I mean, it seems like the kind of music that would benefit from having kind of a show rather than just a basic performance. Is that sort of part of the whole package?
MF: Yeah, I think long term, I feel the exact same way about every time I see a show and I see where the lighting is dialed in and even what people are wearing it, it adds so much.
So that's something I would like to eventually have talking with my friend who, again, help me with all the lighting is like, we can come up with something that even once we start touring, it maybe three or four little light boxes that I can take on the road. And then we're not beholden to any venues lighting, you know what I mean? It's like kill all the lights. We have our own things. It's now going to be exactly the way we want it, right?
MF: That's something I certainly would like to have even obviously it's in its early stages, but I think the quicker I can kind of get out in front of that, the better reception it's going to have at every show.
WR: Well, and that helps too, just in the sense that everyone and their dog has a band now and is releasing music every ten minutes on Bandcamp and stuff. And so it helps you stand out, right. Having a visual element to go with the music. It's going to be memorable for people who are actually going out to the live show, certainly.
MF: And then it's all just sort of you can choose, you have your color scheme and it just plays into the aesthetic of the band in general. Right. And you try to mold all aspects of your promotion and your music and everything into sort of a cohesive aesthetic package.
WR: Yeah, for sure. Is that the plan, though, to go ahead and start touring at some point with this band?
MF: Yeah, that is definitely the plan. This first EP is certainly going to act as a calling card. And we shot some live videos in the studio when we were doing it. But also I got someone to come and record a few songs from the performance the other night. So having enough material that I can start. I just started applying festivals for the spring and whatnot. But yeah, the sooner the better. I'd love to get this on the road. Start with a small kind of Canadian tour to tour around some conferences and festivals and then go from there.
WR: Well, that almost seems like the best sort of setting for it, too. Right. Is the festival kind of vibe. And there's so many of them now. Every year you hear about 25 new ones and they're all in these really small, weird little places. And it seems like this would be a good fit or just because, like you said at the beginning, it's not necessarily the easiest thing to pin down genre wise. And so you can sort know, fit in different categories and then with different other bands to kind of bounce off that. Do you think that there's a smaller scene within the larger Winnipeg music scene that you either fit into or would like to have this band sort of become a part of?
MF: Yeah, I do. I've played in a few bands for a while. I'm still in Warming,and, you know, even all the groups that or a lot of the groups know gage and Theresa and Justin play in like Justin he's not anymore, but was in Slow Spirit and then Theresa has Bicycle Face. Gage plays with everybody now, it seems like. But it's a little I would say like a little more of the for lack of a pretentious term, like the art rock sort of community where they're not getting the headlining slots at bigger festivals. But that's sort of just the next level down of some really fantastic musicians making really interesting music. And that's sort of where I see us fitting in, playing with we've played some shows with trying to think of who but like Merin we've played some bills with them in French Class and A la Mode. Okay, yeah, those type of acts.
WR: Yeah, that makes sense. That seems like those would be a good fit. And it's funny because originally when you contacted me, you sent me some stuff to listen to, and then I listened to that. And then afterwards I saw the videos a little bit after that and I realized Theresa was in the band. I love Bicycle Face. So it was like, oh, this is cool. This kind of explains a lot. Almost like some of the people you had in the band. It's sort of like, okay, I've heard these people's, other projects. I sort of get where this is coming from now a little bit more just by seeing their faces and hearing them on the performances.
Is this sort of your main project at the moment?
MF: Yeah, certainly. This is what I'm putting a lot of my energy into. The only other thing really I'm doing musically is playing in warming, and I'm just sort of the guitar player for that. And then during the pandemic, I did have my friend and I had a lounge duo.
WR: Oh, nice.
MF: We played it, but I don't know if we'll ever bring that back. So this is certainly like what I'm focusing on. And I'm getting older. I'm 37 now, so the plan is to work smarter, not harder anymore. I feel like in previous bands that I've been in, even when we booked tours and things like that, it was sort of like we didn't really have a good trajectory and sort of a, Why are we doing this? It was like, no, just get an album together, hit the road. And it's like, well, you just spent two weeks of your life sleeping on floors, playing to crowds of 20 to 30 people and not making any money and didn't really accomplish much other than get some experience on the road. But, yeah. So I'm trying to be a little more targeted or think through the process of why we were doing what we're doing in this iteration, I guess.
WR: Why you're doing this? Is that something that you feel like you've figured out yet or is it still a work in progress?
MF: Yeah, the why as I'm just making art, I think it's an important thing in the world and there's nothing that gives me more pleasure and fulfillment. But, yeah, my career outside of just music has always been hospitality. And I've been in the hospitality scene in Winnipeg for about coming on 15 years or so. And it's always sort of been like, one gets more and one gets less over the years. But certainly that took over my life pretty intense for the last few years.
MF: And it left me less time to work on music, and that was sort of a recent switch. I just actually left a position that I loved, but it was taking all my time, and I was just all my energy and yeah, I just literally left that about a month ago. And I now have a little more time and a little more energy to focus on this, which is more important to me, to be honest.
WR: Yeah, well, and I like you said, you're not getting younger.
A lot of people I talk to I mean, I'm older than you. A lot of people I talk to on the show who are in our relative age group seem to be coming to similar realizations that they're doing this because they want to. Whatever they thought when they were 20 and playing in bands, wherever they thought they'd end up now, it didn't happen for whatever reason. Maybe it was never destined to happen. Maybe now they need to figure out what is the reason behind it, the why of still doing this. And it's nice to hear that people are mostly wanting to do it because they are compelled to create right. Rather than any kind of goals of success or whatever. It doesn't matter. It's just I need to get this out of my system and put it onto the stage.
Is that sort of the case for you?
MF: Yeah, 100%. And I don't have any grandiose ideas of what success looks like for me. It's like, if I can I look at some of my favorite artists in the city that have been doing it for a long time, and I see that as like, okay, I think that if I can sort of hit that level of like, let's release an album a year, maybe a tour a year. And this can just coincide with a day job. And I can live a comfortable life, and then I can keep doing something fulfilling. And that's kind of the goal.
WR: Yeah, it's kind of hard to argue with that. You get the best of both worlds there. Yeah. So what's happening in the immediate future for this band? I mean, I know at the time we're recording this again, you just had your release show, so the EP is out in the world.
What's next on the plate?
MF: Yeah, next on the plate, I think. I was just talking with the group today. We did actually get offered a really good show, which I won't mention any names, but on very sort of someone backed out. It was like, oh, we could play this show right away, but just scheduling wise couldn't make it happen, I think. I don't have anything booked right now. I was just talking to the band and some promoters saying like, I'd love to do something, another gig before the holidays, that would be great, but concrete plans right now it's going to be like get back to sort of writing some grants for me and get back in the recording studio and applying to festivals. Like now sort of the time to start looking at spring festivals, conferences and then summer as well. But the immediate thing is certainly like, get back in the studio.
I would say likely spring dependent on sort of how the grants go. I've been just sort of again with my previous job, I steered away from the grants, I was like, all my time and energy was my job and I was like, I'm just going to pay for everything myself. Yeah, but now I'm like, okay, that was a lot. So I'm going to get back to the grant world.
WR: How can people hear the record? I mean it's it's out now. I know that the way people consume music is so different now than it was even a few years ago. There's so many options. What's the best way if someone is hearing about you for the first time on the show for them to find your EP and listen to what you're up to?
MF: Yeah, I mean it's certainly it's know all the major streaming services, so Spotify, Tidal, Apple SoundCloud. Actually it's a good reminder, I think that's still locked as private. So I'll switch that as soon as this ends and maybe need to update my Bandcamp too. But the major ones are out there. Then we have those YouTube videos so yeah, just look up. Think I believe there was like one other artist I've heard of with that name.
WR: I saw a few actually. There was like Somebody Foxwell and the Whatevers and there was some of those out there and it was like country cover bands from Alabama or whatever. So I don't think you're going to get mistake in for those ones.
MF: No. When I looked at it, I was like, they don't seem to be making a splash. I think we're fine with the same name.
WR: Probably good. Yeah. And then for people who it's a podcast, someone could hear this the day it comes out, or they could hear it two years from now. And maybe by then, who knows? You're touring, you have new music out. What's the best way to sort of keep in touch with what you're up to as far as upcoming shows and releases and things like that?
MF: Right now, I think Instagram is probably the most active thing for me.
I'm always posting the gigs and links to everything through that near future. I think probably I'll probably get a website going and then a mailing list eventually as well. But right now, I'd say the Instagram is probably the safest bet.
WR: Awesome. And then the record, is it digital only or have you released physical copies of this?
MF: It is digital only. This one's just going to be digital. I think. The next plan, I think I'll probably do another EP. It's four songs, one of which is a live track. Just I realized after I got shot down by the distributor that an EP needs to consist of four to six songs.
WR: Okay. I didn't realize it was actually official.
MF: Very arbitrary rule. Yeah. They just sent it back saying I was denied, and I'm like, what the heck? So I threw on audio of a live track, which turned out really well that we had mixed in a professional studio anyhow.
But, yeah, the next thing I think will probably be another four track EP.
And then after that, I think probably like a full LP, which will probably consist of some of those songs. And that will be the first physical release. If I had to put a target date on that, it would probably say, like, maybe a year from now. Okay, let's say the winter of 2024.
WR: That seems pretty reasonable. I mean, considering this is a relatively new project with this EP that just came out and stuff. So cool. So people should stay tuned. Should be on the Instagram and on the various listening platforms and keep in touch with what you're up to.