When St. Louis emo band Foxing started writing its third album, Nearer My God, the bandmates had two guiding principles: They would put no time constraints on when the album would be ready, and they would commit to revising, then revising again, and revising once more before the project was finished.
All that work paid off: Nearer My God packs a punch. The songs, filled with stylistic cartwheels, can be weighty. Over time, though, the album’s lyrical and thematic content open up, especially during the title track, a dry-witted lamentation, and the appropriately named “Bastardizer,” a classic absent-father ballad.
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Nearer My God makes its way through a laundry list of classic emo themes: crippling self-loathing, drugs, failed romantic relationships, absentee fathers who pass their DNA along to boys who eventually become fathers, too. But it also explores the repercussions, both literal and allegorical, of wealth, privilege and self-destructive habits.
The project leaps between shades of psychedelic rock, hardcore emo, electro-pop and even orchestral music. With so many different themes, sounds and styles jammed onto one record, Nearer My God risked being a complete mess — a worry that plagued the band throughout the recording process. But the group’s steady-hand approach ensured that the project would be rich with juxtapositions, as well as artistically coherent.
“I’m not positive I know how [a cohesive vision] happened, because it was just a natural thing that came about,” says lead vocalist Conor Murphy. “One thing that we really tried to do was start from our demos and just build on top of them until we had a record put together.
“All of these songs really went through different iterations,” Murphy explains. “There’s a ton of different versions of all the songs, and really, that’s what made it totally different; we built everything from the demos, and just kept going on them and really gave ourselves as little pressure as possible.”
Even as the band becomes more legitimate with each new release, Foxing’s members have yet to fully shake their creative pessimism: Upon feeling inspired, they’re flooded with anxiety about potentially unflattering opinions that critics and listeners alike might have about their music.
“I think it’s terrifying to put out anything that you put time into. Whether that’s music or art or a book — any sort of artistic endeavor,” says Murphy. “I think it’s terrifying to show people, especially people you respect. I think we were all mortified that the thing we put so much time into, that people might be like, ‘This sucks.’”
But that seems less likely with Foxing’s latest endeavor. The days of what Murphy describe as “scrapping” records together are officially over, and the act now has a creative process that works.
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“I love schedules, but I think for us, what we needed with previous records was what we did with this record, which was to give ourselves no schedule at all,” notes Murphy. “Not put any kind of time constraint on ourselves, and really just take as much time as we possibly needed until we declared the thing done.
“I think the biggest breakthrough with it for us, creatively, is that we know now that we can make a record that we really love, that we can put in the time, that we can spend time away from touring,” he says. “We can make something on our own that we absolutely love, and that there’s a chance that people will like it.
“We would have been proud of it no matter what,” he concludes, “but I think this is the most accomplished any of us feel with anything we’ve ever made, because there’s some sort of validation from hearing people saying they like a record we really put everything into.”