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Good Clean Fun
Friday, April 4, 1996

Canadian Superstars Moxy Fruvous Produce Eclectic Sound

By Lee Drutman

Although it may be presumptuous to call Moxy Früvous the best, freshest and most fun band in existence, I'm going to do it anyway. I'm sure I won't get any argument from the two hundred or so who witnessed the incomparable display of musical talent, stage presence and festivity that Moxy Früvous demonstrated last Saturday night at the Met Cafe nor the ever growing number of Früheads. It seems that anybody who experiences a Moxy Früvous show becomes a believer.

"Our philosophy toward the performance is that if we have fun, they'll have fun," said Michael Ford of Moxy Früvous. "It's almost like this back and forth inspirational thing, like a tug of war over a pit of Jell-O and brandy. We aim for a win-win scenario."

Sure plenty of bands are talented. A few even play decent songs. But the energy and variety that Moxy Früvous projects are second to none. There is no lull in a Moxy Früvous show. The between song time is filled in by a constant drum beat and the witty banter of four of the funniest people to ever be assembled into a band. The band members are constantly switching off on instruments and all four get a chance to sing the lead over the course of a show. And they all do it well.

"I guess the variety stands out," Ford said. "Running the gamut of emotions and styles is quite different than a lot of bands. We think of the show as an overall show, if we can give people more variety in their life. We give them a whole palate of different things to rock them with. In terms of designed flow, we try to pull of segues."

The story of Moxy Früvous dates back to 1980s in Thorn Hill, Ontario, where all four members of the band, Michael Ford, Murray Foster, Jian Ghomeshi and David Matheson went to high school together. After going their own ways for a little while, the four got together as an a capella quarter to bosque on the streets of their hometown in 1990. After achieving a local following, a local radio station commissioned the quartet to do some songs for a local event and soon, the Früvous four had turned out a six-song cassette that sold 60,000 copies. The cassette soon became Bargainville, a full-fledged CD, that sold 135,000 copies in Canada. And suddenly, Moxy Fruvous was on tour in America and England.

The story of the name Moxy Früvous dates back to 1929 in our beloved city of Providence. The story goes that in 1929, in a basement of one of the downtown buildings, a man named Anton Früvous was working on a contraption called the Früvous, which was supposed to transfer electrical energy through the air. The device had a gauge on it and the highest setting was Moxy. The only time that the Früvous was turned to Moxy, every piece of glass within a quarter mile was shattered.

"Starting out, we liked to think that certain chords we hit had a similar effect," Ford said.

As for the sound of the band, it has been described as "The Roches meet XTC at a party thrown by Camper Van Beethoven for Robyn Hitchock's marriage to Cole Porter with They Might Be Giants as a wedding band and Tom Lehrer acting as a minister, but just as everybody starts singing old Queen songs the party is crashed by the entire cast of the Muppet Show." Perhaps the best word to describe the sound of band, besides damned good, is eclectic.

"We're about ecleticness and not being like the flavor of the month," Ford said.

Eclectic certainly describes the band's latest release, You Will Go to the Moon. The sound ranges from urban to a capella, from the Beatles to Beck, from Middle Eastern to North American.

"As for representing the band for a full sense, You Will Go To the Moon does that," Ford said. "We're excited about this album. All four of us are proud of it. It gives the best cross section of the band."

All four members of the band write songs. Some efforts are written by one member, while other songs are written by all four members.

"Früvous songs come out of a spectrum of writing styles," Ford said.

In terms of musical influences, Ford listed a large number of acts which have helped to shape the Früvous style. In terms of satirical songwriters, Loudon Wainwright III and Randy Newman have been influential, while the pop stylings of Elvis Costello and Tom Waits have also helped to shape the Früvous style. The vocal harmonies that Moxy Früvous does so well are derivative of the Beatles, Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, Barber Shop, Manhattan Transfer and the Bulgarian Women's Chorus. Then there's the Brecht/Weil musicals that the band is "apeshit about" and the musicals of Gershwin and others that can be heard in the sound. And somewhere in there is the R and B sound of Stevie Wonder and Little Walter. Did anybody say eclectic?

Moxy Früvous, however doesn't believe in categorization of music.

"Categorization doesn't help music in any way," Ford said. "Our band is a litmus test of that."

As for the future, it's looking bright for the Früvous four as the word of their shows and music begins to spread here in the states. The band is currently in the middle of a tour that spans a good part of the United States and is scheduled to play in some folk festivals over the summer.

Moxy Früvous has already released four albums, Bargainville, Wood, B and You Will Go To The Moon. The last, however, is the only one which has been released in America. Moxy Früvous recently signed with the newly formed Bottom Line Record Company, and on March 18, You Will Go To The Moon became the first album released on Bottom Line Record Company.

Ford hinted at a Moxy Früvous animated musical in the future, and said that in the future, the Fruvous four would definitely still be touring and making albums.

"We feel like we're just breaking the tip of the iceberg," Ford said. "It's great to think of ourselves as a band. A few years ago we thought of ourselves as a project. But now we feel like we click as a band. We all write, sing lead and are inspired by each other. That's how we have fun."

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