Foxfeather —a Longmont local band — released their second full length album, The Nature of Things through Boulder-based Octave Records.
The album leads off with the track “24 Years,” a slow build of acoustic guitar and subtle bass behind vocalist Carly Ricks-Smith's rich, dulcet tones.
“We have a bunch of songs we wrote 15 years ago that we don’t really play anymore,” Ricks-Smith said. “But that one is always special and we’d break it out for the right moments. It’s a really special song for us, and this felt like the right album to put it on.”
Laura Stratton and Carly Ricks-Smith have been writing music together since days long past, the pair having attended the University of Colorado Boulder together in 2005. The duo officially became Foxfeather in 2013, and through relationships, jobs, tours and a global pandemic the two are still nearly inseparable.
“The long-term future is always unknown, always changing,” Stratton said. “But I’ve always said that if everything goes well, I’ll be writing with Carly forever.”
To date, Foxfeather has put out one full length album, two extended play records, or EPs, and two singles. The Nature of Things is the first album its made with a professional label. The album was executive produced by Jessica Carson, director of Octave Records, singer for Clandestine Amigo and Longmont resident. Eben Grace of Grace Designs engineered and produced the album, as well as played guitar on some tracks, along with Octave’s Gus Skinas, Giselle Collazo. Jay Elliott, drummer and long-time engineer for Foxfeather joined the band on the album along with Blake Smith on guitar, Mark Dabrowski on bass, Oliver Jacobson on fiddle and Eric Moon on the organ.
“The album is so great,” Carson said. “I get the songs stuck in my head all the time.”
Carson was excited for the opportunities Octave Records presents for local acts like Foxfeather.
“For a person like me that loves our local scene and has been active in it for a long time, it’s so cool to have a high-definition label start in Boulder,” Carson said. “They have a global audience built in, so when local musicians, like Foxfeather, come in and record, their music gets sent all over the world. It’s such a unique addition to the existing music scene to have this outlet, not only the greatest high-definition recording you can make but then it gets a global audience. It’s a piece of the puzzle that will benefit the local musicians more than we know right now.”
“Working with a record label has been a different experience,” Stratton said. “Working with Gus Skinas and Paul McGowan, and the caliber of projects they’ve worked on in the past was really cool and reassuring.”
Skinas and McGowan, who operate Octave Records and high-definition audio company PS Audio, have worked with musical legends from Otis Taylor and Neil Young to world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma in their storied careers.
“It was humbling in a way, with where we’re at in the stage of our career, to be working with people that have also worked with idols of ours,” Stratton said. “To be recognized by people that have all this experience and knowledge in the industry, there’s no doubt in their mind what’s good or bad. So to be complimented by people who have worked with the best of the best, to have them enjoy our music and working with us was an honor.”
Across the album, the vocals trade with Stratton’s guitar. Stratton also offers up backing vocals, along with Kate Farmer, to provide vibrant Beharmonies. The album shifts between softer, quieter moments like “Lonely Feeling,” and driving, funky rockers like “Too Damn Small.”
Recording and producing an album during a global pandemic was a unique challenge for Foxfeather. To find someplace that had enough space for some social distancing and could still handle the intricacies of recording a studio album, Foxfeather reached out to Frank and Dorothy Vernon. The Vernons have a barn just north of Longmont that hosts private concerts.
“We started talking to Jessica Carson in the summer, looking at late summer or early fall to record. Octave Records is in a newer stage and we looked for places where it would be safe to record,” Ricks-Smith said. “The Vernons do these cool house shows, we’ve played at their barn before. We love the space, we can keep the doors open, it’s got high ceilings. So we reached out to Dorothy about it and she was really stoked for it.”
“The band was spread out for recording, with drums and bass on stage, lead guitar was over in the corner, Laura had her guitar in the bathroom and I was doing vocals in the hallways,” Ricks-Smith said.
Though there are some old songs the band put on the album, most of the music was written during the pandemic.
“It’s a new thing for us. For past albums, we’ve always had a collection and said let’s make this,” Ricks-Smith said. “This time it was, we’re going to make an album so let’s write some songs for it.”
“I was really inspired musically at the beginning of the pandemic,” Stratton said. “We both had this flood of ideas and songs came out pretty naturally.”
“At the beginning I was writing a lot of the emotions from the pandemic. As we’ve been working on this album and now after, I’ve relaxed again,” Ricks-Smith said. “But there’s so much energy, sadness, confusion, fear and gratitude that went into this last year, and I feel like it was channeled into the music.”
As the world starts to crawl out of the pandemic and open up a bit more, Foxfeather is getting ready to take the stage again. After a show at Boulder Theater on June 26, the band is back to weekly shows. Foxfeather’s next Longmont show will be part of the Longmont Museum’s Summer Concert series on July 29.
“We’re reinvigorated with the world opening up. We have some fun shows coming up,” Stratton said. “Festivals are always an exciting thing for us and we have a couple of those coming up this summer too.”
The ten-track album is available through Octave Records and the band’s website, both as a physical CD and a high-quality digital download. This is the first Foxfeather album or EP that isn’t available to stream on Spotify and other outlets, though that could change in the future.