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Of all the ingredients typically found on the music success recipe card, "coming indoors" has yet to be listed. Leave it to the Toronto-based Moxy Fruvous, who first started performing on Canada's streets as a busking a cappella group, to add that to the mix.
As singer/ guitarist Mike Ford explains, their street days taught them everything from learning how to sing in stunning four-part harmonies to how to compose songs instantaneously. Then there's Moxy's vaudevillian side, which shines during their live set. "We didn't model ourselves busking after the guy playing Neil Young on the corner," he says, "we modeled ourselves more after the juggler act or the fire-eater, because they would really get a crowd going. They would really make an effect. That's how we developed, with this concept of going out on the street and doing this 26-minute show."
Sure, that's already nearly double the Warholian "15 minutes of fame" concept, but the quartet was not content to rest there. After they moved indoors, initially to perform on the Canadian Broadcasting Company, Moxy started to incorporate instruments into their sound. From acoustic guitars to snare drum to bass to keyboards, the quartet slowly layered sounds on their releases. "We were just trying to reproduce the sounds in our heads," Ford explains. That philosophy inspired them to veer from the full-band effort found on 1994's Bargainville to the more eclectic 1997 album You Will Go To The Moon.
In 1999, the band offered up Thornhill, an aural postcard from their collective hometown. The album title's inspiration came from the excitement they felt while they were writing and recording the new songs. "We were getting that feeling we had when we were 15 or 16 and your friend calls and says his brother just bought a used stereo and he's hooked it up in the basement with huge speakers," Ford says. "It means everything to you, and even though you've been nowhere else in the world and you haven't accomplished much of anything in the world and you might be a little shy shadow of a thing, that is your great experience."
Indeed, he adds, "Some songs even sound like a bit of that era for us. We feel the album, more than any other, speaks from inside us, from our teenhood and our love of music. More than ever before, we really did have a personal connection to the whole output."
One spin through Thornhill proves which bands influenced the mini-Moxys. Big pop songs with luscious harmonies dominate the album's dozen songs. One of the highlights, "Hate Letter," boasts a barely audible vocal bit that Ford calls a "little tour of Thornhill from 20 years ago. It's a little bit cryptic, kind of our own little hate letter/ love letter to Thornhill." Then there's "My Poor Generation," a song about "lucky people with too much to choose from, resulting in a bit of ruthless, aimless attitude." Another standout is the spy music-laced "Splatter Splatter," an observation of children's changing pastimes.
While their albums have given them the opportunity to capture a wider audience, it's Moxy's concertizing that's really converted more than a few folks. Yes, they have "Fruheads," who follow the band via live shows and the band's website (www.fruvous.com).
So when Moxy comes to town, what do they hope people learn about the band? With a laugh, Mike answers, "That we're not just about one thing. The impression we want to give is that we do lots of different stuff. We're more of a revue of all these things than we are about our latest single or our latest video."
Between the live revue concept and the Fruheads, there's plenty of reason for them to keep changing things up during their live set. And that, Ford concludes, is why Moxy Fruvous got together in the first place. "The reason we started this band was because we didn't like what was on the radio, we didn't like the narrowcasting, we didn't like that a band just did this or that," he explains. "So, if people get out of it the scope of the project, then that's really neat for us."