There’s no doubt that FOXTRAX – the NYC indie rock band made up of Ben Schneid and brothers Jared and Jon Stenz – have a busy summer ahead. Between touring with Barns Courtney this May, and recording their new EP with producer Ben Roulston (Wolf Alice, Florence and the Machine) this June, the guys have a lot to look forward to, and so do their fans. Here at Pancakes & Whiskey, we’re psyched to present their homecoming NYC show on May 25th at Webster Hall (tix available here!), so we caught up with them over video chat to hear about their latest adventures.
With Jared and Jon in one Skype window on the West Coast, and Ben in the other, dialing in from the road, they dove into storytelling like we were sitting around a campfire together. I offered them a long-distance shot of whiskey (BYO of course) – to which Jared and Jon procured their own supply and joined me for a shot (even though our differing timezones had them drinking way earlier in the day. Hell yeah, FOXTRAX). Ben, riding in the passenger seat of his car, took a symbolic bite of banana in lieu of a shot. Considering their nonstop hustle, I asked them if any crazy tour stories had gone down in recent history. “Alright. I’ve got a good one,” said Ben without hesitation.
“So, we had just played SXSW, and we were going to Austin from Las Vegas, Nevada, which is an extremely long drive. So we drove like 13 hours into the night, and we had a reservation at a hotel in Albuquerque. And we show up in Albuquerque, and they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re so sorry, but we gave away your reservation!’ And we’re like, ‘What do you mean you gave away our reservation?’ And they’re like, ‘Oh the rodeo is in town, so cowboys have your room now.’” The band cracked up at Ben’s deadpan retelling. “That was one of the more bizarre tour experiences,” he said.
“SXSW was a bit of a blur,” said Jon with a grin. “Some shenanigans ensued.” His bandmates raised their eyebrows and stifled another laugh. “I think one of the best tour stories was when we were driving from Tucson, Arizona, through all these security checkpoints into Texas. And when we were on our way through, we..may..have had brownies in the car. Our management team are all British, so they’re under different laws, you know? They could get, like, deported for something like that. So we’re driving and there’s this checkpoint…and in that type of situation, I know you’re supposed to stay super calm, right? Well, we ended up throwing all the brownies out of the back windows in a panic,” he laughed, his bandmates joining in again.
With all the shenanigans of tour life, I wondered how FOXTRAX finds time to work on the new record, and what their creative process looks like on the road. “There’s not really much writing going on in the van,” said Ben. “There’s always time when we’re not touring to be creative and to flow. I think the goal when you’re on tour and passing through new cities is to just take in the experience that you’re getting. All of these things are life experiences, and that’s going to help you be a better songwriter, I think. Just paying attention to what’s happening around you.”
“We’ve driven through some places that you probably would never ordinarily drive through as just a regular citizen. You’re not gonna likely drive from like San Diego to Austin – and drive along the Mexican/United States border for like four hours. And it’s an odd thing, really, when you’re looking at another country like that – just a weird vibe.” The brothers agreed, calling the trip “incredible.”
“The climate is so different,” said Ben. “It’s very desolate, and there are so many big mountains and rock structures. It’s totally different. This is really my first foray into seeing this part of the country, and it’s a little shocking. When we stop at rest stops, or talk to people at the gas station who are from that area, their culture is very different from the East Coast. The things that they’ve experienced are like a totally different ballgame.”
And for a band as introspective and creative as FOXTRAX, that kind of perspective is invaluable. “I think that all of those things go back into the songwriting at some point,” explained Ben. “I think, to me, great songwriting is just articulating experiences very well. That’s what every great song is.”
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Andrew Heiser