Interview Date: 06/04/2010
Run Date: 06/15/2010
Eric Sean Nally is the greatest front man for the greatest band in the history of rock and roll. At least, that's the goal. As the lead singer of the post-hardcore/glam/metal/soul/funk/pop explosion of awesome called Foxy Shazam, he's made no qualms about his lofty goals for the group, which fall just short of complete and total world domination. They made a hell of a lot of progress to that goal this year with the release of their self-titled third album one of the first albums in years to have a sound that is truly beyond definition (think Queen meets Springsteen meets Blood Brothers meets the Darkness) and an early candidate for album of the year. Talking with Eric over the phone, we discussed how it’s impossible to discuss Foxy Shazam's “sound” and how there's nothing cooler than making the uncool cool.
Bullz-Eye: Thanks for talking to me today. I got the album last month and I've listened to it I don't know how many times. It's probably my favorite record in years.
Eric Sean Nally: Wow man, thank you so much that means a lot to me.
BE: I played your CD for two of my friends, a straight girl and a gay guy, and after the intro track they both said they wanted to have sex with you.
ESN: That's awesome
BE: So you got that going for you.
ESN: Heck yeah.
When I first heard the record, I was a little taken aback. I can't think of any other band you guys sound like. Is it difficult to get exposure because you sound so different?
ESN: Yeah, sometimes it catches people off guard. Nowadays it's really hard to get people to digest things if they never heard anything like it. Some kids nowadays are immediately ready to turn something off if it sounds different. But that's something we're willing to take on because I'd rather have to deal with that than being just like everyone else.
BE: After listening to the new album I picked up your older stuff and I was shocked to hear how much you've changed.
ESN: We never want to make the same record twice. We always want to progress and just be different each time. And I think we did a good job of re-creating ourselves every album and we're gonna keep doing that as long as we're a band.
BE: So the next album will sound nothing like the new album?
ESN: It's always gonna have that core. Every album we've ever done has had this core. You can tell we're the same guys. But the elements around it are different, our inspirations are different, it’s different times in our lives. Obviously the music's different but it's still that core that remains the same. I think it's cool. I think it's the most challenging thing to have to do as a musician. To keep yourself, to maintain what you do and what people fell in love with in the first place but change up and change the things around it to bring in new fans and next level-type stuff.
BE: Has there been a problem with keeping fans?
ESN: It's kind of weird for people at first; just some people, not everybody. I think it's kind of like it's expected, almost. Some people are kind of shocked by the new album. Some of the old fans, especially the ones from the first album. But that kind of lets me know that we're doing something right. That's what this band is. We're here to shock people and we're here to kind of catch you off guard. If you're expecting to hear something...you just shouldn't do that for us.
BE: The progression I hear is more theatrical or operatic. Is that an conscious effort?
ESN: The last album we did was off-the-wall, just whatever we wrote we let it go. With this album we had a little more of a conscious effort to be more conscious of what we were writing. Not that we didn't take time in the last album, it's just a new element that we brought into it. Going more over the top with the theatrics and stuff was something we were definitely more conscious of. We're naturally born performers. So everything that we do is for entertainment.
BE: This is your first album on a major label. How did getting signed to a major change what you do?
ESN: I was actually pretty surprised. I was kind of nervous at first because of all the horror stories you hear about record labels and stuff. But Warner Bros. has been extremely supportive of all the things we do. They give me complete creative control over all of our visuals. Everything you see artistically from the band is all, like the album cover and the visuals, is all from my head. And it's really nice for them to support us so much. It's really cool. It's a relief.
BE: Ohio isn't known for its music scene. Was it hard to get exposure in Cincinnati?
ESN: It was, at first. Because one thing we always tried to was we toured. We were never concerned about getting signed or breaking through or whatever. We always just toured as much as we could. We were more concerned about getting a booking agent than a label. Because of that, I think it was easier for us because we toured the country so much. It was easier for people to hear about us. That was actually how Warner heard about us and our manager all that came about from us touring relentlessly. If we were to just stay in the city, it's not very rich in that area. But I love Cincinnati and I love being from a city that isn't on the map yet. Being from LA or New York, I could I imagine it being even harder to get established because you have so much competition. Everybody's in a band. Being from here, it's kind of cool to represent something that hasn't been spoken for yet.
BE: I haven't seen you guys in person yet but I've seen a lot of footage online. You obviously have an intense show...how do you even DO that? Talking to this soft-spoken person now, I can't believe you're the same person that's on stage.
ESN: We really have nothing in common with the six guys who play on stage. I don't know what comes over us. That's just the way we came out of our moms. We're natural born entertainers. When I'm at home it's completely different. It's a Jekyll and Hyde type thing.
BE: You're married with two kids, right? Is that difficult to balance?
ESN: It's a little difficult. But my wife always tells me that nothing that's worth anything ever comes easy. It's cool, it’s really inspiring and a cool contrast to my career. It really is two opposite ends of the spectrum. You don't normally mix the two. Being a dad and being a touring professional musician you don't really see too many people who do that. It’s hard but I love challenges. It’s really cool, it’s inspirational and it separates me from the normal people in rock and roll.
BE: Well, that and your mustache.
BE: Your band has been through a few line-up changes. You added a trumpet player and gone through a few drummers. Were the drummers before permanent? Is this one?
ESN: This drummer is. We never had a permanent drummer we just kind of hired people. And they never really…there's always been something that really didn't fit well. But we've always been on the lookout and until now we never really found anyone. But Aaron [McVeigh] is definitely the guy we're sticking with.
With Alex [Nauth], the trumpet player, we thought it would be interesting to add a different element to the mix and he's a great writer. It's really awesome to have – and I'm all about making things that aren't cool cool. Nowadays everyone thinks trumpets are kind of stupid and you immediately think of ska. I thought it would be cool to bring an element that wasn't cool and make it cool. Alex is doing a great job at that.
BE: And he wrote that amazing lyric for “Bye Bye Symphony”: ‘Life is a bitch, but she's totally doable.'
ESN: Yeah, that was him.
BE: If I'm not mistaken, I heard you wrote some songs with Justin Hawkins for Meat Loaf.
BE: How did that happen?
ESN: I don't know! Our management just kind of hit me up out of nowhere. Meat Loaf is great, he's historical. I want to surround myself with those kinds of people. And I'm a big fan. They flew me out and that's when I met with Justin Hawkins and we became awesome friends. And we wrote together and we wrote two songs for his new record that are on there.
BE: Hawkins was in the Darkness and a lot of people think that band was a joke. Are you worried about that?
ESN: I always think about that. And to be honest it's something that really scares me. We're not a joke. We're very serious. Everything I do I want people to take it seriously. You asked me earlier if it’s a challenge for people to digest something that's so different. I think it goes back to this. If someone hears something they haven't heard before, they automatically disregard it as something that isn't serious. That's what I say when I say making things cool that aren't cool. Personally knowing Justin I know that the Darkness wasn't a joke. They were extremely serious and they wrote awesome music and it was a shame that people didn't see it that way. But...I don't know if taking something serious is the right word. It's hard to have fun when you're so serious. It’s a weird line. You want people to take you seriously but you don't want to act seriously.
I'm a big fan of “Napoleon Dynamite.” I know that was a big fad and a big thing when it came out. There's a special spot in my heart for that movie because there's not one joke in that movie. That movie's one of the funniest movies that’s ever been made. You just laugh at it because it's something you haven't seen. It’s innocent and unique. It is funny, I just feel like we're just like that in a band. We're being serious and people are laughing at us because it’s just naturally funny because you haven't' seen anything like it.
BE: What's the reaction you get when you open for other bands?
ESN: The reaction we get live is always the same no matter who we open for. We're able to gauge the audience correctly depending on what kind of people they are. I can look out and see, “Okay, these guys are all into metal,” or they're younger or… it's easy for me to gauge what kind of people we're performing in front of and kind of transform our performance into something they understand or something they want to understand. We never get negative feedback. We could play with anybody and it would work out.
BE: You have admitted in other interviews that you want to be the biggest band in the world.
ESN: That's our ultimate goal. To go down in history. And I want to be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And I know we're a long way from that and I always say that and I don't want to sound pretentious or whatever, but that's a goal I've had for myself since I was little and I never lost sight of that.
BE: Why do you think it's not cool to say you want to do that anymore?
ESN: I just feel like the world goes in a lot of phases. That's also why, if you listen to Introducing, our second record, it's under-produced. That kind of became cool now. Everyone wants to make a record that sounds like it was recorded in a trash can. That’s why we made a polished record. For a while it was kind of cool to be modest and say 'I don't care about being famous,' but in the big picture if you didn't care about being famous we wouldn't know you right now. You wouldn't be doing an interview you wouldn't be in a magazine you wouldn't be making a record. You'd be sitting in your basement playing guitar by yourself alone. If you didn't care about any of that stuff that’s what you'd be doing. Let's not lie to ourselves and just say 'I wanna be the biggest band in the world.'
BE: Is that sill possible?
ESN: I definitely think it's possible, I think it's gonna be a lot harder. I just think it takes a special kind of person. Nowadays there’s just so much music, there's so many bands. It's gonna take some kind of special person to come along and kind of rise above. I'm not saying I'm that person.
BE: Well, I think you are.
ESN: Well, I'm not saying that!
BE: Anyways, I'll stop repeating how great I think you are and I'll let you go. Thanks for your time.ESN: Aw man, no, thank you for giving me your time to talk to me!