Nottingham’s feisty duo You Want Fox are Natalie Caulton (bass/vocals) and Colette Elton (drums/vocals). After forming in early 2015, they released their debut LP ‘You Can’t Sit With Us’ in 2016 and have now signed with Reckless Yes – releasing their latest single ‘Liar Liar’ in March . James Auton caught up with them amid the press merry-go-round.
For those who don’t know, how did You Want Fox get together?
Natalie: “Well, we’ve known each other for about 13 years and been in a few bands together.”
Colette: “We were in bands with each other for that whole time without a break and we’d talked about doing something a bit more dirty pop, a bit more melodic and we just thought why not.”
You said The Smears were a punk band, but you’re moulding more hard rock with pop sensibilities now. Did you have a blueprint for how you wanted to sound?
N: “We like a lot of the same stuff, so we always send each other new songs that we like and when we go on long journeys we’ve got playlists on that we both sing a long to, so we’ve got very similar tastes. We talked about it and we knew what ideas we wanted to bring to You Want Fox so it all happened very easily didn’t it?”
C: “Yeah, we knew exactly what we wanted to do and did have some ideas initially.”
…and from then it was pretty organic?
C: “Yeah, we’ve embraced our sound now and we’re just running with it, we’re getting more creative, especially with the new stuff we’re writing now.”
N: “I think at first we were a bit worried and nervous that our old fans wouldn’t like us as much as we weren’t punk – we had quite a large fan base in The Smears – but now we’re happy to have moved sideways from that and we’re just enjoying it so much and there’s a new crowd at gigs and we seem to be hitting a younger fan base, which is really nice. It’s good.”
Did you decide it was just going to be you two in You Want Fox or did you have a plan to get more members?
N: “Do you know what, me and Colette just work so well together, we are tight and we have fun and it’s never a chore.”
C: “We never really thought about it to be honest, we just played along and it sounded so full.”
N: “We did make an extra effort to learn how to sing and play the instruments as we’d never done that before and it was quite difficult at first but now we’ve done it for a while and we can do it quite well and use the harmonies so we don’t actually need more instruments.”
C: “We looked a lot into how to make our sound big and fat onstage so it didn’t fall flat live with it being just bass and drums. We did a lot of research and had a lot of people giving us advise which was really nice and we honed our sound that way.”
N: “It took us about a year, but it’s right.”
Especially with ‘Liar, Liar’ comparisons can be drawn with bands like Royal Blood, as it is a bit of a departure from songs like ‘Queen Bee’ and ‘Bad Girls’ from the first record. It’s much more hard rock with pop harmonies – is this the direction you are heading in?
C: “We’ve got about half the new album written, and thinking about what we’ve got so far, there is a different spin on what we have been doing, but it’s still very much our sound and there are always going to be elements of harder rock, dirtier rock within that, but we’ve definitely still got the pure pop songs coming through, the quirky little songs. There are so many things that influence it, they’ll always come through no matter what.”
Are you recording yet or is it still at the writing stage of the new album?
N: “We are going to be heading into the studio again on the 1st April to get the first four tracks of the album recorded and then the rest we still have to write so we are about half way through. ‘Liar Liar’ will be on the album of course.”
Do you do any of your writing in the studio? Is it a good way of working the songs out when you are in there? Do they change when you’re in there?
C: “No, it’s very much written before, the only thing I would say we do is when we have the tracks down and the main vocal recorded we hear loads of different harmonies, so the layered harmonies are added whilst we’re recording.”
It’s one of the main stand out features of your sound, the harmonies, is it something you really worked on?
C: “I think it’s down to really embracing our sound. We are probably not afraid to
try new things, putting new spins on tracks and we’re a bit braver now. We like our pop and our harmonies, and as we sing in the car and in the shower it comes from that growing up listening to various kinds of music and it’s there anyway, when we are writing stuff you can hear where we want to go with it, often one of us will say I’ve thought of this harmony and the other will already have thought of it. We’re quite in tune. We are quite a bit braver so that will be reflected in the new album.”
Whose influencing you at the moment? Is the pop a nostalgic thing?
N: “I’m loving Sleigh Bells right now, they’re very similar, you know, there’s two of them, you have the heavy guitars and the drum beats. Lovely melodic vocals and harmonies, I think they’re absolutely fantastic. There’s so many influences.”
C: “I listen to a lot of Skindred, it’s a staple, but obviously they are very very different to us , but it’s strange as you can pick out things from what you listen to but you might not sound like it but it’s what ever inspires you to make music, it’s great to draw from a lot of different genres and ideas.”
The video for the single is out now… it’s very classic, retro pop stylistically. Was it you that came up with that?
N: “That wasn’t our idea actually, we’d gone in to a studio to do a plain white background video and the guys shooting it had an idea to it like Pop Art, which we were happy to roll with. We’re quite open to people’s ideas and go with the moment, it was quite fun.”
C: “I think we just knew that we’d done the ‘Bad Girls’ video that was with instruments in a studio, and the ‘Queen Bee’ one when we were out and about at the funfair, so with this one we thought no instruments and see what happens. If you look at all our videos they are all completely different.”
You play the bass, Natalie, but on Liar, Liar it sounds like a guitar. Is that affects pedals or is it a guitar?
N: No I’m not playing the guitar, what I do is I have a split signal into both bass and guitar amps and on the guitar amp I use a POG pedal or an octave pedal and then I put distortion on the bass amp so it gives it a deep, heavy sound. That’s basically my set up. It works live as you need something extra to make it sound like there is something else there or it would sound flat. It’s a good setup, but it took a long time to get there, trial and error.
Have you had the misfortune to experience the sexist, patronising side of the music business as a female duo?
C: “I think in the past, yes, definitely, in the punk scene.”
N: “But since we’ve been You Want Fox, I don’t think we’ve had anything. Nothing live anyway. We’ve not had any issues with people shouting “Show us ya tits” which we used to get quite a lot. We’ve not had any issues with being under paid because we’re savvy business women and we know our shit now, and with past experiences we know how to deal with things.”
C: “Touch wood with You Want Fox it’s all been positive, we’ve had such good feedback from everybody, people have been so supportive, everyone we have worked with so far. Between us we’ve got it covered anyway.”
N: “I don’t know if things haven’t just moved on over the years, i’d like to think they have, I know it still happens but it shouldn’t, but we’ve managed to avoid it.”
Are there plans to tour this year?
C: “We’ve actually got some dates in America at the end of April beginning of May we’re going to be doing some shows in LA, which we’ve only just announced. We’re going to be a festival over here in the summer but it just depends how much time we are going to spend in the studio.”