9/30/99: Calgary Sun Thursday, 9/30/99
Calgary Sun

Americans turn on to Moxy

Canadian quartet developing grassroots support south of the border


Moxy Fruvous recently released it seventh album and, frankly, world domination is still not theirs.

Mike Ford, one of four singer-songwriters in the Canadian pop quartet, isn't about to bemoan the fact.

OK, maybe just a little bit ...

"When we turn on the TV and see these flash-in-the-pan bands that make a half a million dollars and then disappear -- and there's just a constant, constant stream of them -- because that never happened to us, and won't, you could say we're not appreciated," he says in a telephone interview.

"But there's a whole different vibe we're getting and I guess we're learning it's a lot more conducive to a real career."

The group -- playing tonight at Mount Royal College's Wyckham House with opening act Tory Cassis -- has been developing a grassroots following south of the border cultivated through touring and exposure on National Public Radio, which regularly broadcasts their topical, satirical songs.

"We now play 40 different (American) cities and the turnouts are getting to be quite large. We're doing (Late Night With) Conan O'Brien on Oct. 12 and that's totally because of the cult thing. There's no payola money being spent," Ford says, chuckling.

Moxy Fruvous have helped their own cause by making arguably the best, but unquestionably the most focused album of their career.

Thornhill -- the group's first record since leaving Warner Music Canada for True North Records, the home of Bruce Cockburn -- eschews the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink method of music-making and offers a cohesive collection of pop songs, all boasting Beatlesque melodies and Beach Boys-styled harmonies. Casual fans, no longer distracted by the group's out-of-control eclecticism, may be surprised to learn these fellows can be exceptional tunesmiths and singers when they're not trying to be so bloody clever.

"We've done, on a number of occasions, the sort of smorgasbord style of album where we do a bit of everything that we do, including political satire, theatrical stuff, a bit of rock, a bit of folk, some Middle Eastern stuff, drum loops. We're still writing all that stuff and we're going to devote those to other releases," Ford says.

"We just wanted to make (Thornhill) sound more or less like the same one band is putting it out.... One of (producer Don Dixon's) challenges was to make us sound less like a project group of four songwriters and more like a band with four lead singers."

The disc is named after Thornhill, Ont., the middle-class Toronto suburb where the members of Fruvous grew up.

Ford says the record is partially designed as a nostalgic look back at their teenage years and the music they loved back then. The Beatles influence -- unmistakable on the George Harrison-styled slide guitar solo on When She Talks -- is no mistake. "We're happy for it to come through," Ford says.

"The album photo (of a battered old stereo unit, probably from the 1970s) sums it up for us: It's the phone call you get from your brother's friend who's just got a new used stereo in his basement. You rush over, you're 16 and music means everything to you. That's how we felt making this record."

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