foxfire forest

Foxfire Forest Rocks the Boat

I've always had a good time at the Boat. The stage is barely there and the place has a cozy, subterranean feel to it which, unless you're one of those fools who don't dance at shows, you would never pick up on.

Why? 'Cos you'd be too busy having a good time like I did when I went to see local band Foxfire Forest play there last Thursday.

I didn't arrive in time for the opening bands, Flotilla and Singleaf but I just had time to grab a beer and swap hellos before the main act got up to do their set.

The theme was "United Nations" and each member of the band was representing a different country. Unlike the UN, they actually played well together. The vocals and instruments came together without morphing into a messy wall of noise which is always a pleasant surprise considering how many bands sound great on their album and then end up a bloody mess in front of an audience.

These guys know what they're doing.

Their album is played every so often at work but I didn't know what to expect from them live and that's why it was so fantastic to find myself jumping up and down like a lunatic a quarter of the way into their set. Toronto crowds are notoriously unmovable but Foxfire Forest worked very hard to get 'em moving. It doesn't hurt that they have a front-row of hardcore groupies dancing madly to every song and infecting those around them with them with the same urge.

Of course, the main feature is the music and it's orchestrated quite well. Every element seems to have its place and one gets a distinct marching band vibe from them at times. Where it gets weird is the eclectic melodies that call to mind many genres of music without directly referencing them although mostly, the band's sound just rocks. It's catchy without being cloying and quite distinct.

Three-quarters of the way through FF's set, dangerously drunk from the mickey I'd been pounding back all night long and not at all ready to quit, I realized I hadn't enjoyed a show this much since the Extra Action Marching Band had played there back in 2005.

With that and much more in mind, I talked with Neil Rankin, lead singer, about what makes Foxfire Forest worth getting into.

Japhet Bower: "How did you develop such a cohesive sound?"

Neil Rankin: "Lots and lots of rehearsal time! To take nine people and expect to be at that level right away is ridiculous. We have fifteen songs at present and to get to a point where we feel good about playing them has taken nearly a year-and-a-half. We all have ideas, everybody gives their input and it can take awhile."

JB: "What are you doing to get Toronto dancing?"

NR: "As a person, be the first one on the floor. As a band, we write stuff that we want to dance to. One of my favorite quotes comes from Quincy Jones. He and Michael Jackson were in the studio recording Thriller and their take on the songs was, 'if we don't get the goosebumps, how do we expect anyone else to?'

It's really simple. There's wanking music which is just for yourself and then there's happy music which everybody can get into. There seems to be this fear in Toronto that if you dance, you'll get made fun of and we want to get away from that... You lead by example and we put an emphasis on the fun."

JB: "What's up for the band in the near future?"

NR: "It's only just getting started. We just finished our album, which you can get at Rotate This! (620 Queen St. West), Sunrise Records (784 Yonge St.), Soundscapes (572 College St.), Criminal Records (493 Queen St. West), Sam the Record Man (1500 Yonge St.), Sonic Boom (512 Bloor St. West) and She Said Boom! (372 College St.), and we've got a couple of shows coming up as well... one's at the Drake Hotel tonight, the 3rd of May, at 8pm and we've got another one coming up on the 18th of May at Rancho Relaxo.

We also want to record another album this summer and we'll be doing a week-long tour in August."

While some people might roll their eyes at the mention of another Toronto indie band, Foxfire Forest are throwing shows with other up-and-coming bands that are cheap, unpretentious and a whole lot of fun.

Most importantly, you can dance to it.


Photo courtesy of Daniel Schwartz

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