An Interview with Conor Murphy of Foxing

Words by Nick Hodgins
Photo by Mitchell Wojcik

The past year has seen quite a bit of activity for the St. Louis rockers in Foxing. What started in garages and studio venues quickly escalated into sold-out shows across the country, a UK Tour with Tigers Jaw, and even a brief stint opening for Brand New where the young 20-somethings faced larger crowds than they ever dreamed possible.

Currently at the forefront of the infamous emo-revival scene, the indie rockers of Foxing find themselves on their first ever co-headlining tour in support of their second studio release, Dealer (Triple Crown Records), alongside The World is… and TTNG.

Front man Conor Murphy is the vocalist, trumpet player, and works the sampler in Foxing; while also sharing the lyrical songwriting responsibilities with Josh Coll (bass). Their music is riddled in metaphors and extreme life experiences, while each song is an intricate piece to the bigger picture that is their album as a whole. Dealer, the band’s sophomore effort, delves into new territory for Foxing, both lyrically and instrumentally.

“The songs we had written on our first album (The Albatross) were personal but more focused on personal relationships that we had,” Murphy explained post-show from outside the venue in Austin, TX. He continued, “Whereas this album is more about the darkest moments of mine and Josh’s lives, we tried to zero in on the worst things that we’ve ever done and the things that we regret the most.”

Writing such heavy content wasn’t particularly easy for the band. Their songs revisit painful relationships and memories, one of which touches upon post-traumatic stress and Josh’s time spent in the military. The writing process proved to be extremely emotional, while at the same time very therapeutic for the band, something Murphy hopes to convey in their performances.

“With this record the therapy was more in the writing and recording, where I just felt like I needed to cry this stuff out, or I needed to yell it out,” he said. “Once we hit the road we knew we could focus on the performance and relaying to the audience what we felt when writing.”

When writing Dealer, the five-piece made a point to emphasize the lows and highs; carefully placing each note, inflection, and style change throughout songs. Murphy referred to this as “maturity” for the band and their songwriting process.

“We did things like only screaming to signify the climax of a song and only doing tremolo picking – post rock style things, to signal again the climax of the song or the building aspect of a song,” he explained.

“We tried really hard to make everything extremely intentional, rather than just kind of letting songs happen like we did with the first album. The way that emotions are conveyed through the lyrics, we wanted to reflect that with the music we were writing.”

When composing albums, the band writes with the big picture in mind, conscious not to simply create a collection of singles. Drawing from their own favorite records and inspirations, they strived to create an album that works best as a whole, leaving the listener no point prior to the end of the final track where they would be okay with turning it off.

Dealer is the first album written and recorded fully under the current lineup of Foxing. The re-recording of their debut album under Triple Crown Records saw the addition of guitarist Eric Hudson, but he only had a limited timeframe to record over what the remaining four had already done. With this latest release, he was able to provide input from start to finish. Murphy credited Hudson as the biggest songwriter on Dealer.

“Because of Eric not being on The Albatross we have a weird relationship with all those songs, they feel like they’re all these bastard sons of our band,” Murphy said with a laugh. “Whereas with this album every single song is all of us, nobody was left out of it.”

Foxing has spent the better part of the last two years touring. They’ve been back and forth across the United States, went overseas to the UK and Europe last August, and played Riot Fest in Chicago. In the fall of 2014, Foxing was asked to join Brand New and Cymbals Eat Guitars on tour, just three days before it kicked off. And while they were nervous, they knew it was a big opportunity.

“We went into it so so scared, just so unbelievably frightened of what was going to happen,” said Murphy, recalling how up until that point the most people they had ever played in front of was 500 at Riot Fest. The first show on the Brand New tour was 2,700 people, the largest show on that tour was 5000, and they were all sold out.

Late to the first venue due to van troubles, the band showed up nervous and scared, but Murphy remembered their relief when the tour manager greeted them with a smile, told them sound check was in 30 minutes, and to grab some food (Filet Mignon) while they waited. Right before they went out to play, Jesse Lacey of Brand New approached them.

“He asked us if we were nervous,” recalled Murphy who, along with his bandmates, were all just a little shocked Jesse Lacey was standing there talking to them. “He told us, ‘Listen, we’ve done the same thing that you guys are about to do a million times, and I just want you guys to know, your job is to go out there and make every single person in that entire place – all 2700 of them – your job is to go out there and make them realize that they came to see the wrong band. Make them realize they came to see YOU, and they just didn’t realize it.’”

When they stepped on stage he remembered being blown away by the crowd’s applause, he shed a quick tear, sniffed it back and thought, ‘okay, let’s do this’.

“Right when Jesse said that, something just clicked for us,” Murphy admits. “We’d been nervous because we were worrying about playing in front of a Brand New crowd, when in reality what you have to do is go out there and convert every single person there. It’s like it was so simple, but so eye-opening, and I think that’s representative of that entire tour. From that moment on it became the easiest thing in the world and the most fun thing that we could possibly do, it was awesome!”

Foxing plays Music Hall of Williamsburg tomorrow. See all tour dates here | Dealer