Known as Foxygen, the California duo of vocalist Sam France and multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Rado are constantly a step ahead.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that they plotted their fourth album, Hang, even before they finished the predecessor, the ambitious 2014 double collection, …and Star Power.
“It was a concept for a long time—to do a record as one suite,” says France, who cofounded the band in 2005 at age 15. “It is one piece that flows into each other. We had the whole thing written from start to finish.”
Rado and France brought in an arsenal of collaborators who ranged from the Flaming Lips’ Steven Drozd to indie rockers The Lemon Twigs, a band whom Rado produced. Spacebomb Records’ Trey Pollard and Matthew E. White brought the 40-plus-piece orchestra to the table.
“We worked with really great people,” France explains. “We were lucky, I feel. I mean, we’re intuitive, and we’re good at curating talent at this point. We do it lot because it’s just the two of us.”
Foxygen’s albums breathe 1960s psychedelic rock and the music of the 1970s. However, Hang is a different beast, as France describes it as the journey of “dudes from the 1970s who took a time machine to the 1930s.” That influence is apparent through the shift to a more orchestral-, theatrical- and vaudeville-inspired sound.
Hang had been germinating for years prior to its release, but the songs aren’t necessarily old, France says.
“We write like maniacs,” he explains. “The albums are pretty precise in what we want to actually make, believe it or not—even Star Power.
“There are really strict aesthetics and rules to Foxygen that we follow. Normally the songs are written in fits of spontaneity or just kind of long, prolonged gestations of the mind. We have a soup of songs constantly in our heads.”
Having released Hang in January, Foxygen is preparing to bring the new songs on the road, with a Tuesday, April 11, stop at Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix. They originally planned to fuse their set with a play, but they ultimately decided to keep things simple. The sweeping string arrangements were translated to horns for the tour.
“Rado and I wrote a play for Hang with a beginning, a middle and end, and some dialogue and acting. However, we dropped that. We decided to just use that as a springboard for the kind of show,” he says.
“We dropped the theatrics, because we decided we wanted to just do the songs and treat the album properly without any gimmicks. So, it’s a very simple setup, like avant-garde surrealist; very simple lighting.”
While Hang is still fresh in fans’ minds, the future is never out of sight for Foxygen, who are already planning its next move.
“It’s really exciting. I can say that we’re going to get it out sooner than later,” France says. “There won’t be like a four-year lull in between records like there was with this one. So it’s definitely in the works.”
Foxygen w/Gabriella Cohen, Crescent Ballroom, 308 N. Second Avenue, Phoenix, 602.716.2222, crescentphx.com, 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 11, $20-$23.