In the wake of seemingly irreversible damage that the country endured this past year, Portland, Oregon’s Fox and Bones, sees an opportunity to rebuild with a newfangled blueprint of society. The folk-pop duo premieres their new single, “A Changing of the Guard”—a timely call to action, heralding their forthcoming album. Though vaguely political, this message serves as a beacon of hope, ushering in a whole new post-2020 world.
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“The pandemic shook us to our core,” says Scott Gilmore. “But it’s allowed everyone to build their worlds back up. So the idea is let’s build it back in a way that is more mentally and physically sustainable.”
In a moment when power is literally changing hands in the American government, “A Changing of the Guard” highlights the positive energy of transition. “We want to restart by reaching across the aisle and connecting with people who have differing views—really start to see other people as human again,” says Sarah Vitort. “These old relics of separation, disenfranchisement, and oppression need to be a thing of the past. We want to welcome more equality, acceptance, and openness to all ways of being.”
This fits thematically into Fox and Bones’ upcoming record, American Alchemy—their third album since their 2017 debut. The 11-track collection feels like a culmination for the band. For the last five years, they’ve combed through the interworkings of their sound, seeking something as cohesive as this project.
“I’ve always been interested in the idea of alchemy turning basic metals into a rare and precious metal, like gold,” Gilmore explains. “When Sarah and I met five years ago, we didn’t have anything. Together, we’ve worked hard to create something out of nothing. I feel like that’s the American dream.”
The idea of the “American Dream’ has come and gone from popular acceptance. It’s unclear how widely attainable this vision of success is for all who seek it. Recognizing this, Vitort perceives American Alchemy as a rebirth of what that dream was.
“This vision is more inclusive to all types of people,” she explains. “It’s a dream for people like us, pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps and trying to scrape by in a world that doesn’t really support creatives. It’s a new way of seeing that.”
Most of these songs were penned pre-pandemic. Yet, their messages, like “A Changing of the Guard,” land with eerily suited timing.
Pushing the project off, Fox and Bones found time to create a few songs amid chaos. Songs like “Houses of Sand” and “Be Born in the Ashes of Your Aging” capture their experience. The duo created both tracks in the same space and time, but landed on separate ends of the sonic spectrum. The latter is an acoustic tune penned by Scott. It’s a brazen contrast with Vitort’s anthemic “Houses of Sand,” which is backed by a full gospel choir.
These contradictory tracks meld seamlessly into American Alchemy’s soundscape. With producer Matt Greco’s help at The Rye Room, Fox and Bones’ songs, crafted from raw singer-songwriter tracks, evolve into full-bodied vignettes that fuse traditional storytelling and neo-folk.
Like their revitalized vision of the “American Dream,” this record marries the old with the new. The tones, sounds, and colors selected for the album evoke a retro feel that redefines what it means to make music in a modern world. Fox and Bones focus on lyricism from past and present influences to tell stories about what they would like to see in the future.
Listen to the premiere of “A Changing of the Guard” below. Fox and Bones’ upcoming record, American Alchemy is due out in May via Dutch Records.