The racous energy and irreverent wit of the Canadian band Moxy Fruvous come from honing their talents on the streets of Toronto.
Growing numbers of Fruheads know that the stage patter and song lyrics of this four-piece fold-pop band are as important as the lavish four-part harmonies and catchy melodies. Their infections dev-may-care attitude, along with their flashpoint timing, reminds many people of the early Beatles.
Fruvous is still building a fan base in the United States, but its records have gone platinum in Canada. The songs sometimes have a satirical politial edge ("Happy birthday Tisha, I'm in the Michigan militia") and don't suffer fools at all, but the can also be beautiful.
The band's fourth record, "You Will Go to the Moon," came out last year on Bottom Line Records, and they are now polishing a live album of 14 Fruvous songs and banter.
They took the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival by storm last summer, and pack the Iron Horse in Northampton every time they play; they're scheduled to do a show at the Horse on Sunday evening.
The first question everyone asks is how they got their name, and the band members delight in telling ridiculous stories. Bassist Murray Foster said, "Fruvous is the inner lining of the bark of deciduous trees, the layer closest to the meat of the wood. Moxy was a coment that was passing through the Earth's area in the early 1990s. The words Moxy Fruvous were just joined in our heads. Of course, that's all poppycock. I don't have to tell you that."
Foster, drummer Jian Ghomeshi, guitarist Mike Ford, and accordion and banjo player Dave Matheson got together in 1990.
"On a whim, we decided to pool our talents and start a band," Foster said. "What kind of band? Let's busk on the streets and perform for money. It's springtime; let's try a cappella.' We learned our first songs and took to the streets. Our 'hat' was an old green Frisbee. The first thing someone threw into it was a Kleenex. That was our auspicious debut in the world of professional music."
After a summer on the streets, the band got serious about a cappella and started rehearsing four-part chords.
"If you sing a chord well, in tune, you create overtones," Foster said. "It becomes a chord of six notes; it takes on a shimmering quality. You have four guys who have never sung a cappella before, and to get that effect, you need them singing perfectly. It took a long time to get all four of us at a level when we were ringing [sic] those chords well."
The band enjoyed its time on the streets.
"We'd meet buskers who would be jugglers, clowns, or pseudo mimes," Foster said. "The riffraff of the performing community, that was our crowd. We took a lot from them. They knew how to be loud and boisterous and attract a crowd, hold them, then hit them up for money. We were aggressive, loud and in-your-face."
By the next summer, the band was doing three 20-minute shows and earning $300 a night on the streets.
"We were like nothing anyone had ever seen before," Foster said. "What you see on stage is the evolution of that. When we were on the street, we had no instruments. We were unleashed; we were out of our heads. The band's credo was that we would try everything. There would be no parameters. We were literally fearless. We did whatever came to mind. We had enough political savvy and musical moxie to pull it off."
After a few years, the band released a six-song cassette. Six months after that, they were opening for Bob Dylan.
"We were the biggest sensation in Canada," Foster said. "We sold 50,000 of that cassette, and we didn't even have a record company. We had tons of offers at the point. We signed, released our first album on Warner-Canada in 1993. Now we tour and release albums and it's a career."