Stone Cold Fox was forged in the fires of SUNY Purchase where leads Ariel Loh and Kevin Olken Henthorn were enrolled. Combining elements of Henthorn’s folk background with Loh’s extensive production experience, the band’s cinematic (Henthorn studied at film conservatory) indie-pop sound is at turns joyous and melancholy, and always infectious on debut EP The Young.
The band talked to Pop’stache about patriotism, hip hop instrumentals and what “home” means.
P’s: Ariel, you’ve played piano for over a decade, are you trained in classical or otherwise? Do you see that cross over into the band?
A: I started taking piano lessons when I was 8. Piano became a means for me to pursue music, but I never took it seriously. My piano skills eventually led me into making hip hop instrumentals in high school, which ultimately led to music production and audio engineering.
P’s: How has your production work outside of Stone Cold Fox informed your work in the band?
AL: I had recorded a lot of bands at school and done many internships including Electrical Audio in Chicago with Steve Albini, Stratosphere Sound in New York with James Iha and at Studio G Brooklyn with Joel Hamilton.
The production skills I gained from those internships are completely responsible for the outcome of the Stone Cold Fox recordings and production.
P’s: Kevin, what’s your songwriting process like? Do you write on guitar?
Kevin Olken Henthorn: It really varies quite a bit. Sometimes I’ll come up with a line on guitar and then later that day I’ll have a melody in my head that somehow fits. Then a few days later I’ll realize what I want the song to be about and I’ll write. I write a lot of my songs in one sitting, mostly on acoustic.
P’s: Kevin, in another interview you mentioned people “becoming more active” nowadays—in a way that’s dissenting, fed-up but as you said almost “patriotic.” In this sense, is Stone Cold Fox a patriot?
KOH: I don’t know about a patriot. Maybe an aspiring ex-patriot. It’s hard to say, I’m still young.
P’s: Many people have chalked your songs to be about being “young in America.” Obviously “America” touches on that. You’ve also mentioned “coming of age.” Is a paring of these ideas a fair summation of the album?
KOH: The album as a whole is about coming of age. “American” does place that theme in America specifically, but the other songs are really more about nostalgia for a loss of home. I wrote these songs in my last year of college and that is really the “coming of age” period I was thinking of. I think the “graduating college period” is a really important stage in development that I wanted to dive into. You feel you can’t go back home but you don’t have a new home to go to.
P’s: Ariel, you say your sexuality has “always been a driving and inspiring force,” I know it’s broad, but how do you see that manifest into Stone Cold Fox?
A: The journey I have been through with my sexuality as the youngest son of a first generation Chinese immigrant Catholic family has been immense. It’s a large part of who I am and I’m proud of how it has shaped me as a person because of the experiences and difficulties I have overcome.
In a broader scope I would say music has helped me not to fear going after what I want out of life even when it seems difficult.
Music is a powerful energy that has always been with me through the ups and downs, and I hope that Stone Cold Fox can provide music that people can relate to and feel from.
P’s: How does this EP compare to your forthcoming album?
KOH: The album will dive into areas that the EP never explored. Things will get a little darker at times. We’re still in the early stages so it’s hard to tell.
P’s: Stone Cold Fox has such a full, balanced sound—Ariel says Foster The People were a big influence. What is it that strikes you about Torches?
AL: The thing that grabs me most about Foster’s sound is the production, specifically in the programmed drums and percussion. The palette of sounds, complexity in layering of the drums, all the subtle nuances that go into it really inspired me to experiment with drum sounds. The balance that we struck in The Young is having real recorded drums with different layers of programmed drum and percussion samples.
P’s: Hinging off Foster the People, do you think there’s a place for rock on the pop charts today?
AL: I think musical styles will come full circle again at some point where rock will be in the spotlight in pop music. Our bass player Justin Bright and myself enjoy playing a game we call “hipster or ’80s” when we listen to Alt Nation and First Wave on Sirius, so if that’s any indication of repeating trends and influences, the ’90s may be right around the corner …