Whilst the alternative scene drowns in a shallow sea of thinly layered music a baying creature lurks in the dark waters of the deep depressions, the small crack in the floor that no one bothers to look under. That’s where Black Foxxes lurk, the makers of mind-jarring music, music that explores the senses and takes every last breathe away along the rollercoaster ride of art. Black Foxxes are the real creatives and they have a new record. The name of that record? Reigi. It means rage. “There is always this underlining theme…” says vocalist and songwriter Mark Holley. “Just of anger.”
In a world where emo songs about girls and metal songs about losing girls or cheating girls or getting dumped by a girl, Black Foxxes are able to write about something brash and bold. Something cold hearted and raw, something that cuts through the flesh and sinks into the bone, it’s anger, it’s rage and it’s done with a subtlety that threatens to start the rock revolution without rock being vaguely aware.
“YOU’VE GOT TO STAY ON TOP OF IT!”
The last time we settled down for a chat with the rising stars of British rock it was a morose summers day at 2000 Trees. The interior of a rather gaudy, rather impractical, rather cramped press tent was our place of conversation and Black Foxxes were more than happy to partake in a good jawing. Fast forward eight months, the cold blustering winds of a dry January cocoons the British isles and a phone line crackles into life with that familiar blast of peaking sound that means it’s quite bloody windy on the other end. The interference and confusion is cut by the voice of Mark Holley. “I’m just down in Cornwell at the moment with the band, we’re writing album three.”
Yeah you read that right, the trio who will release their sophomore album, Reidi, ‘rage’ to you and me, next month but are already making headways with a third record. Talk about keeping yourself busy, talk about never letting up, talk about tenacity. When asked why the response is as clipped and direct as can be expected. “You’ve got to stay on top of it!” He laughs.
He says it like it’s the most normal thing in the world, like we’ve somehow questioned his sanity in asking him. We suppose for man who has openly battled all manner of mental and physical health issues with the same brash honesty and maturity, moving from project to project is just a walk in the park. The last time we talked honesty was the topic of the day. The honesty that Mark Holley was able to trap into his writing and use to build his music around, to fortify into a chrysalis from where he pulled on the heartstrings of fans everywhere and brought them under the guise of his art.
““Record labels are fickle fuckers and you never know where you are going to be in a years’ time.”
From the small press tent of 2000 Trees the three-piece hit Victorious festival, Download, even the sloppy wet land that was 2017’s Ynot before slipping back into a run of autumn tours including a stint supporting Deaf Havana. Now it’s time for album two to see it’s day in the sun and for album three to enter the workshop. “We took some time off to just naturally chill out after the record process (for album two Reidi) but we got into album three quite quickly to be honest.” Reflects Mark. “If we are writing naturally, we don’t want to hinder ourselves later on, so we kind of went straight into it.”
That’s why Black Foxxes are so unique in their process. Nothing is seemingly planned or mechanically set out in a cyclical diary driven project, it’s done off the cuff, it’s done by feeling. Yes album two is done but we can feel album three brewing and so now is the time to write. In the case of Black Foxxes, tomorrow maybe too late. “Once the creativity is there absolutely we must write,” Mark continues. “Record labels are fickle fuckers and you never know where you are going to be in a years’ time so as long as you’ve got a group of songs you are happy with you’ve sometimes got to play the long game.”
Once again we have to applaud Mark’s absolute honesty. The clipped, no nonsense answers that tell us how it is and hold nothing back when it comes to revealing the inner workings and the dark underbelly of the modern music factory. These comments are made jovially or with a knowing jokey grin but with a reserved sighing sadness that probably tell us all we need to know about the rotting carcass that is todays music scene.
“There is something magical about it; it’s completely different to anywhere else I’ve been in this country or on this planet.”
But hey, it’s a music scene that produced Black Foxxes and they created a riotous second album in Reigi, so named after the Icelandic word for ‘rage’. “I didn’t intend to write the music in Iceland, I just got caught up in it and just got swept away.” Mark says as we move onto the subject of their March release. “The creativity was there so I just ended up writing.”
Iceland is a funny and harsh place. It’s pretty much devoid of human life and when pushed to say something interesting about a country that is famous for practically nothing most would cite that massive block who was in Game of Thrones, the yoghurt that no one can pronounce or even that football game at Euro 2016. Despite its obscurity, Iceland is a country that Mark has cultivated a special and burgeoning relationship with. “It started a few years back with holidays and stuff. It’s one of the places that, when I was suffering really badly with anxiety and depression, because it’s such a polar opposite of anything normal, that I thought it would be a good place to go to try and overcome those negative thoughts going on in my head.” If you were to check the vocalist’s socials you would notice this. “I just fell in love with the country. There is something magical about it; it’s completely different to anywhere else I’ve been in this country or on this planet. It’s just unique in its own way. When you are there it feels like you are on another planet. It feels like you are on Mars or something.”
“there’s always the underlying theme of rage…”
That special almost personal relationship with another country and the feelings it provoked in Mark at such difficult and fragile times in his life eventually developed into sophomore album Reigi. “The second time I went to Iceland, I just ended up writing a shit-ton of songs,” says the frontman. “It just so happened that it went the way that they ended up being the back bone of the writing and the music for Reigi.”
It’s interesting to have a whole country influence your musical style and writing, rather than an event, or genre. It’s another facet of Black Foxxes that makes them wholly different, to take the feeling denoted by one’s surroundings, the feeling of the country around you and it’s unique setting and to funnel all of that into a cocktail of rock, emotion and, of course, bald honesty.
It’s a record that somehow builds on, previous effort; I’m not well but simultaneously leaves it behind. The raw emotion and the grating riffs are amplified, the sound is bigger, more atmospheric and the first half of the album has that poppy, number one hit vibe. Tracks like ‘Saela’ and ‘The Big Wild’, show just how far Black Foxxes have come, with concise, managed anthems. It doesn’t stop there, as Mark Holley says “it keeps you on your toes” with the crushing sadness of ‘oh, it had to be you’ juxtaposing with the raucous happiness of ‘JOY’. “I fucking love that track” he says, in reference to recent single ‘JOY’. “Playing that live is going to be awesome.”
Whilst listening to this album, it’s hard to imagine that this naked and seemingly unforced writing ability doesn’t come totally and utterly naturally to this band. But, as with all things, nothing is ever perfect. “There are a few songs that would had to scrap on the album, that we had to kind of force together to make them and you could hear it.” Mark says, recounting the extensive writing and recording process for Reigi. “You get it back and it sounds cool, it sounds polished but there is something there that you can’t quite connect with.”
““Anger is always there, you can’t escape it sometimes.”
He pauses and gives a small laugh as we talk about one of his favourite artists Neil Young and his process, how he has written just as many good songs as he did bad ones. “As a song writer you are never going to be perfect. Every now and then you are going to need to write something shit in order to write something better and you need to learn from that,” he says casually, like this down-to-earth attitude exudes from all frontmen. “I write shit songs all the time, I think there a couple of shit songs on Reigi, I think there are a couple of shit songs on I’m not well.
“My favourite song writer, Neil Young, who I consider to be one of the greatest, he’s written some horrors, some shockers, but he’s also managed to write some of our favourite songs in current music. So why ‘rage’? With an album that certainly isn’t centre solely on anger and aggression, why is it that this single word is used as the by-line for the record? “There is always this underlining theme, with my lyrics especially, just of anger and I felt like the word ‘rage’ was a good way to sum up the record. At one stage we have gone from the first record and its connection to mental health, it’s one those things that is always there, it’s always ready to come out again. I thought it was just a cool way of using an Icelandic word so people have to kind of look into what it is but it reflects where I was mentally at the time throughout the record.”
“I might feel like I’m in a much better space mentally.”
It’s true, using the single foreign word adds a shroud of mystery to Black Foxxes, a small mask that forms another layer to be ripped away budding fans as the delve into a record which is ultimately contrasting, complex and raw.
It at the end of the day, love them or hate them, Black Foxxes are true to themselves, to their sound, their writing, and in doing all that, to their fans. Whilst the rest of the industry writes what the fans want to hear, they write what the fans need to hear. Honest lyrics, interspersed anger and subtle composition, it’s not always a cheery listen but it’s one that grows on you, one that builds as you listen. “Anger is always there, you can’t escape it sometimes. There will always be these undertones of rage and anger in everything that we write even though I might feel like I’m in a much better space mentally.” He takes a breath and pauses for thought. “I think overall the record is lighter in tone but I wanted that juxtaposition with the word ‘reigi’ the idea that the rage is always there. That is Black Foxxes, that’s Reigi that’s something that won’t ever go.”
WORDS: DOMINIC ANDREW
‘REIðI’ IS OUT NOW VIA SEARCH AND DESTROY / SPINEFARM RECORDS. BLACK FOXXES ALSO FEATURE ON THE COVER OF THIS MONTH’S ISSUE. PICK UP YOUR FREE COPY HERE.