Moxy Fruvous. The name is on the Mayfest posters and a description of sorts is there as well. What the two words actually mean is unclear. The most common association is with the soft drink Moxie, but people tend to draw a blank when it comes to Fruvous. In the CD jacket for their album Bargainville, Fruvous is referred to as a "magical monk-baked pastry loaf" and a "high stakes Mesopotamian board game." Whatever the origin of the name, the band that goes by it (Murray Foster, David Matheson, Mike Ford, and Jian Ghomeshi) is a rare combination of playful satire, honest vitality and superb musicianship.
The music of Moxy Fruvous defies classificationin any one category because of the variety of instruments they use, the breadth of the lyrics they write, and their recompostion of their own and other band's songs. All four of the guys sing, and a characteristic feature of their music is the use of barbershop quartet style harmony, sometimes for an entire song, as in "I Love My Boss" (a light-hearted ballad about a chicken-hearted working class). Often the instruments in a given song drop out one by one for a layered a capella portion of a song as in "B.J. Don't Cry" and "It's too Cold." The standard instrumentation of the band is that of most folk or rock groups, electric bass, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, ad drums. While these may be the primary instruments of each band member, it is rare for these to be the only instruments used in any given song. Jian plays not only a standard drum set (which he plays while standing rather than seated) but often incorporated the Mid-Eastern dumbeck into songs such as "No No Raja" (which in general has a Mid-Eastern flavor in its use of scale material and some Farsee language). Mike, in addition to electric and acoustic guitar, plays keyboards, harmonica, and bongo drums, while Dave plays guitar, banjo, and the accordian.
Their lyrics range anywhere from light-hearted to poignant, political to romantic, sarcastic to earnest, but are always witty. Often these elements are combined as in "The Greatest Man in America," a mocking tribute to Rush Limbaugh. Many of their political songs deal with international issues, but others address the problems of their home country, Canada. Their protest song "Today's the Day that We Fight Back speaks against the downloading of social services from the provincial level to the municipal level by stating that the local governments can't afford to pay for these necessary social services. "The King of Spain," perhaps their best known and most frivolous song, is a modern version of the royal switch in which the King of Spain is replaced by "my peasant friend who looks just like me" and the king ends up working for minimum wage in North America.
Whether it's an a capella version of the BeeGee's "Gotta Get a Message to You" or a Sesame-Street-esque interlud in thier own song "Your New Boyfriend", Moxy Fruvous has a tendency to alter songs continually. To Fruheads (as the fans are called) every show is different, and quite literally every song differs from night to night. The band members try to catch each other off guard by substituting new lyrics when performing older songs. They've also been known to cover Michael Jackson on banjo and Elvis Costello on accordion. Multisong medleys are also a specialty, combining "Love Potion Number Nine" with songs by Alanis Morrisette, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
The band has long been a favorite on the Simon's Rock campus. Alumni sightings are common at Fruvous shows, as are current and former RDs in attendance. In spring 1997 at a show in Albany, Andrew Jillings was embarassed by a Fruvous rendition of "Happy Birthday" on the accordion, in his honor. One of the more energetic and talented modern bands, Moxy Fruvous's rambunctious banter and diverse musical fare combine to make this Friday's performance one of the highlights of Mayfest 1998.