Stone Cold Fox interviewed by The Deli

Roots songwriting with electro sound design

By: Dave Cromwell (@davecromwell)

September 21, 2014

"I will always be happier outside of the city, though it is pretty great to be a part of one of the biggest music communities in the country. "

Expanded to a full band for their 2014 album, "Memory Palace," Brooklyn’s Stone Cold Fox deliver a collection of songs that're like the early Strokes in both sonic texture and easygoing vocal phrasing. (Elsewhere, there are hints of Bob Dylan's lyricism and the emotional drama of the Killers.) All of these influences from across the decades are made fresh by the band's intimate keyboard flourishes and succinct sound design.

Your current record Memory Palace is packed with a number of richly nuanced, well-crafted songs.  Leadoff track “Sold” is a coming of age story, yet the title suggests compromises this life often demands of you.  Referencing “this is who you are,” and “you’ve made it here this far” shows a certain level of self-worth.  But ultimately conclude that “wishful thinking fade(s) away with time” and “every day is just another left behind.”  Is there any way one can avoid the diminished expectations trap?

Kevin - It's hard to escape it! This song was written after my parents got a divorced, I had to put my dog down, and the house was being sold.  It was a very sobering experience and the first notable time my life swung in a direction I had never anticipated.  But it wasn't until "Sold" that the album really found it's direction and really exceeded all expectations.  So maybe in songwriting one can avoid it, but maybe not so much in life.

In the song “Seventeen” there is the lyric “I need a mountaintop so I don’t feel deranged.”  Apart from how it relates to the song itself, do you feel that living in the tight confines of Brooklyn contributes to this kind of unbalanced attitude?

Kevin - Yes, absolutely.  I'm from rural Maine so moving to Brooklyn was a jarring experience.  I'm very much influenced and dependent on my surroundings, emotionally and creatively, so it was very hard adapting to the new space. For me it's less an unbalanced attitude and more an unfortunate reality.  I will always be happier outside of the city, though it is pretty great to be a part of one of the biggest music communities in the country.

Focusing on your sound selections, there seems to be timeless, late 70’s / early 80’s feel for many of the tracks.  For instance, “Time’s Up” has a breezy, radio-friendly vibe that brings to mind the pure pop of that time.  Is this something you strove for during the songwriting and/or recording process?

Ariel - As a band, we enjoy exploring different sonic palettes and influences in genres and decades/eras. On that particular tune we definitely went for that sound with the 80's electronic drums and vocal processing. Our songwriting, demo process, and recording process are so integrated into each other that sometimes these aesthetic decisions are made in the beginning during songwriting and sometimes they're made at the end during recording or mixing.


Title track “Memory Palace” features a troubadour style vocal performance that falls somewhere between Bob Dylan storytelling and Julian Casablancas (of the Strokes) style phrasing.  With lyrical imagery about “watching the country tear apart in two,” and of “spending” being “overdue” – is this a political song?  A poetic reference to the ongoing battle between the wealthy and those struggling to get by?

Kevin - Well it's about as political as we get.  The song definitely reflects on our current situation, but it views it through the lens of two helpless bystanders.  I've always thought political songs to be much more active, a call to arms, strictly rooted in it's time.  I used to have a fire for that type of stuff, frankly NYC has beaten it out of me a bit.  It's good to know it's not all gone though. 

Are the songs fully written and arranged entirely when you move on to the production stage?  Or, is there still room for creative revisions in the studio?

Ariel - The songwriting process usually starts with acoustic guitar and melody/lyrics. From there we start arranging and defining the song structure and start putting together a demo. Our pre-production stages are pretty intensive so we usually have a pretty good idea of what we're going for when we start putting up the microphones. However, there is always room for creative revisions and new ideas in the studio and often times we rely on those moments to really make a song the best it can be.

It seems like streaming music is now the most common way people personally listen to music.  Do you feel that the licensed online services are helping to compensate musicians for their creative works?

Ariel - Well we sure aren't relying on Spotify to pay our bills! Joking aside, we think streaming services have changed the way the music industry works and musicians are adjusting to a different work model. Streaming services definitely help make our music easily accessible and helps give us exposure. We're just happy that more people are buying vinyl again, the satisfaction of selling a record to a fan hand to hand definitely beats an online monthly report. - Dave Cromwell