All For One and One For All Canadian Composer, Fall 1993

All For One and One For All

Inside the Moxy Früvous Songwriting Collective

by Christopher Jones

Moxy Früvous, the satirical, Toronto-based pop quartet has catapulted from out of nowhere to become a major Canadian success story. The group's debut cassette EP sold more than 50,000 units becoming only the second Canadian indie effort ever to achieve domestic gold status. Bargainville (Warner), the band's first major label album, hit the gold mark within two weeks of its release last July and a 40-date Canadian concert tour, now underway, is certain to drive sales even higher. No doubt about it, Moxy's stripped down sound, rich harmonies and clever political and pop culture statires have clearly hit their mark with a substantial audience. Never mind that some critics have dismissed the band for being "twee, precious and inoffensive." The naysayers are clearly in the minority thanks to an abundance of critics like the Toronto Star's Peter Howell, who lauded Bargainville saying it "shines in every way, most immediately with the flawless lead and harmony vocals...Bargainville is not a novelty record and Moxy Fruvous is no longer just a novelty act."

Says Moxy songwriter/singer Jean Ghomeshi, "I don't think we had any conscious desire to make the album darker or more adult, but we did want it to reflect the true scope of the band. The one thing that's missing is a lot of our political satire because it's very specific, both geographically and time-wise, so we avoided that because the album will be coming out in the States and Britain and we thought the jokes just wouldn't work with an international audience."

Tailoring their international debut to a world market seems a natural-enough move but there's no getting away from Moxy's up-to-the-moment lyrical edge. If Bargainville goes a little easy on politics, the group's live performance more than makes up for any deficiency. Says Ghomeshi: "We usually write material specifically for a given show. We'll get somewhere and read the papers and talk to the locals and find out what the issues are and then turn them into lyrics. In its crudest form it's just pandering to the audience, but it's also an attempt to make the show more involving for that specific community. And that's not going to change no matter where we go, whether it's Texas or Manchester."

One curious thing about the Moxy approach to songwriting is that the band's compositions are credited to all four members. "There is some material," says Ghomeshi "albeit a minority of songs, that are literally written by all four guys, like we'll each write a verse. That's usually the more satirical stuff. But generally one of us will come in with an idea - some lyrics and some melody or even more, a whole musical landscape - and the rest of us will just Moxy-ize it. There are some songs where one person wrote all the music and all the lyrics, there's at least one song by each of us on the album.

"But we'd rather promote the collective nature of the group than divide it up into parts and try to decide who wrote what and how much. And it does all work out. There's peer pressure within the group that if one guy isn't writing very much we'll all get behind him and get him going. I'm a proponent of just saying it's a collective and dividing the royalties equally. It's strange to me with a song like 'Stuck in the Ninties,' where I brought in the music and the lyrics but when somebody asks who wrote it, I say, 'we did.'"

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