Foxy Shazam frontman Eric Sean Nally operates on one simple belief: “Nothing’s cool until it’s made cool.”
So, just how do Nally and his band mates work that magic on the riotous rock `n’ soul music they create?
“We don’t hold back anything,” explains Nally, 22, during an interview from Toledo, Ohio. “If it sounds good, we do it. We’re not scared.”
Nally and crew are positively fearless on “Introducing,” Foxy Shazam’s first proper album (second overall). It’s a bare-knuckled bruiser of a CD that is flush with the abandon of vintage Little Richard, the intrepidness of Iggy Pop and the fever dreams of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.
Keyboardist Schuyler Vaughn White, guitarist Loren Daniel Turner, bassist Daisy (no last name) and drummer Joseph Allen Halberstadt churn out a blistering blend of punked-up neo-soul, as Nally turns his insides out.
Nally, White and Turner, Foxy Shazam’s three founding members, got to know each other as members of “little stupid local bands” in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area. They banded together after deciding they wanted to make music for a living. “We all had the same goal - to go down in history,” says Nally with hardly a hint of braggadoccio.
Foxy Shazam borrowed its name from a term for “cool shoes” at Nally’s high school. “We were kinda at a loss at what to call ourselves,” he says, “but that (phrase) stuck out in my head.
“It seemed every band was named either A Summer Lays Dying or October Leaves Blowing in September,” he adds, poking fun at the emo-infatuated competition.
Nally was born in Toledo, but when he was very young he and his parents (mom cleans houses and dad is a landscaper) moved to Cincinnati. Growing up, he enjoyed listening to his parents’ Beatles and Gordon Lightfoot records. “But Green Day was a big (influence) for me,” he points out. “It was the first band that kind of got me as a kid.”
So, where did Nally’s infatuation with soul music begin?
“A lot of my inspiration comes from my high school years,” he replies. “I was probably one of only three white kids in my high school, and the other two acted black. I have a passion for that type of music because I have always been around it.” (In fact, so great is his affection for and identification with black culture, at one point Nally says, “I really wish I was black.”)
The current Foxy Shazam lineup has been together about 18 months - as long as the band existed previously without a regular rhythm section.
Before the arrival of Daisy and Halberstadt, Foxy Shazam recorded “The Flamingo Trigger,” which was released in June 2005. The independent album, which includes fan favorites such as “No Don’t Shoot,” “The French Passion of Animality Opera” and “October Surf Suitcase Fish,” led to a North American tour that elevated Foxy Shazam’s profile and popularity.
Once off the road, Nally and crew spent three months writing what would become “Introducing,” which was released on Jan. 22.
“Our first CD was really right and left for us,” says Nally, “while `Introducing’ is closer to the center. Our first CD was to get into a groove. Now we are able to write songs closer to Foxy Shazam.”
“Introducing” blasts off with a title track appropriate for a soul revue. “I wanted to make a quick song that would define the record,” says Nally. “If you were listening to the album backwards, it would recap everything you heard.”
And the shocking line “Kill everyone here”? “I just kinda meant (screw) it,” says Nally. “It’s another way of saying `knock `em dead.’”
Other high-energy tunes include “Yes Yes Yes” (Fleshtones fans take note!) and “Ghost Animals,” inspired by White’s encounter with a bear. “Sky actually fought a bear on a camping trip,” says Nally. “Supposedly he beat the crap out of a black bear. My song is about what would have happened if a grizzly had killed him.”
The CD also has its gentler moments, including the “Science of Love,” which works up a velvety `70s vibe. But the most tender track is “A Black Man’s Breakfast,” written about Nally’s girlfriend, a scientist who develops shampoos for Proctor and Gamble. (Incongruously, Nally named the song after the Sunday buffet at Golden Corral that one of his teachers would order every week after church.)
“I can’t really read or write that well,” says Nally. “So when I was putting the lyrics together for the CD booklet, I had my girlfriend sit next to me and told her what to write. But when we got to that one song, I skipped over it. She was hurt because she knew the song was about her.”
Nally withheld the lyrics because he had a surprise in store. When they went to the printer, he attached the lines: “Karen I love you so much. Will you marry me?”
“I gave her a copy of the CD on Christmas Eve, and when she read the words to the song I had skipped over, she was just blown away. She cried, and said yes. I’m engaged now. ...
“We have two kids, Francis Jordan, named after Michael Jordan, who is 1 ½, and Julian Michael, also named after Jordan, who just turned 6.”
Although he is happy to be engaged, Nally notes, “I don’t want our fans to think I’m 40, even though I have a 40-year-old man’s life.”