FOXY SHAZAM – Eric Nally of Cincinnati’s most eccentric rockers gets sentimental

29 Aug

Words by Rahsian Parris

If you have ever been to a FOXY SHAZAM show then you will know that these five moguls of mayhem are not exactly shy when it comes to showing off their on stage persona and generally being ludicrously outrageous, but what happens when the lights are low and the amps are off? We caught up with Foxy Shazam’s lead singer and seemingly bizarre front man Eric Nally backstage at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire where the band were supporting welsh chart toppers, the Lost Prophets. He has written for actor and rocker Meat Loaf along side the holder of glam rock’s fav falsetto, Justin Hakwins of The Darkness, but how does the ‘Michael Jordan of rock and roll’ spend his down time and is he just as mental off stage as he is on? You might just be pleasantly surprised.

The band are in the dressing room, some fiddling with instruments, some eating and chatting. I immediately recognise Eric from his unmistakable shoulder length hair and his stylish moustache. They all greet me warmly as if they had met me previously, even commenting on what I’m wearing saying how cool my shirt is (it is just a purple crew neck vest top with gold and black decoration around the neck), they are clearly into fashion; looking around the room, as well as clothes thrown over the shower door and hanging from fixtures on the wall, I am noting that they are just as into food.

The whole dressing table is covered in half eaten grub, so much so that all I can make out is a half empty tub of grapes, the rest is just an array of packets, the chaos that they seem to create on stage seems to have followed them into their dressing room. The crowd (the band and some tech boys) disperse, leaving Eric and myself alone in the room, I suddenly feel slightly daunted as the room goes quiet and I take a seat in front of this stylish, extrovert seeming rock star. However, when he crosses his legs and comments on how cool he thinks it is that my phone matches my shirt, I look at his face and instantly have a change of heart. What has surprised me is that once the room is stripped of other people, he transforms from exuberant musician into a young, delicate boy with an eclectic sense of style; more experimental art student than controversial rock master.

So tell us a bit about Foxy Shazam, how did the band happen?

I’ve always known I wanted to do this as a kid, you know when you’re a kid and you go in and out of certain toys, like for one year and then the next year you’re totally over it and you just want to move on to G.I Joes or Ninja Turtles or something, well as a kid I always jumped all over the place, I was always into one thing one year and something else the next year, but music has always been the thing that I’ve always been just as interested in as any other. So I’ve always known I wanted to do it, it’s always been a very serious thing for me and so I scouted these guys out. Me and Loren, the guitar player, are the founding members of the band so we knew these guys from around the city and they are the best of the best from Cincinnati [Ohio], in my opinion, so we got together with them and we formed a band and now we’re here.

Is this your first time playing in the UK or do you come here a lot?

We’ve played here numerous amounts of times, we actually played this venue last year with Hole [Courtney Love’s band] and it was their first show back from the nineties or whatever and so that was awesome.

Where have you played?

We’ve done a whole bunch of little gigs in little places around London, they were really cool, like really low key punk rock shows, it’s always really awesome.

Where has been your favourite place to play?

In the UK? We’ve only really done London; London, Glasgow and I think we’ve done Man… Manchester? Is that what it is? Is that a place? [I confirm that is it]. I think London’s my favourite, I have good friends here and good memories too so I think it’s definitely my favourite.

So what does Foxy Shazam mean exactly?

When I was in high school, it was one of the biggest inspirations of my life, I’d never heard it anywhere else, but in my high school, when you had cool shoes on they would say “foxy shazam”, that was the term that all the kids would say, which meant ‘cool shoes’ if they said it to you, I thought that was cool. So basically it means ‘cool shoes’ and I’ve only heard it in my high school, so it’s is kind of cool.

Well you do have cool shoes; they are good colours, red and blue…

[Excitedly] Thanks, look [gestures to his feet and to his bandmate’s who has just entered the room, they are wearing identical trainers]

Oh you have matching shoes? How cool

Yeah we got them for free at Lollaplooza, it’s a big festival in Chicago

Wow, I need to go there, I could do with some new shoes

Yeah, they are cool and they’re comfortable

How do you find playing in the UK as appose to playing in America?

We’ve toured so much in America, I think we’ve been around for close to six years as a band and we’ve toured the States for about half of that, none stop, circling so many times, so the UK crowds are cool to me because they are so new to the idea of our band and I love feeling fresh. I don’t feel old in the States, but I feel like I constantly find myself having to switch it up and do different things in the States, but when I’m overseas I can go back to things I started with in the States. I just like that they’ve never seen anything of our band before and they’re a lot more open to things. It seems as though they’re not so closed minded maybe, that’s nothing against the States people, but that’s just what I pick up on.

You’ve got a new album out, can you tell us a bit about it? Do you have a favourite song for instance?

I love every song on it. Our initial goal, as a band, is to be the biggest band in the world some day and go own in history for doing what we do, but I know we’re a long way from it. So every album we make is like a gradual step in that direction and I think this album is… I’m just so proud of it, I’ve never been more proud of anything in my life. It’s exactly what we needed to do for our next step and it’s perfect for what time we’re in and everything and it totally encompasses what we went through at the time. I think of albums as little bird crumbs that I throw behind me to help find my way. When I’m older and everything’s all said and done and I’m at the end of the line, it’ll be cool to look back at where I’ve been and these albums are the things that are going to do that for me and so it’s a really fancy bird crumb for me to put out there, it’s an awesome album.

How would you describe the music? I mean it’s quite eccentric

Yeah, it is eccentric, that’s a great word. I can’t really ever describe it, but I love that, I love the fact that I can’t describe it because some of the best things in life you can’t even talk about you have to experience.

If there was anybody to compare you to I guess it would be Queen, what do you think?

I always tell people that they can draw that comparison because I feel like me and Freddie Mercury might’ve been influenced by the same thing, we didn’t necessarily influence each other obviously, but I think we have some of the same influences, like the theatre and big sounding… I dunno, that’s how people can draw that comparison sometimes, but I’ve never really been directly influenced by Queen. They are amazing musicians, so it’s very flattering when people say that for the rock and roll world they were something very special and very vital.

What was it like recording the album? The processes…

[Sighs as if it’s taking a lot of energy to answer the question]

We’re really big on vibe, so if we get a good vibe from the environment… in my opinion, the biggest, most important thing to making an album is making sure that you have the right setting. The environment is the most important part to creating music because you directly reflect what you were going through at the time and how you’re feeling.

I understand that because there are so many artists that skip that process of writing and get given songs and a lot of the time the albums come out sounding very wooden

Exactly! That’s the thing, the thing that I’m most proud of is that once the album was done, I drove around in my car and I just put the CD on all by myself, I got through the whole album and I just started crying and I got goose-bumps up my spine, just because I’m to the point where I’m so proud of the album, I don’t care about anything. I want people to like it obviously, but its not going to affect me because it’s exactly what I wanted to do, regardless of whether somebody likes it or not.

What about food? [I look back at the messy dressing table] what’s your favourite food?

[His face lights up] Oooh, another big inspiration for this band is food. The thing is, the senses are a big thing for us, like smell and sound and taste, I think they’re all in the same category. When I bite into something that’s extremely good I get the same sensation as hearing a song that is perfect, do you know what I mean? So my favourite food… Gosh! I love so many, just like it’s hard to say my favourite song, I don’t have one, I just love so many, but I think… [Long pause] I like foreign food, anything that’s not native to my territory; I’m always so into, I love trying new things.

Who is the foxiest member of Foxy Shazam?

In my opinion I think it’s Sky our piano player, I think he’s the foxiest member and I don’t even know what foxy means yet to me and I don’t know what Sky means yet either so that’s kind of why, he reminds me of that because he’s kind of ‘I can’t put my finger on it’.

You guys are obviously very fashionable, what kind of fashion are you into?

This is one of my favourite things to talk about because there’s so many bands nowadays that just disregard the way that they look and the way that they look on stage, the way that they act, because they just feel like music is the most important thing, nothing else matters, which I understand, it’s a legit notion, but in my opinion, the way that you look and act on stage, all the visual stuff, is just as important as the music, because it’s so much easier to understand a sound when you can see what it looks like. So I feel like it’s just as important to look the way you sound, or not to, because there’s so much music out there that I don’t understand until I see them, until I see whom it came out of.

Definitely, I saw your album cover before I heard your music and when I did eventually hear it, it was just as I had expected

Yes exactly, but I think it’s even cooler too, when you didn’t expect it. You see them first, before you hear them and you’re like ‘Huh, I wonder what they sound like’ and then you go and check them out and it’s something completely different and you’re like ‘woah’ and it completely puts you in a spin, I love stuff like that.

Your fashion is definitely as exciting as your music

The person that does all of our clothes has been amazing and her name is Rochelle Caplin. She does… [Spies the room and spots a jacket] let me show you this real quick, I’m gonna wear this tonight. [Pulls a black, short cut leather jacket from off of the shower door, it has chains hanging from one shoulder, studs and half of a mini basketball as a shoulder pad on the other shoulder] This is my jacket that she made. [He fondles the jacket whilst talking]

Do you have a bunch of favourite designers?

I’m not big into the fashion world in terms of designers and stuff, I just see something and I love it, I don’t really look into it, but there’s so much great fashion out there right now. I’m really passionate about the way things look, but I don’t really have any names, I wish I did, but I’ll look into that. I think it’s the coolest when people buy things; sometimes people are scared of buying things that everybody has. Do you have K-Mart here or just really generic stores? [I make a suggestion and describe what kind of clothes they have] Yeah, I think it’s cool, I don’t care about that and I’ll buy anything as long as I think it’s cool. I think being so separate from that world it what makes it easier to decide about whether something’s cool or not, because you don’t know the whole stigma so you don’t know if it’s cool or not.

You’re becoming more popular by the second, are there any downsides to the fame?

I have a family at home, I’m 24 years old, but I have two kids, so it’s been really difficult to be a young father and a touring musician at the same time because I’m away from them so much, away from my wife and that’s hard for me, because the only real things in the world that I’m really passionate about are my family and my music. Sometimes I have a hard time being away and being separate from them, delegating where I’m going to be and when, that’s difficult, but my wife always tells me that nothing in life is worth anything… no, nothing is life is… hold on, what’d she say again? [Thinks] nothing in life worth anything ever comes easy to anybody, so basically the harder it is, the more worthwhile it is. I try to keep that in mind.

Some really famous people let the popularity go to their heads, they are even rude to their fans sometimes and it’s so awful

I try to stay away from the people that I look up to, because I feel that nothing is ever the way it seems, it just isn’t and it’s a shame because I get this whole idea about the artist and make up this whole story in my head about how awesome they are and a lot of times when you meet them it’s just not the case.

Sometimes, for me, my biggest issue with that whole thing is being on the ever end of it, sometimes I get nervous about meeting fans, I don’t want them to be disappointed in me, so I have this whole issue of meeting people, I get nervous and it’s a hard thing. It’s always been really important for music to have a mystery to it, like rock stars back in the day, but nowadays with Twitter and everything, there’s too much out there about who you are personally, so I think it’s hard for people to have that imagination about artists, I try to do that with myself, not that I’m not interested in meeting my fans, my fans are the most important thing, but I think it’s important for them to not know who I am personally.

It’s a delicate thing to be so present in the public eye so personally, so it’s really important to be visually stimulating with you and your music and your videos, but in the same sense I think it’s just as important to remain mysterious, it’s a hard thing, but it’s cool.

Well you guys are pretty different, but what is special about Foxy Shazam?

I think the most special thing about our band is… it’s important for people to know that; everything that you hear, even if you think it it cheesy or it sounds cheesy or if you think it’s awesome or horrible, whatever you get from our music, it’s all come directly from our hearts, a lot of bands nowadays just feel generic, it feels like it was given to them, but everything with us is all just from the centre of our hearts. I think it’s something really special for us to be able to capture that when we write, it’s what we’re feeling, the passion.

I want to be the Michael Jordan of rock and roll, because there’s something magical about him, there’s so many good NBA players, but Michael Jordan; that’s why there’s the whole basketball thing for us [I look back at the jacket], I don’t really like the sport basketball, it’s cool, but I’m not into it really, but it’s more about the symbol, it reminds me that I want to be something magical, not a dry, stupid thing. There’s something different about him, you know he was born to play, so I just wanna give people that feeling, when they hear me or see me, that I was born to do this, that we were born to do this and we were and I know it, so it’s my goal to show it to the world.

So what are you up to at the moment and what are you doing next?

We’re always writing so we’re going to try and release as much material as we can. We’re doing a bunch of awesome videos and we’re going to be touring in support of the album, doing the ground work to support the album and then after that we’re gonna go back in and record another album. We’re already well on our way to having the material for another album; the best time to write your next record is immediately after the first one comes out, so we’re just gonna keep going, step by step up to our initial goal.

What should the people that haven’t seen your shows expect?

Uhmmmmm [in an almost operatic fashion], you can expect the unexpected, I think that’s a good way to anticipate the show…unexpected!



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