The appeal of "Blinding Light", the debut single from Essex-born, Jethro Fox is instantly apparent. The gleeful piano plink, the neatly reverbed guitar and the bank of falsetto harmonies. It’s a bit Beach Boys, a bit Grizzly Bear; it’s doesn’t sound complicated, it sounds just right. Along with musicians Death at Sea, Kankouran (whose song “Rivers” ended up on TV show Skins) and Dan Croll (whose video for “Nowhere” I’ve watched 203 times this week), 22-year-old Fox is the latest wave of musicians breathing new life into the Liverpool scene. They play on each other’s tunes, they help each other record and appear in each other’s videos. Many are recent graduates of the city’s performing arts school.
Read my interview and check out this FADER exclusive of Jethro Fox performing an acoustic version “Blinding Light” at the Seamen’s Church in Liverpool, featuring Dan Croll on guitar.
Do you think the fact that it’s dirt cheap to live in Liverpool has contributed to the growth of the city’s current music scene? That is a part of it for some people, the cheap cost of living is definitely a good thing, but it's just an exciting place. There’s a natural momentum here and the music is attracting people in itself. There’s a real emphasis on creating something exciting, I think it’s definitely rubbed off on me and the people I’m hanging around with.
You guys have taken to recording in some interesting spaces. Didn’t you take over an abandoned school? Yeah in the Toxteth area. A couple people live next to what used to be the school gym and it was their idea to start setting it up as a rehearsal space. Now me and Tarek [Musa, from Kankouran] always look for interesting places where we can record a drum sound or guitar. It’s all about getting that big reverby sound in big open spaces with lots of character. There’s also a town hall in Manchester where we’ve recorded.
You grew up in Colchester in Essex. I can’t really imagine what the music scene is like there… or if there even is one? It’s quite a strange little town. It’s predominantly metal actually. Lots of angry small town people playing metal! When I was a kid my band was more punk rock but in that scene. It’s a small town, but it’s also a garrison town so there’s lots of army folk there which makes for an interesting dynamic when they all come back and everyone goes out for a pint.
So you shared a music teacher with Damon Albarn… Me and him didn't get on that well. He definitely had a tendency to bang on about how he taught Damon. He gets invited to all the shows, so presumably they’re quite close.
Was there one piece of music or band that rearranged your brain and made you want to focus on music seriously? When I was 15, Jane Doe by Converge was one of my favorite albums and still is, although I’m hesitant to say it sometimes because its so different to what I do. But it’s such a visionary and progressive album, I found that really inspirational. The ethic behind it was really exciting. Also Radiohead’s Kid A had a similar affect on me.
Are you good at anything besides music? When I was a kid I always used to try and write novels. I gave up that dream when I picked up a guitar and realized that was more fun. I used to be obsessed with sci-fi so I’d write these grandiose space operas. They’d probably make a fun read now! They’re probably crap!
Have you seen that movie They Live? It’s an old John Carpenter film… I have! My dad showed it to me a couple of years ago. I thought it was really cool. That’s the one with lots of subliminal slogans everywhere?
Yeah, like “Obey” and “Consume”. I was just struck by how cheesy and '80s it was on the one hand, but then all the black and white scenes were super cool and stylized. It was a really great juxtaposition. It was! It is schlocky, but there’s something really arresting about it.
But your lyrics aren’t really about aliens and spacehoppers… No. I might save that for my progressive fourth album.
Were your parents listening to a lot of Jethro Tull when you were in the womb? I think my dad was a fan. My parents were both hippies and they wanted to name me something that was a bit different. When I was in school kids definitely took the piss a bit, but I’ve really grown to like my name and people always comment that I don’t need to make a stage name, which is handy. Also, I didn’t realize until a couple of years ago that it's a name from the Bible. I think Jethro was a friend of Moses. I’m not that big on the Bible.