Thursday, June 12, 2014

Square Zeros #21: NOXIOUS FOXES (Rinoa, Jonny Action, Jack Bauer)

There's no shortage of garage rock in Brooklyn right now, and that's a good thing. But amid all that delightful scuzz and rock n roll looseness, a band as precise and sharp-edged as Noxious Foxes stands out.

The group is a force of nature — they play a dense, complex, and inventive breed of math rock that leaves you pleasantly dizzy on every listen. Layers of thick guitar and synth duel with sizzling drums for a sonic assault that calls up an early video game soundtrack played double-time and riddled with glitches and viruses. It's controlled chaos that never loses catchiness, never so out there that it would alienate the uninitiated.

What's more impressive is that it's two dudes doing it all: drummer Richard Levengood and guitarist/synthesist Justin Talbott.

The two met in college, where they played in an indie experimental project called Jack Bauer (more on that in a bit). After parting ways for a few years, they teamed back up in Brooklyn in 2009 to start Noxious Foxes. They've put out four records in that time, most recently EPOCHALYPSO, which you can get on gorgeous double 12-inch wax.

Both guys started recording young, and both put some notches in the belt that would make any teenage rocker jealous. Richard played guitar in an emo pop outfit called Rinoa, named after a Final Fantasy 7 character known for her signature angel wing sweater and Blaster Edge weapon, according to the FF wiki.

The band did well enough in the Jersey/northeast PA scene to open for Saves The Day at Philadelphia's Electric Factory at one point. As Richard remembers it, Rinoa covered multiple Saves The Day songs during the set, thinking it'd be a nice tribute to the band — and the hundreds of people who were there to see Saves The Day, not Rinoa. I'm sure Chris Conley and company were kind enough to laugh off the naiveté that convinced them it was a good idea. That's one of the most hilarious high school show blunders we've ever heard.

"Deer Across Highways" is one of Rinoa's first recordings and features Richard when he was only 12, making it the youngest effort we've run on Square Zeros to date. Note: this came out at least a full year before Dashboard Confessional's Swiss Army Romance — wrap your head around that.

Justin got his start 
in middle school in a group called Jonny Action whose influences were an amalgam of FM rock bands ranging from Blink 182 to Linkin Park. The first song is a cut from an EP Jonny Action recorded during Justin's junior year. The Incubus sound is big on this one — and the more of these interviews we do, the more we're learning what an important band that was for lots of our peers.

A year or so later, Jonny Action went back to the studio to record a full-length before they took off to college. You can hear them moving in the proggy post-hardcore direction that was popular in the early 2000s. The recording quality is pretty damn shiny for the age, and you can't knock those changes and rhythm breaks. One claim to fame: the group once won a battle of the bands and as an award got to open for Coheed And Cambria in Pittsburgh (Claudio, if you're reading, will you finally get around to listening to that CD-R they slipped you?).

We also get a track from Jack Bauer, Richard and Justin's college project. It's totally it's own beast (has a Minus The Bear feel, we think), but it's not hard to hear how some of the technique they developed here informed what they do now.

Big thanks to Noxious Foxes for coming on the show! Stay tuned for a handful of shows in and out of Brooklyn this summer, and new tracks that are in the works now.


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