THE opening strains of ‘Thread the Needle’, the first single from the much anticipated debut album from Limerick rock band Fox Jaw Bounty Hunters, rings with a chillingly dark tone, the newly expanded four piece cleverly employing an age-old musical structure to set the scene on their newly released single.
A dark, bluesy slice of harmonica driven rock that sends shivers up the spine, the single is cleverly intended to flag the thinking behind the upcoming album’s title, ‘The Devil in Music’.
When you find yourself discussing the historical roots of a chord structure in an interview, you know you are dealing with a level of thinking beyond the banal, crash-bam-wallop of some everyday rock bands.
It seems that the affecting opening note on ‘Thread the Needle’, as Fox Jaw drummer Shane Serrano explains, is a ‘tritone’ or augmented fourth, essentially a collection of notes or a musical interval that spans three whole tones. This tone has assumed a historical reference due to its supposed “evil” connotative meaning in Western culture, which saw it referred to as ‘diabolus in musica’ - or, you guessed it, the devil in music.
“On Thread the Needle, as soon as the full band kicks in, the first chord that is played is a ‘tritone’,” explains Shane, local rocker, filmmaker, magazine editor.
“That combination of notes, back in medieval days, because of how it sounded, got banned by the church, and was referred to as ‘diabolus in musica’. The chord also actually appears a few times across the album. Although it is also known as the ‘Devil’s Chord’, we thought that sounded a bit metal-tastic, so I guess the Devil in Music felt right,” he explains.
“That is one of the main reasons for choosing Thread the Needle as the first single, as a lead up introduction as to why the album is called The Devil in Music.”
The decision to stay away from metal territory suits the band’s style, which is evocative of the louche, scuzzy tones of Josh Homme’s Queens of the Stone Age, but contains elements of Woodstock-era Joe Cocker and other reference points.
The band impressed with their previous releases, the seductive, bluegrass-riddled ‘Homeward Bound and Gagged’, and more recently, with the bourbon soaked, ‘Congress of Oddities’, marking them as ‘ones to watch’ in several quarters, including these pages.
But there has been a delay with the release of this album, an intervening period of time that has convinced Serrano and his mates Ronan Mitchell and Morgan Nolan, who formed the energetic Fox Jaw from the ashes of previous local punk bands, Fun Bobby and Natweed, to recruit a fourth member, local bass player Sean O’Mahoney.
“When the album comes out and people hear it, if we were still a three piece trying to carry off what is going on in the album, you would sense that you weren’t doing it justice in a live scenario,” explains Serrano of the album, which was recorded with Irish super-producer Owen Lewis.
“We started recording in August. We set aside two weeks and it ended up taking five months,” laughs Serrano.
“Owen did our first EP so it kind of came full circle when we went back into the studio with him and started recording. He played a very big role and has a lot of ideas. He would stop us and make sure we were doing everything perfectly.”
“We went into do it as a three piece, but when you get into the studio you get carried away with layers and instrumentation and ideas, and that is why we have expanded to a four piece,” he adds.
The result promises to be very special indeed given the band’s previous offerings, but Shane says they will be keeping themselves grounded, walking rather than running, at least initially.
“We are taking the view that you shouldn’t do anything until you are 100 percent ready,” he says.
“Nearly everything is in place now and we have never invested as much time and money and blood sweat and tears into something before, so we have to give it as much as we can. You only release a first album once.”
Fox Jaw Bounty Hunters play in Baker Place on Saturday, February 12. Thread the Needle is out now, The Devil in Music will be released in March.