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The Oxes

An Interview with Guitarist Natalio Fowler

The Oxes, a Math Rock trio out of Baltimore, are known for playing wireless shows that enable them to engage the audience up close and personal. SF Station had a chance to speak with Oxes guitarist Nat as he hid in an Austin, Texas hotel bathroom. He had gathered substantial evidence that some other hotel guests were trying to find him and that he and his other band-mates were unwelcome in these parts. Despite his distress, he was able to reveal some of his thoughts behind their unique approach to live music, John Peel, the music industry's new form of packaging (or no packaging) and John Bunnell, yes, Sheriff John Bunnell.

SF Station (SFS): What is the strangest or best reaction you've gotten from playing in the crowd?

Nat: I really like it when somebody just doesn't care. Maybe it was last time we were here in Austin, it was sometime a while ago when both me and the other guitarist ran outside and these two jaded people were sitting there and said "Oh, wow. Look they're wireless." We both just started laughing really hard. It made us laugh. Most of the time I'm not even paying attention to the reaction of people. I'm just thinking about what I can do next. Like if I see a couch and a ladder and I think of a way to pull the couch up the ladder and maybe get people to help. So I'm not really noticing how people react.

SFS: Is it true you had recorded earlier last year or the year before with John Peel?

Nat: Yeah we've done it twice actually, well only one time with the actual John Peel. The first time we did it live he was in a little DJ booth and we were right outside the DJ booth and there was some song from some other band and then he said [in an English accent] "Okay, now we have Oxes." And we played like six songs. The second time it was just a session just recorded, we took our time to set up everything. Recorded, engineered it with these two engineers and it was going to air on October 27th and, you know, John Peel died on the 26th. He died right before, it was really really strange for us because we were just near the end of our tour (in Europe) and I got a text message from my wife saying, "John Peel is dead." Was the news big in the United States? Because in Europe everyone knew.

SFS: I think it was big in the music industry but I bet in Europe it was just big news overall in all respects, I think maybe they treated it differently here. Since the last time you traveled here, say three years ago, do you think the music world has changed a lot? Do you think it's a major change from then to now?

Nat: Yeah, I think it's a major change. I don't know why, maybe more internet, more downloading music. Trying stuff out without attaching it to a record cover or a type of genre to the music. It's just like, "Hey, my friend likes this, I'll download this off of him." As an example, that's really changed how I've listened to things in the past couple years. To give an extreme example, I don't think anything like Animal Collective would have brought in 200 or 300 people per show in Baltimore 4 years ago. I remember looking at Helmet's third album Betty and thinking, "This looks like a piece of shit!" But maybe if I downloaded it maybe I would have thought, "This is kind of jazzy, this is kind of cool."

SFS: If everyone was wireless would you go out and buy as many cords as

Yeah! Definitely. We did it because no one would do it. The only time you saw it used was by Steve Steven's or by a high school talent show. One of the funniest things I ever saw, we went to this high school talent show every year in my town because it was really funny. This one high school metal band came out on stage and they were playing with just the rhythm section and the singer but you heard this guitar wailing these leads. Then the guitarist ran in from the back of the auditorium with his wireless and he was so proud of it, (Nat makes short guitar wailing noises), and when I thought of this band, I thought, "That was so stupid" and that no one wants to look like that. And it was football player too with this wireless guitar wailing his leads running through the auditorium up to this stage to show everybody, "Look, it's me!"

SFS: So it seems like everyone is doing a DVD, do you guys have anything
in the works?

Nat: Yeah we do, we've been talking about it on our website a little bit. Right now we're still looking for raw materials for it. We've been touring for 6 years now and people have been videotaping us the whole time and I know there are so many tapes out there that we don't have. I want to make a DVD that's actually interesting to watch more than one time. I want it to resemble John Bunnell's worst traffic chases instead of a concert video. If I could get John Bunnell, the host of World's Worst Car chases. He would always have these spots that would have a police scene and he would be walking in front of it and say [with a TV announcer voice], "Some people decided to take a ride when they were drinking." Then they would show the actual footage. Then he would say something like...a terrible pun. I was watching it while we were playing last night. I stood on the bar and was watching it with the captions on.

SFS: Is there anything you're exited about that's coming up that you'd like to mention?

Nat: Yeah, I'm really excited about this new EP finally out in another month because we recorded it a year ago. Everything took so long getting it mastering and the artwork and everything took very long. I think May 2nd will be the official release date but you may be able to get it sooner online, through Monitor.

There you have it! Oxes are out with a new disc at the start of May, back in the Western half of the U.S., and stopping in SF at the Bottom of the Hill the 27th of March.