INTERVIEW: Fox & Coyote

Hi guys, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Jonathan: Hi guys! Things are great – green is on the trees and life is good in Minnesota.

Ryan: Yeah, Minnesota is in that beautiful time of the year where it’s not freezing cold and also not sweaty hot. Things are great. We’re super happy to have our record out. It’s meant that things are a little less busy and we can finally see how people react to what we’ve been working on for the past year.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Blue Marble”?

Ryan: Jonathan wrote Blue Marble, so he can talk more about the writing process. I’ll say that it’s the most epic song Fox & Coyote has done. I love playing guitar on it because it’s is so tonally and lyrically rich.

Jonathan: I’ve found it difficult trying to figure out what Blue Marble is about – but if I had to describe it, Blue Marble is a reaction to our own absurd irrationality as humans. We’re influenced by forces beyond our control – socio/economically and in our own psyche. We fill our lives with activities that perpetuate a web we can’t comprehend. We engage in tribalistic wars that we convince ourselves are for enlightened values. The line at the end of each chorus – “I guess we make a pretty light” – is the hope we have to hang onto. At times the line is sardonic and other times it’s sanguine, but at the end of the day we have to hope that it’s enough.

Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?

Jonathan: The 2016 election cycle certainly helped in making these questions more urgent; I’ve never been more pessimistic about the way that we as humans can become twisted by things we don’t understand. But there were many things that influenced me – least of all was my own depression and anxiety. Both myself and my co-writer, Ryan Evans, have been struggling with mental health issues over the past few years, and it’s been making its way into our music. Relating to this track, I’ve often felt depression as a force outside one’s own control, an invisible organ that you have to learn to sense.

How was the filming process and experience behind the video?

Jonathan: It took us a long time to figure out an idea that was both true to the song and filmable. But eventually we alighted on the idea of a young man, trying to give an offering to parents that are (at first glance) as uncaring and unknowable as the universe itself. We worked very closely with our director Sarah Olander to develop the idea. The filming process was wonderful, over a single weekend last winter in several locations. When we got to the editing room, we realized that our original storyboard just wasn’t going to work, the pacing was all off. Sarah stepped up to the plate and re-edited everything, changing the sequence of events to get to the feeling we were looking for. She was definitely our Marcia Lucas.

Ryan: The idea behind the visuals for Blue Marble all came from Jonathan’s head and then was skillfully executed by Sarah. Her technical editing knowledge as well as her film perspective brought this video to the next level – and her re-editing brought new life to the song. I couldn’t be happier with how the video turned out.

The single comes off your new album Scattered Shadows On A Double Bed – what’s the story behind the title?

Jonathan: Scattered Shadows on a Double Bed has a few different meanings for me. First, my depression has led me to spend a lot of time alone in bed – something I sing about in the last track of the album, “Bed”. But many of the tracks on this album also have to do with relationships that end up feeling empty in one way or another, like the half of a bed that feels empty because it was recently occupied. Ryan and I are in a relationship as well – a creative one, as well as a ten year friendship – and as we share songs with each other, we share a bed of sorts, along with the ups and downs of our lives.

Ryan: For me, the title sounds how a still-life painting looks. That’s what this record is for me – a snapshot of various parts of my life and Jonathan’s life. For a long time, that was how I thought about songwriting – a “crystallizing” of different moments in my life. There was no rhyme or reason to choosing which moments deserved to be crystallized, just whatever inspired me enough to write a song. In the past 1-2 years, I’ve grown a lot more intentional about what I write songs about as well as how I write songs.

How was the recording and writing process?

Ryan: Our typical writing process is that me or Jonathan sketches out a song alone and then we bring it to the band. With the band, we arrange the song and deeply analyze the sounds we’re making so that they are meaningful when presented with the lyrics of the song. Every moment of the record has been considered. That’s characteristic of our songwriting approach — sometimes we spent hours trying to figure out one part of a song. We’re about as far from a jam band as you can get.

Jonathan: This album covers a long period of our lives – some songs are as old as six years (“May 18“), while for others the ink was still drying while we were recording (“Bed”). Recording took about a year, partially due to our producer moving studios, partially because writing was going slow for me. Justin Muffett at Sovereignty Recording was a fantastic producer – we had many long nights in his studio laying down parts and scrutinizing takes. He worked really hard to get the record out on time for our tour schedule, and we can’t say enough good things about his work and how the record turned out.

What confessions did you get to voice out on this record?

Jonathan: That’s a really great question. This was a huge confessional album for me in terms of talking about my own mental health. “Deal” really solidified that – I never expected those lyrics would ever see the light of day. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I was going to stick it out with Fox & Coyote, and I scribbled down the words out of intense fear and frustration. The song talks about how mental health struggles had led me to become a different person than I was before, and ended without any sort of solid resolution. It was a scary thing to reveal, but I’m glad I did; it helped me deal with those feelings.

Ryan: My confession on this record is Love Is, which is the second to last song on the record. That song is a critique of every other song of mine on the record. In the course of making this record, I realized that my songwriting process was unhealthy for me as a person. I had formed some really unhealthy artistic habits that I wanted to break – instead of having important conversations with people in my life, I chose to put those feelings into song. Doing that made me feel like I had done what I need to do to address those feelings – but I was wrong. I write songs very differently now, and Love Is is an all-out critique of the artist I used to be.

Jonathan:  That’s a good point. Writing “Deal” didn’t give me much resolution – it was sharing it, and the difficult dialogue that resulted, that actually led to healing. Songwriting is a poor substitute for two way communication.

Any plans to hit the road?

Jonathan: We did a Midwest tour in March, and we’re planning a few more weekend tours out this summer, as well as a few shows here and there in Minneapolis. We’re also planning a small house show tour in August.

Ryan: Currently, we’re booked to play Friday June 15 in Rice Lake, Wisconsin; Sunday June 17 in Minneapolis; and Sunday July 8 in Minneapolis.

What else is happening next in Fox & Coyote’s world?

Jonathan: Just playing shows this summer, doing what we love! We’ll be taking a brief hiatus while Ryan goes to study in London next year, so come see us while we’re on the road!

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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