Heartstrings Interview

Follow the Foxtrax: An Interview

By Andrew Kase

Foxtrax is Ben Schneid on vocals, and brothers Jared and Jon Stenz on guitar and drums — they fall somewhere between the blurred lines of alternative and indie rock, with some surprises in-between. Born and raised on Long Island, the band formed in early 2015, and have already released a five-song EP titled “The Cabin,” and plan on a release of a full-length album in the near future. Foxtrax has been performing at different venues across Long Island and New York City and all three members have been following their dreams, and following, well, their Foxtrax. Where do your Foxtrax lead?

Andrew Kase: When did you become interested in pursuing music? Describe what that realization was like.

Ben Schneid: I think it’s really different for all of us. When I was a little kid, I was always playing music. I’m the youngest of four boys. We just had a weird affinity for music.

Jared Stenz: For me, I really picked up music and writing songs right as I was going to college. I never really considered pursuing it much as a career until very recently actually. Jon and me were playing together for a while. Eventually, we started playing with Ben and everything really clicked, so we just started going with it.

Jon Stenz: For me, I always knew I wanted to do something creative, and be a part of a team that writes. No matter what it was, whether it was short stories or books or journalism, I knew I wanted to write. Music is just the most fun version of that. I think it’s the most pure. I was working for a start-up out of Google and realized…This is not for me man, I just want to play music.

How long have you guys [Jared, Jon] known Ben?

Ben: Jon’s mom worked in my elementary school and I was a little bit of a troublemaker, but I think she actually understood me. She was one of the few people who said, “He’s a good kid, he’s just a little crazy.” [Laughing]

Jon: During college, we all came together and formed Foxtrax. We went to a cabin in the woods for two months actually in North Carolina…That’s pretty much how everything formed. When we were there, we would go on these long walks while writing the record [“The Cabin” EP] and we’d follow the tracks in the snow by foxes and squirrels. Whatever was out there. We learned that by following the tracks, it led us to interesting parts of the forest and it represented a microcosm for our adventure out there. Songwriting is just us following our passion, and in essence, following our foxtrax. That’s how the band formed, the name formed, and it just made sense to name the collection of songs we worked on out there “The Cabin.”

Has growing up on Long Island influenced your music at all?

Jared: I would say absolutely, one hundred percent. Look at a song like “Go It Alone” — It’s about leaving all of those tiny boxes, so to speak, in the sand. Trying to do something great. A little bit quirky. A little bit different. If we didn’t grow up in our bland, comfortable, cozy suburban homes, I don’t know if we would have had that feeling that is very uniquely Long Island in terms of wanting to get the hell away. And try to get out on your own, and do your own thing.

Ben: I interpreted the question slightly differently. I think Jared hit the nail on the head with Long Island. I think sonically, we’re heavily influenced by British acts and the Brit sound. Of course, there are amazing American bands, and I would say we’re pretty eclectic in our influences. I wouldn’t say we’re too heavily influenced by acts from Long Island. Maybe Billy Joel [collective laughing].

Congratulations on landing a gig at the CMJ Festival! How do you guys feel about your upcoming performance?

Ben: We’re super stoked. I think it’s an honor for us to be selected for a festival so young in our musical career. I think we plan on making the most of the week performing and attending all of the industry seminars and conferences, and learning as much as we can. We have big aspirations and I think it’s very important to not be aware of who you are, where you’re at, how far you have to go and what’s motivating you.

Jared: I’m also extremely stoked to meet other bands and go to other showcases, and networking. Getting to know other people and artists. I have to plug her; Kira Grunenberg. She’s been doing some work for us, and she’s doing an absolutely amazing job. She has our whole CMJ schedule lined up. Kira Grunenberg, you’re crushing it!

Have you attended [CMJ] as a concertgoer in the past, and what was your experience(s) like?

Jared: Yeah, I attended one showcase. I saw a band called Hey Marsay. They’re from the Pacific Northwest. They were playing a small show right around the corner from here [Arlene’s Grocery, LES, NYC] at a place called the Living Room, which is now shut down. It goes to show you how fast Manhattan changes. It was a really nice cozy show. It wasn’t huge, it wasn’t Terminal 5, but it was awesome to be so intimate and up close. It was really great.

What are your plans for the rest of the year? Where do you see yourselves professionally in one year?

Jon: On November 12, we’re going to California to record our next record. A one way ticket. Once we get out there, we’re going to release a series of things. Probably a single first and then probably an EP followed by a full-length. We wanted to go to the West Coast to take in that energy, take in those vibes, maybe tour around a little bit. And hopefully put out a record that’s a bit more mature, and something that’s a step forward. We’re motivated as a group to get better in the next year.

Do you have any idols in the music world? Have you drawn any inspiration from them?

Ben: I think that the answers we’d all give are probably different. If I had to pick a trajectory for us it would be U2. We want to make a big difference in people’s lives. That’s definitely one band that not only has great music and has touched people’s lives, but has gone above and beyond to become good role models.

Jared: I tend to agree with that. For me, personally, there are a million bands that I love. At this point, we tend to borrow ideas and vibes more so than pieces of music, from multiple artists and genres. Right now, I’d like to incorporate some cool hip-hop and EDM (Electronic Dance Music) beats into our music in an organic and rock and roll sort of way. That sort of experimentation. It might click tomorrow; it might click five years down the road.

Jon: I agree with everything said so far. I love Fleet foxes, I love U2. I don’t see how you can’t love them [U2]. They’re probably one of the biggest bands that ever lived. Right now, I’m into LCD Soundsystem and bands that bridge the gap between EDM and rock and roll. It has brought that EDM right on top of the beat.

What has your experience been thus far performing at all types of venues on Long Island, and in New York City?

The answer is polarizing for both places. When we’re pushing a city show, it’s really special because there are usually a lot of people. We just played at Mercury Lounge and we sold it out. One of the more transcendent feelings in that respect. There were so many people there and they were vibing and singing the lyrics back. When we’re on Long Island, our fans are a little more organic. In the city, our fans are our friends and they bring their friends and so on. On Long Island, people show up who just like our music, and don’t know us at all. It’s an interesting thing, and truly amazing.

Jared: No matter if we’re playing for 5 people or 200 people or hopefully 50,000 one day, we still try to put on the same show. We get on stage and just have fun, and play great music. We don’t play with a set list, and free ball a little bit. We try to play off of the energy in the room. It’s always different and it’s always fun.

I believe your music is unique, and really has a widespread appeal. What can you attribute that to?

Ben: I think someone’s opinion like yours is one that matters most. As a musician, I interpret music very differently. There are things that I really love, and I know that others won’t like. I love getting into beat-bop jazz and I know most people won’t like that. Music is about feeling and emotion, and the average person has about as much of that as anyone else. It’s even more organic and genuine. You wouldn’t say “Oh, that note’s cool,” it’s like “That feels good” or it doesn’t.

Jon: The music we grew up listening wasn’t the one with the most musicality. It had musicality, don’t get me wrong, but it was the one that had it and transcended that. We want to write music that we want to listen to. Is it something that we ourselves enjoy, and if we do, will others be like-minded? I think that’s what it’s all about.

Jared: To sum it all up and get a little ephemeral here for a second, I think we all come from the same perspective: Great art represents life. It’s a reflection of life and the human condition that we all go through on a day-to-day basis through the course of life. If music is about life, and we can do something that speaks to the greater consciousness and to the collective soul of people, then I think we’re on the right track.

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