May 21, 2013
Mark your calendars for June 6, 2013 — that’s when homegrown, indie folk group Charlie and the Foxtrots will debut their “Evergreen” EP. (EP stands for “extended play” and is a musical recording that contains more music than a single but is too short to qualify as a full studio album.) This captivating and well-rounded album was recorded in an impressive four days. The release of their EP will also kick off the beginning of the band’s U.S. tour, which will begin in August.
Originally, the group consisted of three Georgia Southern students, including current band members James Varner and Chas Wilson. The group then added three more members from Nashville after a chance encounter online.
Connect Statesboro recently sat down with band member Wilson (guitar, vocals, banjo) to get the scoop on what’s next for Charlie and the Foxtrots.
Connect Statesboro (CS): How did you meet the bandmates from Nashville? How were you guys introduced?
Chas Wilson (CW): Our meeting was pretty much complete luck. In August of 2012, James, Robert and I put a track on sort of a music competition website owned by a label in Nashville. About three hours later, I got a message on our Facebook band page from the owner of the label saying he liked our sound and would like to talk. He mentioned that he had an intern — Rob Hutchison — who played the violin, and he recommended that we meet. The next weekend, Rob drove down from Nashville, and we played music together until the early hours of the next morning. We spent the next day jamming and dreaming about what could happen if we combined the folk sounds of his former band and the alternative/pop sounds of our Statesboro band. Over the course of the next few months, we added the quirky personality and creative writing style of Memphis native Josh Ramos to the band. Soon after that, we recruited our old friend Jeremy Webster to play piano with us. We then decided as a band to record an EP and move to Nashville to pursue our music further.
As a result of the addition, Wilson noted that their musical style evolved to reflect the new members and their musical experiences.
CW: I think we are all from very different musical backgrounds. The great thing about all the guys is that they all have a passion for specific genres, yet they have love for all kinds of music. We’re extremely different people, and it gives a fresh perspective to the way we write and play together.
CS: In a previous interview, you mentioned that your music has evolved from folk-pop to a more indie folk style reminiscent of Mumford and Sons. Is this a result of adding new members and backgrounds? Incorporating different instruments?
CW: Yeah, I definitely think our sound has changed from the addition of instruments and new angles from added members. James and I have been playing together in bands since high school, and Jeremy and I have been making music together since we were kids. That part brought a certain feel to the table, but the added writing of Josh with the style Matt and Rob offer just made it something we were all really excited to work with.
With a new sound and no shortage of inspiration, the group began laying down the foundation for their inaugural EP.
CS: How does the creative process take place? Do you use more of a jam technique, where one person does one thing and the rest of the members add as you go along? Does one band member tend to do more of the writing?
CW: It really all depends on the song. There are songs that I'll bring to the band completely finished, and they'll give me input on what they like and don't like, and we'll shape it from there. Other times, Josh and I will sit down together, exchange ideas, and bounce lyrics and melodies off of each other until we have a song. I love that we all have a hand in writing the music. The result is the sound of us as a band, not just any one person.
The EP boasts five songs and a bonus track, but it takes its name from the third track, “Evergreen Philosophy,” which is also the band’s single. It was recorded during spring break over the course of four days at Shadow Lane Studios under producer Phillip Wolfe.
CS: What was your favorite part of recording? Least favorite? Why?
CW: I think recording the EP together brought us all very close in a way we hadn't been in the past. We were in the studio in 16-hour chunks, so I was worried at how we would hold up by the end of the week. In the end, though, we were so excited to have accomplished our first milestone together, and we're already itching to get back in there. It was great having Mr. Wolfe as a fresh set of ears. He's such a talented producer.
CS: Did you encounter any difficulties recording?
CW: Most of us had never recorded in a real studio before, so it took a little warming up. After the first few hours, we were feeling comfortable in the space, and things went smoothly. I think no matter how much time we have, we'll always wish we had more, but that's life, and I think we're happy with what we finished in the time given.
Now that the EP has been recorded, the band members can focus their attention on their upcoming tour beginning this August.
CS: After the release of the EP, you guys are set to start touring from Nashville to Ohio to New York back to Nashville?
CW: Yeah, we'll be playing shows local to Nashville beginning in July, and then start touring in August.
CS: On average, how many shows to you play in each location?
CW: We'll be making an announcement with details on the tour later this summer, but it's usually 2-3 nights per city.
CS: What are you most proud of in regards to the band? The EP?
CW: I'm so proud to be able to call these guys my bandmates. We've all become best friends in the past five months since we've joined forces. I consider them my brothers. The decisions we've made as a band have required a lot of commitment, and I know that we're all pursuing this for the right reasons. As far as the EP goes, we're extremely excited with the response we've gotten this far. We are blessed to have so much support.
Finally, it’s always interesting to know how bands come up with their names. A name is more than a name in the music industry; it’s an identity, a brand that ideally embodies what the group is about. For this group, the moniker “Charlie and the Foxtrots” does just that.
It would seem that with all the different musical inputs and perspectives from each member of the band, their music would be chaotic with no rhyme or reason. However, with the incorporation of a wide variety of instruments, including banjos, slide guitar, mandolin, piano and even cuarto (a small, guitarlike instrument with eight strings), their music is highly detailed, multifaceted and well organized. Utilizing such a range of instruments and piecing together each member’s ideas, lyrics and melodies can be risky, but Charlie and the Foxtrots have mastered the technique, and as a result, their music contains a certain depth and complexity.
Which brings us back to their name:
CW: Well, it's kind of a play off of the military term “Charlie Foxtrot.” It stands for something I don't think you can print, so I'll leave it to people to Google it. Since “Foxtrot” reminded us of a sort of dance, we thought it would be appropriate. It's just kind of a play on words.
The band’s EP can be purchased on iTunes beginning June 6. For more information on Charlie and the Foxtrots and to hear their single “Evergreen Philosophy,” visit www.facebook.com/charlieandthefoxtrots.