It’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that a dead cat is responsible for the Fox and the Law’s career.
Well, okay that’s stretching the truth quite a bit but that statement sure would make for an interesting start to a PR backstory pitch. As for the real story behind Fox and the Law, or at least the part of the story that doesn’t involve a dead cat, it begins with Guy Keltner.
The band – Keltner on vocals and guitar, guitarist Ryan Granger, bassist Jeff Fairbanks and drummer Dan O’Neil – formed after Keltner left his duties in the band Shotty, a young group that saw relative success early in its career after making it to the semifinals round of EMPSFM’s Sound Off! battle of the bands.
After five years of playing in Shotty, Keltner made the decision to leave the band to focus on his own music and formed Fox and the Law, which has a straightforward rock sound as opposed to Shotty’s pop-friendly leanings.
“It came to a point that after five years it was tough for us to split up songwriting duties. I wanted to go in a different direction and do my own thing. We’re all still good friends,” Keltner said of his former bandmates.
Fast forward a few years later and Keltner found himself in another battle of the bands earlier this year when Fox and the Law won Hard Rock Seattle’s battle of the bands tournament in February. In an interesting turn of events, Shotty was one of the bands Fox and the Law bested in the Hard Rock competition.
“That was a really good break for us,” said Keltner. “It’s not that things were going particularly horrible for us or anything, but Seattle can be a tough town for a rock band.”
For Fox and the Law Keltner takes inspiration from various sources, including one of the most successful garage rock bands of the past decade – The White Stripes.
“Jack White has sort of been like my hero. Being a guy in my 20s I’ve been following his entire career and found inspiration from not the way he plays but also the way he carries himself and his attitude,” Keltner said.
The Jack White influence is pretty clear when listening to the Fox and the Law’s spirited songs with their hard-hitting garage rock edge. As for the songwriting, Keltner turns to soul and Motown for guidance.
“There’s not much of a difference between soul music and pop music from any era. To me what makes soul music soul music is the passion and you can hear it in the vocals. Motown and soul music has really helped me develop a songwriting skillset and given me a lot of confidence in my voice,” he said.
Being a younger band Fox and the Law also takes inspiration from more modern groups, such as defunct Nashville punks, and Thurston Moore favorites, Be Your Own Pet.
“The attitude of that band – there’s something going on,” Keltner said. “There’s an edge to their energy that I love. You can’t fake it. It’s this nasty attitude. If you watch clips of them performing it doesn’t look like they are bored. They tear it up and look like they are having as much fun as you are. I try to bring that every time we play.”
After winning the Hard Rock battle Fox and the Law took its show on the road, which is where the dead cat part of the story comes into play.
“In Denver we ran out of money for gas and it was a real low point. We didn’t know how the hell we were going to get home,” Keltner explained. “And then the craziest thing happens. There was a hit and run on a cat right in front of us and then this girl comes out screaming hysterically that her cat is dead. It was horrible”
Meanwhile, Keltner and his bandmates not only had to figure out how they were going to get home, they also had a gig to play that night.
“The venue that night was this real divey bar and we weren’t even sure we would make any money to pay for gas or food, or if we would even be able to leave Denver. But it turns out that a Colorado Rockies game got out right when we were supposed to play and the place ended up being packed.
Keltner said experiences like what happened in Denver, dead cats and all, are what makes him want to continue to make music.
“It showed me that no matter how bad things get things can end up turning out for the better. It was definitely a reaffirming experience that made me want to keep making music and keep this band going forward,” he said. “This band has been through a lot in the past year that I see big things happening for us,”
Fox and the Law performs at the High Dive tonight for a Guerrilla Candy Presents show that also features Blood Orange Paradise and the Spinning Whips. ($7, 9 p.m.) You can download the band’s single “Unbeliveable” above. Dead cat not included.