I've seen Foxygen live three times now, and every single time I get the impression their set is way too short -- and trust me, I am not alone in this. Agreed, they don't play for a full two hours, but I've seen headliners do way less than they do and still make me yawn every five minutes.

A viable explanation for the apparent time distortion during a Foxygen show would be that you get utterly and unexpectedly hypnotised by everything that's going on stage, which allied to the exciting intensity of their music, always makes their sets feel like they're barely fifteen minutes long.

For the Hang tour, Sam France and Jonathan Rado have assembled a whole new band and are playing the full album live in track order, just like Brian Wilson did with Pet Sounds and Television with Marquee Moon. They do add a couple of We Are the 21st Century... and Star Power tracks before and after the Hang suite -- although not without notable differences from the album versions, especially in France's singing. But the core of each show is unmistakably their theatrical take on Hang - an enthralling experience duly exacerbated by the use of a live brass ensemble which provides a mildly evocative Soft Parade touch.

I sat with vocalist Sam France before their sold-out Paris show at the Trabendo so I could learn more about Hang's writing/recording process, Foxygen's plans for the future, and other random stuff I happened to remember mid-conversation.


When you finished the Star Power tour did you already know there was going to be another album? I mean, you were saying farewell...

Yeah, that was just something I tweeted, the poster that said "Star Power Farewell tour", because that band was saying farewell. Star Power was like our fictional band at the time.

Sort of your Sgt Pepper's?

Exactly! And that band broke up. And now we have a new band, with new people.

And did you already know where you were going music-wise, or just had loads of different stuff?

We had a pretty specific vision of what we wanted to do, even years ago we knew we wanted to do this orchestra record.

Because I remember you released that random track '24 hour lover man' a couple of years ago, and I was like "is this gonna be where they're g..." -- nope.

[laughs] No, it wasn't, it was a one-off track! But maybe more of that in the future though, hip-hop and such, I like that stuff a lot.

So what have you been up to since then, only working on Hang or doing other stuff? Because Rado did the Lemon Twigs album...

I've been writing a lot... yeah, Star Power came out in 2014, this one in 2017, so it's been quite a while. Just writing a lot, tons and tons of music with Rado, some by myself. I do poetry too, other stuff, movies...

Do you have plans for doing a film?

I'd love to, I'm working on a script right now. We're also working on a little Foxygen movie, Rado wrote a screenplay so that's sort of in the works right now. I mean, it's not a full feature film or anything, it's mostly isolated scenes and random acting.

I remember that on your 'No Destruction' video you included scenes from movies you did when you were teenagers, would it be something like that?

Umm yeah! It's based on our actual career, on me and Rado hanging out, our day-to-day life. We grew up together, and we live close-by.

So do you still maintain the same dynamics all the time, working as a duo?

Well, Hang was the first record we made in a real, actual recording studio. We had engineers there who would help us with all the technical stuff which was really nice. Then we hired the Lemon Twigs, and we knew they were amazing; Rado had produced their record, we were hanging out with them during that time, and I was like "these guys are fucking incredible." They got to play on our record, and they're a big part of it. As far as the writing went, Rado and I just kind of have this psychic thing; he writes stuff and I write stuff and we just kind of... do it, you know? It doesn't take much effort, we kind of connect. We write a song together really fast, it just comes together.

Do you play anything? I can't remember if I ever asked you this.

I do play, yeah. I used to play more instruments in the shows but I kind of stopped. On Hang I didn't play anything, maybe a gong and I think something else, but that's about it. But I write on the piano.

What is exactly the place that Hang occupies on the Foxygen timeline? Because when I reviewed the album the impression I got was that it was a bridge to something else, am I wrong?

No no, you're totally right! That is very important to us, the order in which everything comes out so that people can look back and it seems like a story. In We Are The 21st Century... we were trying very hard to be in the '60s: we dressed and lived every day like it was the '60s, we really wanted to channel it. With Star Power we thought "well, where would these characters be in 1972, after some success?". We wanted to make this more excessive rock and roll album.

Like Bowie, Bryan Ferry...?

Yeah, and there's still a Bryan Ferry vibe on the new album.

But Hang is also very much, I don't know, maybe Flying Burrito Bros?

Oh yeah, totally! 'On Lankershim' is like that.

It does feel like you're flowing towards there but not in a nostalgic way.

Absolutely! We were trying to do like a movie soundtrack this time, something that felt like a Broadway musical -- Hang is basically a soundtrack to a movie that never happened. It's the '20s, the '30s. It's a trip through American history and Hollywood decadence. The joys but also the excesses that went in Los Angeles at the time, it really deals with those themes a lot.

So if it's a bridge to something, do you have any idea of what's coming next? Maybe the hip-hop thing?

Well, we're working on it, so we kind of know -- but we're not allowed to say too much! [laughs] But it's in the works, you'll hear it soon. It'll be out sooner than later.

Name two artists, alive or dead, who you'd like to have on a Foxygen album. It can be anything, producers, musicians...

Ummm... oh, Phil Spector, definitely! We're coming from that angle on the new record.

You wall-of-sounded it?

Sometimes, yeah. On a few of the tracks, there's double drums, with Michael from the Lemon Twigs and Steven from the Flaming Lips, they'd both be drumming at the same time.

You did it all on tape, right?

Yeah, the whole process was through tape, never ran through a single computer -- all from tape to vinyl.

And the other one?

Phil Spector and ummm... I'll say Anton Newcombe from the Brian Jonestown Massacre, just because he's been such a hero for so long, and because we may actually work together. We've been talking for years and years about that and it has never happened but it's possible.

Did you guys vote?

[sighs] I didn't vote because I knew [democrats in] California would win anyway, it's a Blue state. I should have voted, and people do give me crap for not having voted, like "how could you not, it's such an important election." Rado voted. I mean, we didn't want Trump to win, but we try not to be too political as a band.

But how does it affect you, social-wise and in your writing?

Well, I'm a poet so at least subconsciously I have this soup of ideas in my head -- a song like 'America' has meant a lot to a lot of people in the process of what's been going on. So even if I don't have a very conscious approach to music in what regards to that, people just pick up things and energies... but that's music, sometimes it does mean a lot to people.

And what are you guys into at the moment?

Rado records a lot of bands, it's great having so many people coming by the studio -- Lemon Twigs, Alex Cameron...

Oh I remember you guys meeting him at [Club] Silencio! Rado was passing by during his set and saw Cameron performing, and just went "who is this guy, I want to meet him."

[laughs] Yeah! I love his music, and I love his record so much! Other than that, on the road we've been listening to a lot of old big bands, jazz, classical music, opera -- types of music I don't know much about, but with the new record we were trying to channel some aspects [of those genres]. We didn't know much about that music though, we didn't know much about big bands, or '30s music, or cabaret, we were just sort of making what we thought was that.

You're doing it in reverse order then? Doing first, listening afterwards?

[laughs] Exactly! On films, I really like Terrence Malick, I think he's doing amazing stuff. He did this movie called Knight of Cups which I really liked, and he's got a new movie coming out about the music industry, so that interests me.

So what happens after your last EU/UK date [London], are you going back to the US?

Yeah, we're doing a big US tour and then we'll come back in the summer. We love Europe, we'll come back as many times as people want us too, We'd like to tour with a full orchestra or something, we'll try and figure out if that's possible.

Hang is out now. You can read our review of it by heading here.