The Daily Illini The Daily Illini
University of Illinois
Buzz Online
Thursday 27 August 1998
Buzz Issue 1

A Strange Gift from the North

by Liam O'Donoghue

Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! Step right up, ladies and gents! It's the greatest show on Earth! Come witness the unparalleled spectacle of...Moxy Fruvous?

That's right. Going to see Moxy Fruvous is like checking out a concert, a theatrical play, a circus, and the zoo—all at once.

According to drummer and vocalist Jian Ghomeshi, the band "promises to give you a different show than you have ever seen or will ever see again."

Moxy Fruvous, who plays a unique brand of salsa, hip-hop, and bluegrass tinged pop-rock, owe much of their frantic live show to their origins as Toronto buskers (street performers) back in 1990.

"I think that busking forever affected—and infected—our live shows, because we have that sense of camp and a strong desire to entertain the audience," drummer and vocalist Jian Ghomeshi explained. "The street is the ultimate arbitrator as to how entertaining you are. We quickly honed our ability to hold peoples' attention, by doing a musical street theatre."

These antics are quite evident on Moxy Fruvous' latest release, Live Noise. Recorded during a stint of shows in late 1997, Live Noise does its best to bring the Fruvous experience into the listener's home.

"It gives us a chance to let people know what we're all about," Ghomeshi said.

In addition to Ghomeshi, guitarist Mike Ford, bassist Murray Foster, and guitarist/accordion player, David Matheson, crank out over 20 songs on Live Noise, including old favorites ("King of Spain"), improvs ("The Highest Lowest Point"), covers (Tom Waits' "Jockey Full of Bourbon"), and crowd–pleasing sing-alongs ("Michigan Militia"). Since no Moxy Fruvous show would be complete without humorous between-song banter, they also include onstage discussions about the "Intra–Pennsylvania Rivalry," and the infamous chess match between Gary Kasparov and Deep Blue, the IBM computer.

"We're really proud of the live album. I think it has the most enduring appeal out of all the records we've made," Ghomeshi said. "We made a conscious effort to make it as close to the live experience as possible."

The history of Moxy Fruvous is a Cinderella story. In 1992, they independently released a six-song cassette that set the Canadian music scene on fire. The cassette stayed a number one on the independent charts for over a year, and the band signed with Warner Music Canada. Their major label debut, Bargainville, brought Moxy Fruvous a Juno (Canadian Grammy) nomination for Best Group. 1995's Wood was a musical expansion that managed to remain loyal to their four-part vocal harmonies. In 1996, Fruvous got back to their political roots by releasing The B Album EP. 1997 marked their first US release, You Will Go To the Moon.

Moxy Fruvous is is happy with their success, but more interested in making good music.

"It's great to be popstars, but we're a very idiosyncratic, non-commercial pop group. I don't want a dilution of Fruvous," Ghomeshi said.

Learning a lesson from their meteoric rise to stardom in Canada, Moxy Fruvous is taking a different approach toward winning over fans in the US.

"We've built a grassroots following in the states through word-of-mouth andInternet," Ghomeshi said. "People compare us to Phish and Ani Difranco, and I don't think that we sound anything like them, but it's the same grassroots approach."

In a day and age when MTV and modern rock radio chew up bands and spit them out faster than you can say "Matchbox 20," Moxy Fruvous has taken the slower route of building a solid and dedicated fan base.

"What that's fostered," said Ghomeshi, is a following of people who really understand Moxy Fruvous. Following in the tradition of the Grateful Dead, these connoisseurs of all that which is Fruvous have taken to calling themselves "Fruheads."

"Fruheads" have invaded the Internet, discussing their favorite band with unbridled passion, and to the streets, where they often take off weeks of work to travel hundreds of miles, just so they can see Moxy Fruvous night after night on tour.

"What sets Fruheads apart is that it's not the stereotypical caricature of a fan—it's a very broad group of people. They're not these salivating, non-critical people who just want to see us take our clothes off onstage. It's a very wide demographic," Ghomeshi said.

"The one common thread is that they are Moxy Fruvous fans, meaning that they have an appreciation for that which is not the status quo."

Moxy Fruvous have decided, in light of the success of the Fruhead Card game, to instate a Fruhead Frequent Flier program for everyone who comes to their shows. This game is "based upon a genuine desire to reward people who come to a whole bunch of shows." Prizes range from buttons and hats to songbooks and even bowling with the band. The winner of the last contest, a gentleman who attended 51 shows, was rewarded for his dedication with a "humorous and seductive Moxy Fruvous tattoo on his ass." Jian assured buzz that "we inspected the tattoo for authenticity."

Moxy Fruvous give to their fans, but they also get back. One notable Fruhead, Astronaut Marc Garneau, arranged to have You Will Go To the Moon played as a wake-up call on the space shuttle Discovery. When asked about this accomplishment, Ghomeshi jokingly replied, "We got together and decided, as a band, whatever happens we want to be played in space."

Another Fruhead artist, Michael Wood, is soon to be releasing the "Moxy Fruvous vs. Michigan Militia" comic book, putting Moxy Fruvous in a league with Kiss and Aerosmith, other bands who have been immortalized in cartoon form.

Despite all these distractions, Moxy Fruvous has not lost sight of more serious issues, said Ghomeshi.

"The political activism angle on a lot of what we do comes naturally to who we are and we channel it into some causes. We go and support striking workers, student demos, and every year we do a big pro-choice benefit—Fruvous and Friends for Choice."

Their political views often carry into the songwriting process, which is evident in such socially satirical tunes as "I Love My Boss" and "The Rush Limbaugh Song."

"I'm a real political junkie," Ghomeshi explained.

Moxy Fruvous is a lot of things, but most importantly, they are a band.

"We're going to keep evolving and changing, musically," Ghomeshi said. "We're this strange juncture; we want to reach lots of people, but every once in a while, we'll do multiple nights in smaller venues, because it's pretty hard to have an intimate connection with the audience or riff off the guy in the front row in front of 7,000 people."

Moxy Fruvous' current tour brings them to the Canopy Club on October 6th and to Martyr's in Chicago on the 10th. They are being supported by the folk rock group The Nields.

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