Eric Nally isn’t the type of person who keeps his ambitions to himself. Reached before sound check at a gig in Covington, Kentucky, the Foxy Shazam frontman says, “I’ve always been clear about what I want to do, and this ultimate goal of mine has been the same from the very beginning, and we’re not going to give up until we die. The ultimate goal of our band is to be the biggest band in the world and go down in history for doing what we do. I know we’re a long way from that right now, but we’re not going to give up.”
A lofty objective, but one listen to Foxy Shazam’s self-titled third album—the Cincinnati, Ohio–based sextet’s major-label debut—and you’ll know Nally’s dead serious. The group specializes in a world-conquering blend of high-camp pomp-rock and giddily over-the-top theatrics, complete with soaring lead vocals and the kind of triumphant choruses tailored for halftime chant-alongs during major sporting events.
The album’s cover features Nally sitting on a basketball, posed next to four women in ’70s-vintage b-ball uniforms, so it’s not hard to imagine that he’d be pleased as punch to have a Foxy Shazam song end up on a future Jock Jams compilation. In fact, one of the collection’s standouts, the explosively anthemic “Unstoppable”, was handpicked by the National Football League for a TV spot that aired on CBS during Super Bowl XLIV in February. Could that song, with its stomping glam beat and marching-band brass flourishes, become a stadium staple à la Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part 2”?
“That’s something that I think we’d push really hard for,” Nally says. “I’d love it to be played at hockey games, and it’d be awesome if, someday, it made it to the World Cup. I’m a huge soccer fan and my wife’s a huge hockey fan, so I think that would be awesome for something like that to happen.”
There’s that far-reaching ambition again. It seems Nally won’t be satisfied until he has the next “We Will Rock You” or “We Are the Champions” on his hands. Speaking of which, Foxy Shazam has already weathered its share of Queen comparisons, due in large part to the showstopping falsetto Nally pulls out for numbers such as the pop-metallic “Count Me Out” and the piano-led weeper “Evil Thoughts”.
The singer’s having none of it, though. “I’m not really a big Freddie Mercury fan,” he states, matter-of-factly. “I think he’s the ugliest guy in the world. I love his music; he’s a great musician. A lot of people say I must be influenced by him, but it’s actually not the case at all. I never really was. I think the reason people are able to draw that comparison is because me and him are probably inspired by the same thing. We do probably have similar influences. I love anything theatrical and just big and epic, and I’m sure he felt the same way.”
Fittingly, Nally and his bandmates have earned a reputation for an all-pistons-firing live-performance style, with the singer known to consume lit cigarettes and hang from the rafters while piano maestro Sky White goes all Jerry Lee Lewis on his instrument, stopping just short of turning his keys into great balls of fire. Nally says they’re prepared to rock just as hard for a dozen blasé scenesters as they do for a club packed with fans screaming along to every word. The flamboyant frontman notes that, rather than feeding off of the audience’s energy, he taps into something deep within himself.
“I never really concern myself with the crowd, so that doesn’t really matter,” he insists. “I mean, it’s good if people are into it, but I don’t think it really affects the way that we perform. We just kind of tune that all out, you know.”
So just where do he and his cohorts get the energy to kick out the jams so convincingly night after exhausting night?
“It gets extremely hard, because we get really beat up,” says Nally, who is still nursing a pulled back muscle. “Right now we’re about halfway through the tour, and we’re all extremely sore. But as soon as we get on the stage and the music starts, it all goes away. Everything that was bothering me—like if my back’s hurting or I got a big cut on my leg or something—it’s irrelevant on-stage. And then I get off-stage and it just comes back tenfold, and I’m like, ”˜Ow, it’s horrible.’ But we’re natural-born entertainers. It’s just the way we were born, so I guess it’s just in our blood.”
Spoken like a true athlete.
Foxy Shazam plays Venue on Friday (April 16).