Jonathan Rado (foreground) says he and Sam France wanted to do a silly rock album.
Sometimes it’s wise to not take everything you read on the Internet literally. When California-based rockers Foxygen posted an ambiguous tweet announcing a farewell tour, many national publications jumped to the conclusion that the band was breaking up. But Jonathan Rado, guitarist and one half of the creative force behind the band, quickly dispels the notion.
“It’s the farewell tour for Star Power,” says Rado, referring to the nine-piece band touring behind last year’s sophomore double album ...And Star Power. “[Foxygen will] keep making music. They all took it a little literally. I think we set ourselves up for that.”
Rado and singer Sam France, both in their mid-20s, have played together since high school. They got their big break when Richard Swift produced 2013’s We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, a ’60s-influenced album that earned widespread critical acclaim. Not wanting to repeat themselves, the band took on the ambitious project of creating their Star Power double-album concept.
The Star Power touring lineup includes Rado (on keys) and France, plus drummer Shaun Fleming, bassist Justin Nijssen, guitarists Kevin Basko and Jared Walker and backup vocalists Jaclyn Cohen, Nina Joly and Emily Panic. The final tour finds the band crisscrossing the United States and Europe until mid-August.
Isthmus caught up with Rado in advance of Foxygen’s April 10 concert at UW’s The Sett.
What should people in Madison expect from the Star Power live show? And why did you want this to be the last tour?
It’s a rock ’n’ roll spectacle. It’s like a parody of a rock band, but it feels a little played out. If we were doing it for any longer, we would just be the band that does that thing — the guy running around and jumping on stuff and the girls background singing. It feels like we’d grow tired of it, so we have to change it up.
How does the nine-member band compare to you and Sam as a duo?
I think it’s better because there’s more people. I love all the people. But also you have nine people with nine different feelings about things and what they want to do and where they want to eat and how they want to sleep, so there’s a lot of opinions to take into account.
How did the two of you get the idea for …And Star Power?
We just wanted to do a silly rock album. We had a lot of ideas and didn’t know how to get that done, so we kept them all and it ended up being a double album. It’s a loosely plotted thing, but the first side is radio hits, and the second side is kind of dark stuff. The third side is louder and more improvised, and the fourth side is an end to the album.
It explores a wide range of sonic territory. What did you like about not restricting yourselves to one style?
I don’t think we ever really restrict ourselves. In a sense we set a frame for ourselves, but I never want any limitations other than technical limitations.
But as far as musical limitations, I’m pretty open to whatever. We were listening to [some] Gregorian chant music and ’70s pop, but pretty much only classical at that time. There’s a lot of amazing melodies in classical music. We stole a lot of stuff from Mozart on our record.
The record features a number of guest musicians, including Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips. What was it like working with him?
He came over to our garage to record his vocals, and then he left, but we’ve had a lot of fun experiences with Wayne in the past. That was a particularly short one, actually. He’s a good friend of ours. We played New Year’s Eve shows with the Flaming Lips this year, and we’ve played a few festivals with them.
Has he given you any good advice?
“Do what you’re doing as best as you can or else someone will come and replace you,” or something along those lines. It was kind of cryptic, but he’s a very inspiring figure.