Globe & Mail Friday, May 28
The Globe & Mail

Moxy Fruvous grows up and out of the rec room

Alexandra Gill

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Moxy Fruvous is ready to break out of the metaphorical rec room -- maybe.

After making music together for nine years, the four former high-school buddies from north Toronto have turned their a cappella busking routine into an underground cult, particularly in the United States where a loyal legion of Fruheads (think Deadheads with spiffier clothes) track the band's every move with a schoolgirl's intensity. It's been great fun -- much like their music. But as they approach their 30s, the lads are hoping the July release of their fifth CD, Thornhill, will finally earn them the critical acclaim back home they have thus far been denied.

"It's our grown-up album," joked singer/drummer Jian Ghomeshi, at last week's prelaunch party, held at an extremely groovy -- but top-secret industrial warehouse apartment that looked as though it were transplanted (shag rugs and all) from a suburban basement, circa Austin Powers. (Booze can, maybe?)

Although the party venue paid homage to their roots, Fruvous is definitely trying to move up. They've ditched their trusted, old touring van (to an unfortunate family of four), their pinko politics (but only partially, given that there's a track on the new album called Downsizing), and their old record label, Warner (though some say the relationship was severed the other way around). For Thornhill, the band signed on with True North Records in Canada and Bottom Line in the United States. It was Bottom Line that matched them with a new producer, the legendary Don Dixon. A southern gentleman, Dixon was the producer who guided REM, Marshall Crenshaw and The Smithereens to their heights in the eighties and he has written a small library of solo songs, including Teenage Suicide (Don't Do It) for the hit film Heathers. After a month-long recording session at the Tragically Hip's studio near Kingston, Ont., all four band members were praising Dixon with messianic devotion for finally releasing them from a life-long curse of anal-retention.

"He's like a spiritual Yoda," exclaimed bassist Murray Foster, relaxing on a red Naugahyde sofa, next to a towering black, leather throne -- where party host, lounge lizard Jaymz Bee, was busy salivating (literally) at the feet of an attractive horse trainer. "We learned that there's magic in mistakes." Added accordionist David Matheson, "He'd just get out the razor blade and hack up the tape. He taught us that not every drum roll had to be perfect." Dixon, choking back an alarmingly bright blue cocktail, shrugged off the accolades. "I'm just a short guy with really big ears," he laughed. (And one of the very rare types who can pair argyle socks with Birkenstocks and not look completely dorky.) As for losing the anal-retentiveness, Dixon wasn't so sure. "They kept some of that," he drawled.

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