Octave Records is honored to announce its latest release, The Nature of Things by Foxfeather. It’s a compelling blend of rock, pop, acoustic-electric roots music, blues and more, led by singer Carly Ricks Smith and acoustic guitarist/keyboardist and backing vocalist Laura Stratton. The Nature of Things was recorded in pure Direct Stream Digital (DSD) using the Sonoma system in PS Audio’s Boulder, Colorado studio, Animal Lane in Lyons, CO, and Vernon Barn in Longmont, CO. Like other Octave Records releases, it was recorded and mastered using Octave Records’ exclusive DSDDirect Mastered recording system.
The Nature of Things is available as a limited-edition release of 1,000 hybrid SACD discs with the master DSD layer and a CD layer. In addition, the album is available as a download bundle including DSD64, DSDDirect Mastered 192kHz/24-bit, 96kHz/24-bit and 44.1kHz/16-bit PCM.
The musicians in Foxfeather are: Carly Ricks Smith (lead and background vocals), Laura Stratton (acoustic guitar, piano/keyboards, backing vocals), Kate Farmer (backing vocals), Jay Elliott (drums, percussion), Blake Smith (electric guitar), Mark Dabrowski (bass), Oliver Jacobson (fiddle), Eben Grace (pedal steel, electric guitar, acoustic guitar) and Eric Moon (organ, synthesizer). The Nature of Things was produced by Eben Grace (of pro audio company Grace Design), with the help of Octave Records’ recording engineer Gus Skinas, Jay Elliott (recording and mixing engineer), Giselle Collazo (mixing engineer and Sonoma DSD operator) and Jessica Carson (executive producer).
The music ranges from the syncopated, funk-tinged groove of “Lunatic” and the rocker “Fillin’ Me Up” to the plaintive “Lonely Feeling” and “24 Years,” a song about growing past difficult relationships. With three female singers, the vocals and harmonies are sweet and layered, powerful and intimate, and the band complements Carly, Laura and Kate with richly-textured accompaniment.
We interviewed Carly and Laura on the occasion of the album’s release.
Frank Doris: How did Foxfeather get together?
Carly Ricks Smith: Laura and I went to high school and ended up going to the same college, CU Boulder. That first year of college in 2005, we started playing together, doing covers and open mic nights and kind of exploring that feeling. Later that year we started writing our own songs. We put out our first EP in 2014. Up until COVID we've released something new every two years.
FD: You’ve been around and playing together for a while, then. Who writes the songs?
CRS: We both do. Generally I do the lyrics, and wrote melodic lines over the chord progressions that Laura creates. There’s some overlap though.
FD: Do songs just just pop into your head, or do you have a bad relationship, say, or see something happening in the world and then write about it?
Laura Stratton: Everything and anything can be an inspiration. Musically, it just the most random things where for some reason, the way two chords sound together or even one chord can evoke a feeling. It doesn't always have to be a complicated chord progression; it can be something really simple, but just the way that it's played, the rhythm or the guitar finger picking, evokes emotion. I think Carly and I are almost always on the same page with that.
I'm a music teacher, and sometimes I’ll be in between lessons and just strumming something. I’ll [record it on my phone] or jot it down and show it to Carly later. I’ll take these little passages and go back and reference them later when we're trying to build a story.
CRS: The thing I like about lyric writing is you can go anywhere you want, though I like to have a story line in place.
FD: Was a lot of The Nature of Things done “live” in the studio?
CRS: We tried keep it live as much as we could. We recorded some of it in the Vernon Barn, which is a cool venue near where we live that has a great [room] sound. We got the whole band together and there was a little bit of bleed [into the mics] and Laura ended up having to go back and overdub her rhythm guitar, but everything we recorded there (like “Lonely Feeling”) was mostly done live. On other tracks in other studios, we overdubbed vocals and some other parts.
FD: Who are some of your influences?
CRS: I love older musicians and singers like Patsy Cline, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt and people like that. And a little bit of that classic sort of Seventies and Eighties age, mixed in with some of the darker themes of today and people like Lucy Dacus and Margaret Glaspy. I love Lake Street Dive.
FD: Rock a side pony!
CRS: Doing the album has been a really fun process, aside from that extra hiccup from COVID. Getting studio time safely was difficult. We had to take a two-month break because a couple of the band members actually got sick. It took about nine months to record the album.
LS: The album is a time capsule of what we went through.
FD: Are you going to be getting back to playing live gigs? Are you apprehensive about it?
CRS: We're getting back into it. It's not going to be the same as in 2019 when we were playing two, three gigs a week. I'm excited. Our band's awesome and tight. Everybody's still got it.