Brothers Do It Better: In conversation with Bantam Foxes’ Sam and Collin McCabe
Twin brothers Sam and Collin McCabe of New Orleans-based band Bantam Foxes are men on a mission: to make the rock and roll music they want to hear. Having played together for almost twenty years, they are most assuredly up to the task. In anticipation for their upcoming concert at Banks Street Bar on Thursday, March 23, I sat down to talk with them about music and how they go about making it.
Where does the name “Bantam Foxes” come from and what were some of the rejects before that?
Collin McCabe: We were listening to a lot of Beck at that point and there's this song 'Hot Wax' by him with this line, 'Silver foxes looking for romance.' So we were like, 'Oh, we want to name it Silver Foxes!' and then we look it up and there's…well, there’s a lot of dad cover bands named Silver Foxes. There's a lot of them. Actually, it's not even like there's just one. There's Silver Foxes U.S., Silver Foxes 2. Like, it's a band and it's called Silver Foxes 2 with the number 'two.'
Sam McCabe: The Silver Foxes situation, I think, is a lot of dads that really don't know how to use Google. Which is more commonplace than I would like to think.
Collin: So, we didn't go with that. Our former drummer Jared is pretty into boxing and we're all pretty small dudes. I stand the tallest in the band at five-foot six and a half. On a good day.
Sam: We got a regular Yao Ming over here!
Collin: So, you know we picked the small boxing word that no one seems to be able to pronounce. And we went with that and then we couldn't change it because we started it that way.
Sam: And, David, I do commend you on not saying 'Ban-tan' or whatever. We get that a lot, we've got 'Batman' a lot. You'd be surprised at how seemingly difficult a two syllable word with mostly consonants is to pronounce. We get 'Phantom Boxes' a lot. Well, that's a joke that we took on. Around Halloween time, I'll change our name on Twitter to 'Phantom Boxes.' You know, because it's spooky!
If you had to describe your sound to people in just one sentence, how would each of you describe it?
Sam: I like to say we lean more towards kind of garage pop at this point. A lot of the stuff that we've been working on now is definitely a little bit more raw. We just recorded an EP with some friends of ours down in Houma and it's definitely going to be a little bit of a different sound, I think, but not different like, 'Oh, they're taking an ambient turn to the left here.' We're not Radiohead. It focuses on real songwriting aspects while not trying to overdo it.
Collin: If you wanted to take a slightly simpler approach to that question, you might say we've been told before that we sound like if Cold War Kids liked to use a lot of fuzz pedals. People call it power pop, people call us garage pop…that kind of stuff. I love pop music. But, I love pop music, more so than I should probably willingly admit for hipster cred, but it's an important aspect of it I think, you know?
Sam: I can see what you're getting at. I mean, I like Katy Perry, but I also thoroughly enjoyed Kiss.
I think it's good! You have a sound that's evolving and you have these diverse interests and are trying to bring them together.
Collin: Yeah, absolutely. On a few songs we actually will switch over and Sam will play bass and I have an electric mandolin, but I will run it through a bunch of pedals and make cool noises. Both of those songs are really 'pop-y.' I like to focus on simple melodies, man. And just because it's easier to digest doesn't make it bad. That's the way I've always looked at pop music. When it's more straightforward it's more easily accessible.
What do you guys have coming up?
Collin: So, the 23rd of March, we've got a show at Banks Street Bar with some friends of ours from Chicago called North by North. And then, a week later we leave on tour. We're going through Texas and up into St. Louis and Chicago and then back down almost all the way to the East Coast and then back over here in twelve-days with one day off so that will be cool. Yeah, I just confirmed up all those shows so it's going to be a really rad couple of weeks
Sam: And then at the end of the spring beginning of the summer, we're going to be putting out a new EP that we just recorded and that we don't have a name for yet. I literally am getting rough mixes in my email as we speak so it's not done, I don't have a name for it, I don't have a release date for it— but when it is available, you can find it at bantamfoxes.com.
What's it like being in a band with your brother? How is the dynamic for that?
Sam: Well, we don’t live together anymore, which is probably really good. Up until last fall when I got married we had never— other thank like, when we were at Loyola with new roommates— we had never ever not lived together. So, we do OK now. I mean we argue a little bit. I mean— you ever pay attention to like the dudes in Oasis? Those guys are like a much more exaggerated version [of us].
Collin: I don't really call you a potato.
Sam (laughing): There's much worse things that you’ve called me.
Collin: That's the big one right now, potato. It's like the headline because he keeps doing it even on live TV. But anyway, now we do OK.
Sam: Yeah, [Collin and I] get along for the most part.
Collin: And that's not the important part. We’ve been playing music together for… I mean shoot, we're going to be twenty-five here shortly. So, I guess 17 years almost. It's to a point where we don't totally have to know where everything's going. At the same time, I can really read off of where Sam's going with his guitar and the same thing from him with me on bass or whatever I'm playing on a certain song. We know sort-of the idiosyncrasies of each other's playing styles and that makes it easier to write together, easier to perform live together…it makes it more of a one-unit sort of thing even though we're two different people. So it's…it's a good thing.
Sam: Yeah, no concerns about that. I'm not going to say anything better. Go ahead. Go ahead. That's our stop!
You can find out more about Bantam Foxes at their website, www.bantamfoxes.com. They can also be found on Facebook, Twitter and their music can be found on Spotify, Itunes and Bandcamp.
*This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Kelley Crawford is a professor, writer, mentor, dancer, and constant questioner. If you would like to contact Kelley Crawford, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.