Cool School

Graduating from the basement of a college dorm to a stage near you, Foxtrot Zulu is earning their Groove University master’s degree in musical originality one show at a time

by Lee Abraham  

The ritual is repeated each and every semester. Along with orientation, scheduling classes, and partying, guitar strumming college kids plug in their axes and start making noise together. Soon a drummer hears the din and offers his services. Add a bass player, maybe a couple of horns or a keyboard, and there you have it - a band has formed. Most never get past the dorm lounge, but a few do.

"When we first start playing it was a very college type thing," says Nate Edmunds, rhythm guitarist for Foxtrot Zulu, a seven piece groove generator from Rhode Island. "You know, someone would throw a party, our instruments would be there and we’d start playing. It probably didn’t sound all that great, just sort of messing around in the basement."

Although they may not have been an immediate crowd pleaser, Nate and his musical friends were having fun. In addition to starting a regular practice regimen, they began to build a repertoire of original songs. "That went on for about a year before we started gigging," recalls Edmunds. "Then we did our first CD, ‘Moe’s Diner,’ in ‘95 and that just kind of opened up doors all over the place."

As a seven piece band, Foxtrot kicks out a big, good time sound. "We are a high energy band," agrees Edmunds. "We’re fun. We’re not really into the ‘noodle jam’ type stuff, we tend to focus on the song." With two guitars, bass, drums, percussion and a pair of multi-instrumental horn players, Foxtrot’s grooves range from jazzy rock to funky ska. Unlike many bands that feature horns, their brass component is as wildly improvisational as their lead guitar player.

"We don’t use our horns as a -section- so much," explains Edmunds. "They’re more like separate soloists, they play off of each other." After gigging together for a couple of years locally, Foxtrot took their first road trip in ’96. "It was a five day tour," recalls Edmunds. "Since then we’ve been playing out on the road alot."

-Burn Slow-, the band’s 2nd album which was released in ‘97, captured Foxtrot's evolving live sound, a sound that was attracting larger and larger audiences wherever they played. While touring helped build their fan base, it hasn’t always been easy. "Some of the guys are getting married and I think it is hard on the families when you go away for three weeks," says Edmunds. "I like it. And I think everyone enjoys it, it’s just easier for some than others."

When they're on the road, Foxtrot travels with a three person crew - someone to handle the merchandise, the sound system and also the lighting rig they’ve started using. "I love the lights," says Edmunds. "I remember the first night we got ‘em and we played in like this little place in Delaware, pretty much a restaurant where they clear out the tables. If we didn’t have lights it would have been like just a bunch of guys playing in a corner, but then you throw on the lights and the fog machine and it’s a full blown experience."

While lighting effects are pretty basic to the live music experience, few bands on the club level travel with their own. Usually it’s a matter of money or having someone to run the equipment. Most bands have their hands full just getting the sound right with the hope that the venue will provide a decent lighting system. Such is the life of an independent touring band. Although Foxtrot progressed for years on their own, they signed with Phoenix Rising Records about a year ago to push their career to the next level.

"The more people you have working with you, on your team, helping you do what you do, the better," says Edmunds. "There’s a lot of magazines that we’ve talked to that we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to speak to without our publicist. We wouldn’t have even known about those magazines."

One of the things the band loves to talk about with all those magazines - "Frozen In Time," their new CD. As the first Foxtrot record using a -real- producer, -Frozen In Time-, elevates their multifaceted, polytextured music to new heights. "Having an outside influence really helped," says Edmunds. "From the arrangements to the technical aspects of production, we just focused on making sure that every part of the song had a specific listening purpose."

With the record done, Foxtrot is back on the road. "We’ll be hitting a lot of new places," says Edmunds. "We’ve never played in California and we’re going to do a bunch of shows there." In addition to the new CD, they’ll be bringing along some new toys as well. "We just got a bunch of these new effects processors for the horns, so there’s likely to be some very interesting sounds coming out of Foxtrot Zulu in the foreseeable future," says Edmunds. "Also our conga player who is kind of like the raver of the bunch, he just got turntables, so we’re going to add in some of that which definitely will create some different sounds for us."

On the road or in the studio, Foxtrot Zulu not only sound good, they sound like they’re having fun. "Everyone gets along, we’re the same seven guys we were when we started," says Edmunds. "I just like to make good music. We’re young and we have the time to do this, which is fortunate. We’ll just give it our all while we’re here I guess... It’d be great if this is what we do for the rest of our lives. " ###