“Everything is changing / and this is how it’s gotta be” is a refrain in British pop artist Foxes’ brand new single “Friends in the Corner” — and shaping up to be a major theme of 2020. The song explores moments of loneliness, confusion, and grief; feelings we’ve collectively come to know all too well.
The music video, also out today, evokes pangs of nostalgia for the carefree moments we let slip through our fingers. It plays out like a montage of an indie film, documenting a heartbreaking journey through loss. Foxes appears only briefly playing a tattoo artist — a minor character in her own creation.
You likely remember Foxes from her Grammy-winning vocal performance on Zedd’s 2012 hit “Clarity”, or from her pulsating 2014 dance track “Youth”, which appeared on an episode of CW smash, Gossip Girl. Foxes, whose real name is Louisa Rose Allen, was thrust into the grinding machine that is the pop music industry. After two albums’ worth of writing, releasing, and touring, she needed a break.
Her absence was certainly felt — just check the YouTube comments of any Foxes music video and you’ll spot hoards of fans begging for the singer’s return. But if her recent releases have been any indication, the hiatus was well worth the wait.
“I really got to the core of Foxes again and the music that felt very authentic and almost quite wild and free,” she tells me over Zoom, the central form of communication these days. “I’m really glad that I did it because it allowed me to have that freedom.”
Check out our conversation below as well as the breathtaking video for “Friends in the Corner.”
Musicians have had to get really creative during this time, including yourself. I loved your quarantine-style video for “Love Not Loving You” — I thought that was such a creative way to do something really beautiful in these weird circumstances. What was that experience like and where did the concept come from?
It was a really, really odd time. We were kind of all set to do a music video and then suddenly COVID happened and we were all locked in our houses. It really makes you think outside the box. And I was thinking, ‘I either put something out right now or I don’t and I wait.’ And I guess I didn’t know when the world was gonna sort of heal itself or get back to normal. So yeah, I think the first idea was that I would shoot the entire thing on my iPhone, which, I’m terrible with iPhones anyway, so that was quite scary, but I was up for the challenge.
We didn’t really have any options to have other women or other things or other people really; there was just kind of me and an iPhone. And so we decided to overlay these classical paintings of women from the past, with the idea that they’d always just been painted by men and they were kind of seen as the Muse and not really seen as an actual interesting, creative [person]. So I guess I wanted to make quite a tongue-in-cheek video in that way.
Your new song “Friends in the Corner” really shows your growth as an artist over the past few years. You’re putting out songs that aren’t just about love or romantic relationships, but about growing up, friendships. What can you share about how that song came to be and the direction you’ve been going in?
This sort of record does feel really different in that sense. It’s about real experiences I’ve had that haven’t just come from one thing like a breakup. I guess I’m at the age as well, where maybe shit in my life kind of felt a bit more real [laughs]. And I guess I just kind of started writing about it. And that was quite like cathartic in a way for me.
With ‘Friends in the Corner’ — my best friend that I grew up with [and I] got to an age where we kind of started to grow apart. The “friends in the corner” line is because I just remember losing him at this festival. And he was the kind of guy that would never really show if he was upset or show any of his vulnerability or anything like that. And I remember kind of finding him the next day and he was just super vulnerable and genuinely felt like he was in his own corner of anxiety and emotion. And I was too and I remember just thinking like — it sounds corny because it’s in the song — but I was just thinking ‘Shit, we all just need to tell each other we really need each other.’ Because life just got really real and we’re not kids anymore. We’re grown ups and there’s real stuff going on.
It was nice to be able to write a song about a friendship in that way and the kind of transition from being in your 20s to turning 30 I guess. And just how different life can suddenly feel.
Your late 20s is such a massive shift in life that not enough people really talk about. Stuff starts getting real and you have to really think about where you’re going and you really reflect on your friendships. It’s refreshing to see a song about that. It’s something that I really think a lot of people can relate to, especially right now when most of us are separated from our friends. It’s hard to be isolated in that way.
It’s been one of those strange ones where I wrote the song a while ago but it feels very of-now in the sense that you said, isolation and that kind of loneliness. So it felt very real.
I remember reading an interview of yours from a few years ago, you said you were already working on your third album and that you wanted it to be more stripped back. What was your mindset going into this new music in terms of sound?
I always want [the production] to feel just as emotional as what I’m saying. Almost like, if you were to take out the lyrics, you’d be able to still feel what the song is about. Which I guess is why I love soundtracks and things like that. But going into this record, I think what I really wanted to do was choose three or five instruments or sounds that I would stick to.
I didn’t really go into the studio first. I did a lot of the new music without any music to begin with. It mostly started with words. So I think maybe that gave me a bit more space to then be able to build the track in a less frantic way.
I think that’s really evident, especially with your song “Woman” that you recently released. It’s just piano and vocals; it’s really raw and filled with emotion. It’s obviously such an important message that sadly, every woman can relate to. Why did now feel like the right time to speak out about something like this?
There’s a lot of space right now for people to be able to talk about their experiences and talk about injustices. So I think I actually, in a sense, felt scared to release it but also encouraged. I won’t lie to you, it was a quite difficult decision to release it because it’s so personal, but also knowing whether it’s the right thing to be saying right now. But the message overall is about feeling the courage to speak out about anything you don’t feel is right. So, yeah, I think if it wasn’t going to be now I don’t know when it would be.
Right. There are definitely other things going on in the world, but all of these injustices are linked; they all come from a similar place. And so I think it makes sense to talk about these things right now in any way. You just speak your own truth.
Yeah, that’s so true. I think speaking your truth is really powerful. And I hope if I can release something that is personal and be honest about being a bit scared or nervous to release it, maybe someone else will have the courage to do the same.
Absolutely. I want to talk more about your hiatus; you’ve obviously been away for a bit and people have been anticipating your return. What has the time away meant to you and what made you make the decision to come back? I’m sure that’s a complicated question.
Bear with me [laughs]. When I look back, the core reasons to step away from it all were just because I had all of my life to write the first album; which was great and it felt super authentic and I loved it and it was written in a bedroom. It really felt like me. And then I think what happens when you sign with a major label or you get into kind of that very fast machine, you do feel this huge urgency of being able to stay on this ride. For me, it was difficult because I quite like to take the time to really process stuff. So writing the second album definitely felt rushed for me. I just remember going, ‘Okay, I definitely need to reassess what’s happened in the last seven years.’ Just to get back in touch with that person who signed a deal at 18 and was writing music with a guitar. I think I’d felt I’d come a bit away from that.
I did a lot of traveling and I still did a lot of writing. I think what was also super important to me in that time was finding a team around me that was totally right and that was chosen by me. Kind of taking a lot of the control back that maybe I’d felt that I’d lost. So yeah, I was just taking back the reins, which was just really empowering and inspiring. It allowed the creativity to flow much better.
That makes total sense. Has returning to such a fast-moving industry been difficult? I feel like even in the past few years things have changed so much, especially in terms of social media. Are there any major shifts you’ve seen so far?
Absolutely. There [used to be] a real mystery to music. There still is, but…I don’t think I’m ever going to be an artist that can give everything in terms of my whole life. I’m not the kind of person that could wake up and be on Stories constantly or Instagram Live.
In the time I took away, I also let go of a lot of pressure to be super mainstream or like, the biggest popstar in the world. I think that was a huge part of finding some peace within this industry. I think it’s really important to know what you’re doing it for. And I’m just doing it because I want to put out really good music and it’s what I love doing and it makes me happy and if anyone’s listening then that’s brilliant.
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photo / Hollie Fernando
story / Catherine Santino