Fox & Cats Drop Full Length “Ampersand”
Photo: Nicole Leirer
There’s something about magical about about music when it comes from the purest of places. It’s even better when it’s made by those who live only to write and make it. For the duo recently turned trio Fox & Cats, that’s what their existence is all about. Write, play, record, and tour is pretty much all of these three want in life. That’s not asking for much when you consider the heavy amount of hooks they seem to effortlessly place in every song that they write. When they told me that they were working on a follow up to 2013’s “This Is Your Brain On Love” EP, I figured that they’d possibly hit the inevitable slump that many bands that seem to shine bright often do. However, with the upcoming full length “Ampersand” they group adds more than just a third member, but they bring a whole new level of crafted songwriting to their sound. Though the new bassist isn’t on the recording, the sound they make is as crisp and fresh as if he was. Where you might pigeonhole them as a pop rock act, they really reach higher and achieve a richer sound on the new release.
What you find from the opening notes on “Home,” is that the hook heavy sound that the band is known for haven’t gone away. In fact, the song seems to have more than several hooks that really keep your attention while they almost make you want a break down of the lyrics so you can sing along. A secondary guitar track alongside backing vocals and shout outs accompany drummer Nicole Wigginton’s heavy hitting hands. Thankfully, her drums are much louder in the mix on this album, where they felt a little buried on the band’s EP. It also feels like Josh Willems vocals are more focused than ever before. The same could be said for the gritty and sing songy chorused “The One About The Ocean,” that comes in as the second track. The first of three stand out songs on the album, the band keeps their catchy hooks while crafting one of the best pop rock songs I’ve ever heard. The way that the group adds depth through a cutting slew of guitar tracks, Josh’s sweetly sung vocals, and Nicole’s thunderous drums is pretty beautiful. The song is segued by happy go lucky backing vocals that make the track hard to not sing along to. They of course follow this up with the second stand out track, the single they dropped about six weeks ago, “Black Hole.” The song feels like one of those anthemic breakup songs that seeps its way into any teen’s Summertime playlist. The fretboard run of the solo that’s contained in just the right spots on the track adds another hook heavy moment that sets the band apart from everyone else in town.
Around the fourth song in, the band takes a lighter approach with the swaying sound to “What Sharp Teeth I Have.” You can tell that the band has grown since their EP release in the fact that a song like this wouldn’t have appeared in their set list back then. When the chorus comes in, that heavier guitar that the band employs comes in to remind you who you’re listening to. Heading back to their heavier and more rockin’ pace, the fifth song “For The Record” returns to the head boppy feeling that Fox & Cats usually brings to their songs. The song employs Nathan Hardy of the Atlanta band Microwave, but that doesn’t deter from the raw energy that the song has on its own. The good vibes continue on in the following radio friendly track, “Gummy Vitamins.” The beauty of Josh’s lyrics are even a song about a diet of gummies by themselves, there’s always a hint of pain and anguish. The thinly veiled love or break-up song, depending how you read into it; has a heavy growl mixed with a catchy melody. The band slows things down on the seventh track, “Tune It Out;” but they pick the pace up a bit on the eighth song “Everyone Who Loses Is Sorry.” The song, which has been in the band’s set list for a good while, has this moderate pace where the guitar and drums are in unison. There are moments where the vocals are by themselves which makes for this vulnerable place where everyone has been at least once. The band employs group vocals that feel like one of those set closing songs on, “It’s Called Soccer and I Don’t Care,” in a way that comes off as a song where the audience is invited to sing along.
The band takes a different approach on the eleventh track, “Be So Kind.” The drums aren’t up front in the mix, while the guitar feels like the lone instrument through most of the three and a half minutes. Complete with female backing vocals and pain soaked lyrics, it’s easily the most emotional feeling track of the twelve. Things return to form when they close things out with, “Tired Of Waiting For Something That’s Nothing,” which feels like one of three stand out tracks. The song has a very Jimmy Eat World feeling up until a complete rhythm change around two minutes in. Though the change over occurs in an almost come to a halt way, it works for the song.
It’s nice to see a band stretch their legs and try new things, which Fox & Cats does on this with ease and authority. The duo retains that catchy and hook filled sound that anyone who was a fan prior will immediately recognize, while adding some slower tunes and engaging in new methods to their songwriting. There’s so much emotion from the raw instrumentation and the heartfelt vocals, that even on songs where things aren’t as quickly measured, you still find yourself bopping your head. You can hear these songs live and get a physical copy of “Ampersand” on Friday May 8th when the band plays their Intergalactic Album Release Show at Fitzgerald’s. The album’s release date is May 12th, but you can get a copy earlier at the show which also features DJ Tempty, Mantra Love, and Madd Comrades. Things are all ages with 8:00 doors and tickets for only $5.00.