Foxy Shazam gives us something to believe in

The once-cynical Foxy Shazam gives its listeners some of that old-time religion on The Church of Rock ’n’ Roll

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      As rallying cries go, it’s an odd one. On first listen to “Welcome to the Church of Rock and Roll”, Foxy Shazam singer Eric Nally seems to be positing himself as some kind of leather-jacketed messiah sent to save music fans from their own appalling tastes.

      “You’re all suckers, a flock of sheep,” he sings. “I’ll be your shepherd, follow me.”

      A closer listen, though, reveals that Nally implicates himself along with the listener: “Your music sucks, including us/It’s time we clear our name.”

      Reached on the road in Green River, Utah, Foxy Shazam trumpeter and backing vocalist Alex Nauth (who writes the lyrics with Nally) explains that the opening track of the band’s latest album, The Church of Rock and Roll, was born, as you might expect, from general dissatisfaction with the state of popular culture.

      “When we were thinking about making the record—I can’t remember how long ago it was now—we were in a bad place, and we were pretty upset, and kind of cynical, a little bit,” Nauth says. “We were most upset with the disheartening state of music nowadays. To us, it wasn’t satisfying our passion.”

      Hence the conception of the “rock ’n’ roll church”. (It probably didn’t hurt that the Cincinnati-based band’s keyboardist, Sky White, literally owns a church, which can be seen in the video for the single “I Like It”.) “We had nothing to believe in and look up to,” Nauth says. “And I guess when you need something to believe in and someone to look up to, and you don’t have it, you create it. That’s where the idea of this record came from. And that’s around the same exact time we used the phrase. It kind of stood as a symbol for us. It was nice, because it kind of gave us a flagpole for the rest of the entire record. We knew exactly what type of record we had to make, and how it had to feel and what it needed to be, and what it had to have on it to be honest and true. We had to make this record for ourselves, to keep us going.”

      Toward that end, Foxy Shazam spent some quality time in the studio, with Justin Hawkins in the producer’s chair. The Church of Rock and Roll is at times reminiscent of Hawkins’s own band, the Darkness—witness the fist-pumping guitar riffs and Nally’s balls-out vocal flamboyance on “Holy Touch”—but Foxy Shazam is definitely its own beast. The six-piece group barrels with ease through brassy glam-soul (“Wasted Feelings”), gospel-tinged power balladry (“Freedom”), and bullets-over-Broadway cabaret (“The Streets”).

      “It’s just the way our minds work,” Nauth says of the band’s wildly eclectic nature. “We’re always looking for ways to twist it and turn it—make it weird or unusual or odd, or whatever it is. We just like to take it somewhere different. It’s like a good movie: when you think it’s taking you somewhere and you think you know exactly what’s gonna happen, then it takes you in a different direction—that’s a great movie. And if it can do it a couple of times in one movie, that’s an even better movie.”

      By that measure, The Church of Rock and Roll is one hell of a flick.

      Foxy Shazam plays the Commodore Ballroom on Friday (February 24).