Fox Jaw are ready for blow-out gig in Cork!

The Cork guitarist with the Limerick outfit jaws on about their new album. Don O'Mahony finds out more ahead of their Cork show.
Fox Jaw are ready for blow-out gig in Cork!
Fox Jaw: Breathe in the Strange sees them play with more of a swagger.

The Cork guitarist with the Limerick outfit jaws on about their new album. Don O'Mahony finds out more ahead of their Cork show.

Before he became a member of Fox Jaw, Cork-raised guitarist Manolis Pates served time in a local Limerick punk band called Fun Bobby. He was invited to join the outfit formerly known as Fox Jaw Bounty Hunters prior to the release of their second album, 2014’s Ghost’s Parade. Perhaps it was an inevitable move as all the members of Fox Jaw had been part of Fun Bobby at one time or another.

Fox Jaw: Set for Cork.
Fox Jaw: Set for Cork.

“We had never all been in it at the same time but we had all had periods of our lives where we were in this band together,” says Pates, who was drafted in as an extra guitarist in order to properly recreate the guitar parts on the album live, as well as contribute some keys. Pates more or less joined at the same time as Kieran J Sims, who was replacing the previous bass player.

Now that the band are properly bedded in as a quintet it’s clear their recently released third album Breathe in the Strange sees the introduction of new elements into the band’s sound.

Pates is in agreement with this assessment. “Before we sat down to write the album we did spend a bit of time discussing what direction we felt like we’re moving in,” he shares.

Stemming from these discussions was the decision by frontman Ronan Mitchell to move away from the instrumentation side in order to focus more on his vocal performance and delivery.

“So essentially when we wrote the album we would have done it with a very different set-up than would have existed previously,” points out Pates.

“So it was more bare bones. We were very much focused on the songs needing to sound good played in a room together live rather than they’ll sound good after we record them when we do all the bells and whistles. So we very much focused on, ‘Let’s get the songs sounding as good as possible in the practice room with the set-up and with the limitations we have. And let’s just work within that framework as much as we possibly could and make the best song possible in that scenario.’

“So the songs did come out a little bit differently, but we do definitely feel that they have garnered a cohesiveness from doing that, that they certainly all feel like they’re from the same headspace, certainly, as well as the same period.”

Breathe in the Strange sees Fox Jaw play with more of a swagger.

“I guess the line-up augmentation as well has had a lot to do with that,” posits Pates. “We’re coming at it from a different place. And maybe the way Ronan might start playing a song might be different to the way I might pick up that same song and go with it. I think the change in line-up has really driven us into new little avenues like that.

“I suppose the band has maybe a reputation as being a broody rock band but we’ve always had very upbeat songs in there. So I think we’re just going to continue in that and developing it more rather than bringing in a complete new element there.”

If for the most part Breathe in the Strange does its best to dispel accusations of broody rock band-ness, closing tack ‘Shadowland’ dials it up to 11 for its 11½ minutes duration.

Fox Jaw: Playing De Barra's.
Fox Jaw: Playing De Barra's.

“Interestingly,” Manolis notes, “that actually was a very old song that Ronan had. It was a normal length song, and we all really liked [it] but we never felt like we knew what to do with it. So we just started playing around with the presentation of it, and then we suggested, why don’t we play it as a shoegaze type song? Or why don’t we play it as this type of song?

“So we trialled different methods and eventually what kind of coalesced is the song that you hear on the album. And it’s quite brooding; it’s quite expansive; it’s quite cinematic; it’s epic; it’s shoegazery; it’s grandiose and everything. But I think it would probably be one of our favourites in the band. Certainly to play, but as well with the collaborative effort we put into arranging that. I think that song really was an anchor point of the album for us and it’s something that we all see as being one of the highlights off the new record.”

It can’t possibly be played at any time in a live set other than at the end. It’s an approach to which Fox Jaw have already given some thought.

“On this series of dates we’re hoping to just go out and just play the album,” announces Pates.

“We sequenced it in the way we felt that a live representation should be sequenced, so playing it in that sequence makes perfect sense to us. And given that the first two songs [on the record] have been singles (‘Madeline’ and ‘Sun Goes Sideways’) people will hopefully know those as soon as we’re out of the gate. And then we will finish up obviously with the last song, ‘Shadowlands.’”

They’ll also be playing some more familiar numbers, but Cork city audiences will have to wait a while longer as they make De Barra’s of Clonakilty the only Cork date of this tour so far.

“We love doing De Barra’s” declares Pates. “They’re just absolute stars down there.”

Fox Jaw play De Barra’s on Friday, February 28.

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