Chicago Band Spotlight: Harvey Fox 

Harvey Fox is a five-piece rock & roll band based in Chicago. After playing music together and carving out their unique sound for nearly a decade, the band is currently made up of Colin Fox (Guitar, Vocals), Tom Garvey (bass), Dario Velazquez (Drums) Jessica Blanchet (Guitar, Vocals), and  Drake Morey (Synth, Percussion)

Inspired by a wide range of musical styles, Harvey Fox was formed under the influence of bands like Pink Floyd, Radiohead, The Pixies, and Arctic Monkeys. They have released two EPs and one full length album and are currently working on a new LP titled Lullabies for the Restless set for a summer 2019 release.

I talked with Harvey Fox writer and frontman Colin Fox about the formation of Harvey Fox, the band’s experiences playing in Chicago, and where he hopes the band will go from here.

So, I have to ask, what is the origin of the name Harvey Fox?

Dario and I were in the car one day and he was telling me about how when he was a kid, he went out and bought Harvey Danger’s album with “Flagpole Sitta” on it and how the rest of the CD was garbage besides the single. He was like, “Why can’t people make an album where the whole thing is good?” and I said “Why don’t we do that? We can be Harvey Fox.” We’ve been living in the shadow of Harvey Danger ever since.

How long have you all known each other? How did you meet?

A very, very long time. Drake and I have known each other the longest (14 years). We became friends in 2005 when I moved to a new school in sixth grade and discovered we shared a love for classic rock. Tom and I met later that year at a white elephant party where we bonded over a love of Radiohead.

“’Why can’t people make an album where the whole thing is good?’ and I said ‘Why don’t we do that? We can be Harvey Fox.'”

I met Dario in 2009 on the lacrosse team in high school and we would listen to System of a Down and Rage Against the Machine on the way to games. Jess was a friend of a friend in high school. I discovered her music and instantly wanted to collaborate with her. I reached out to her and we talked about making a band that was inspired by the Pixies and Radiohead. It took about 10 years to come to fruition but we’re finally doing it.

When did you form your band? What inspired you to make music together?

Dario, Tom, and I started jamming in Dario’s garage in the summer of 2009. We worked on a couple of covers of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Arctic Monkeys… I remember our very first jam was just playing “Rollercoaster of Love” for an hour.

When high school ended and everyone went away to college, it was only Dario and I left in town and we started to write the songs that would eventually become the first Harvey Fox album, Party Music for the Sad Kids. When Tom finished school in 2014, the three of us formed Harvey Fox with the intention of making the kind of music that inspired us to play in the first place.

Drake and Jess both joined in 2018 originally starting as collaborators on our album and eventually turning into full-fledged members. As we started to work together on the new material, their presence naturally became more and more ingrained in the music to a point where we were re-writing the songs to fit the new style we created. It’s cool to see how everything has grown so organically.

Tom Garvey

What genre of music do you consider your work to be? Who are your major influences?

We think of ourselves as a rock & roll band. … At the end of the day we’re really rooted in 1960’s rock & roll. We also grew up in the late 90’s and early 2000’s so a lot of that music is in our veins as well. When I was a kid, I would go to the pool all the time and they would always be playing either a classic rock station or 94.7 the Zone which was the Alternative Rock station at the time. Between that and the soundtracks for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, that’s what really formed my musical identity.

I remember being blown away the first time I heard System of a Down’s “Aerials” on the radio because I couldn’t understand how something could be so heavy and so pretty. It’s like such ugly nasty guitars with beautiful vocals and harmonies and the lyrics just take your mind on a crazy journey. I wanted to make music like that.

Who writes your songs? Is there a main theme or topic around Harvey Fox songs?

I am the main writer for the band but it’s a very collaborative process. I have always been a fan of music that’s a little more surreal and open-ended and lets the listener make up the story. I think as a band we’re just trying to paint pictures that take your mind on a journey. We don’t really write music with specific story or goal in mind, we just write what we’re feeling right then and there. It’s all about getting lost in the moment.

A lot of our music deals with themes of anxiety and restlessness. On our first album, Party Music for the Sad Kids, the music is dealing with a lot of issues of growing up and feeling out of place. Trying to find a sense of belonging, a sense of self, and figuring out how to open yourself up when it feels like your whole world is falling apart.

“I think as a band we’re just trying to paint pictures that take your mind on a journey…It’s all about getting lost in the moment.”

Our upcoming album Lullabies for the Restless is a continuation of these themes as a lot of the songs were written around the same time as Party Music. Our first album was meant to be party music for people that hate going to parties. This next album is bedtime music for people that never sleep.

What is your creative process like?

I think our approach to songwriting is similar to making a collage. We draw from a lot of influences and take a lot of fragments of ideas and put them into a single piece. We try to take you through a journey of all these fragmented ideas but it’s really up to you to derive a sense of meaning from it. We’re very into experimentation and that’s how we write everything. It’s a slow process but it’s what keeps it exciting for us.

The actual process of our songs happens in a few steps. I’ll come to the band with a song in a totally skeletal structure and then we’ll jam on it for a couple hours. Then we’ll all go work on it individually for a week and come back with new parts and a new structure, tweaking our parts to fit with the full band. We’ll repeat this process a few times until we feel the song is ready to perform and then we’ll play it live.

We pay attention to how the audience vibes with the song and how it feels as a band to play it live. The album is like a snapshot of where the songs were at that point in time, but we always continue to change them and evolve them into new realms.

Colin Fox and Tom Garvey

What are your rehearsals generally like? Do you have a set time each week in which you practice or are rehearsals more spontaneous?

Our rehearsals are very short and pretty rigid. We will jam with no structure for 15-30 minutes, then either work on new material or run the set for an upcoming show and call it a night. Most of our practice happens individually, so when we show up for rehearsal we are ready to play. We practice about once a week unless there’s freezing rain and a blizzard happening [when] we try to rehearse, in which case we practice never.

How has your music evolved since you first began playing together?

We started this project as a duo. As a result, we wrote relatively simple songs with a greater focus on instrumentation and feel as opposed to songwriting. We were trying to write rock songs. Prior to this band I was an experimental singer-songwriter, and I kind of took all of that history and threw it out the window to try to do something completely new. As we’ve grown as a group and now write as a five-piece, we find ourselves gravitating back to the singer-songwriter elements we had previously abandoned. This next album is a lot more personal as opposed to the purely surreal lyricism of the first album.

It’s also interesting to think about how our process has really stayed the same. When we first started writing music, we would just… jam on 1-2 chords for 2 hours and write the songs like that and that’s pretty much how we do things today. We’re never really thinking about progressions or structure, it’s more about flowing and getting lost in the moment and vibing off the band. We’re getting funkier and groovier as time goes on.
The Chicago Experience

What’s it like being a band in Chicago?

Chicago is awesome because there’s tons of scenes and tons of places to play at every level. When we first started playing, it was very easy to get shows at little dive bars and we have just slowly worked up from there. It seems like people here are really open to whatever kind of music is happening. People are just out to have a good time and have always been very warm and receptive to our music. We’re grateful to be part of a community that is open to experimentation. There’s so many people keeping the scene alive that it’s almost overwhelming how much live music is available on any given night.

Tell me about the best show you’ve played together in Chicago?

My favorite show we played was probably DZ Fest 2018. We’ve become friends with a lot of people in that scene and it’s my favorite weekend every year. They’ve shown us a lot of love over the years and we were so honored to be closing out a festival we love so much. It’s such good community and those are the kind of shows that really make an impact. The little DIY shows where everyone is really into it and there for the music seem to be the most magical of any of them.

And the worst?

There was a chain of shows we had in our first year where my guitar would break in one way or another every single show we had. It must have been 7 or 8 shows in a row. I was so upset that I bought and returned 6 guitars over the period of a single summer. I was cursed. That’s when I finally said forget it and invested in some more serious equipment.

Dario Valazquez

What can you tell us about your next album, Lullabies  for the Restless?

Lullabies for the Restless… will be coming out this summer! It’s written about the state of mind late at night when you are neither awake or asleep. I was watching a lot of Twilight Zone at the time of writing it and I wanted to make an album that felt like it exists in that realm.

All of the tracks flow together and there’s much wider range of instrumentation and influences. There’s heavy rock songs, piano ballads, a Bossa Nova track, and we even had our old friend Phil Parker from our folk band days come and record cello on a few songs.

We recorded [our] first album in two weeks, and this one we have been recording for almost a year. We’ve been recording with Caleb Harris at Son Waves Recording and he has been an integral part of making the album. We became close friends over the course of the recording sessions and he has completely changed my approach to recording.

I remember when we were decided who to work with on the album, we met with several producers and Caleb was the only one that started fighting with me as soon as we started talking. We’re a very intense band and do most of our writing by fighting with each other so I knew he would be the perfect fit for us. We did a lot of experimentation in the studio on this record and we’re so excited to finally release it!

Can you tell me a bit about your song “Uh-Uh?” When you performed at DZ Fest 2018, it was clear that everyone in the audience was eagerly waiting to hear “Uh-Uh”  and you closed the show with it. Where did the inspiration for “Uh-Uh” come from?

I remember that song was written right after I had watched Moulin Rouge. There’s a scene in that movie where they perform the “Elephant Love Medley” which is a beautiful duet medley of classic love songs, sung inside of a giant elephant. I thought it would be funny to write the “Elephant Hate Medley” and so I wrote down as many love song lines as I could think of and tried to flip em around and cut it up into a cohesive song.

I had been holding onto that main riff forever and never had a song to go with it, so I used that as the basis of the song and the rest of it blossomed from there. It’s funny how you can spend years and years working on songs that goes totally under the radar and the one you wrote in 10 minutes as a joke becomes your hit single.

I thought for sure we would get bored of playing that song but I think we all still have a blast playing it. It’s also fun to play a song that references the Beach Boys, Dolly Parton, and Sugar Ray. Sugar Ray is underrated.

Colin Takes a Solo

What has been your biggest challenge as a band?

We all work full-time and it’s a serious devotion of time and energy to be in this band and keep it going. Last year, I got totally burnt out after a marathon of long recording sessions and big shows on top of our regular lives. I was struggling to juggle everything and not taking the best care of myself. I broke down and was so miserable, I was about ready to call it quits on everything.

We decided to take a break from everything band-related until we felt ready to get back at it. After a two month break, we got back into the studio and back on stage and it feels like we have a whole new life. You have to know when to push yourself and give yourself some rest. Nothing is worth destroying yourself.

What’s the direction you want Harvey Fox to head in? Or, where do you see Harvey Fox in five years?

Right now we’re looking to expand our ventures beyond just music. All of us are artists in some form outside of the band and we’d like to incorporate these projects into what we’re doing. In five years, hopefully you’ll see us with a cooking show, an animated series, a video game, maybe a puppet show. Who knows? Musically, we’re also going in a new direction as we continue to write with the two newest members of the band. They both have a distinct style that is taking the band into new territory. The songs we’ve been working on for the future are also significantly lengthier than anything we’ve attempted before. Expect some 10+ minute experimental bangers in the next few years.

You have to know when to push yourself and give yourself some rest. Nothing is worth destroying yourself.

What advice do you have for people who want to form their own bands/create music?

Do it. Do anything. Don’t try to make something perfect. Just make anything creative that gets finished and then make something else. Keep making stuff you like and then eventually you’ll make something good. Think about what excites you and pursue that. I started off by learning AC/DC riffs in my bedroom when I was 12 and I’ve grown from there.

Find what you like and do it. Also, find good people to work with. That’s the hardest part.

Harvey Fox will be at Cole’s Bar in Chicago on Saturday, April 6th.

Follow Harvey Fox on Spotify and  Bandcamp to hear their latest releases. Keep up with the latest news on Harvey Fox social by checking out their Facebook and Instagram.

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