Vixen, the second album from Foxx Bodies due to be released on November 5 through Kill Rock Stars, is the sound of joyful catharsis. It’s the artistic manifestation of four friends – vocalist Bella Vanek, guitarist Bailey Moses, bassist Matt Vanek, and drummer Adam Bucholz – locking arms and eyes, in full support of each other’s efforts to dig through layer after layer of compacted grief, trauma, pain, and fury. The feeling that remains after the 13th and final song on this triumphal album fades away is exhausted exhilaration.
Recorded and produced in Seattle by John Goodmanson (Sleater-Kinney, Bikini Kill) and mixed by Erik Blood months before the pandemic was in full swing, Vixen is a bold evolutionary step for this young quartet. Gone is much of the surf rock-influenced swing of previous efforts, replaced by massive guitar riffs and a newfound pulverizing attack from the rhythm section. Opening track “Bad Kid” – the first single to be released from the album – sets the tone immediately, with the music stomping forth authoritatively while Bella Vanek unpacks years of parental guilt and disappointment. Later the singer takes on the voice of a pleading victim while the rest of the band swaggers and steams behind her like Unwound at its most playful. Foxx Bodies unveil their most post-punk-inspired effort to date with the sensual and defiant “Room,” all roiling beats and Killing Joke guitar tone.
What cuts through every moment of Vixen is the voice of Bella Vanek. It’s a dynamic instrument that snaps from a demure purr to a full-throated scream in seconds. It’s the anchor for Foxx Bodies’ entire discography, giving it strength and weight. Bella uses it here to shattering effect on songs like the title track, where she unabashedly recounts years of grooming and sexual abuse and asks some devastating questions in an aching croon: “Why did you do that? Why do I feel guilty? How could you do that? Why did you pick me?”
She keeps her voice measured and steady, lest these legitimate queries come off as hysterical, saving her righteous anger for the rest of the album. And there’s plenty of it to go around. It’s what runs through this album like a river of molten lava, giving Vixen, and all the music of Foxx Bodies, its heat and its menacing edge
Foxx Bodies first show was just as unconventional as their formation, with Tucson hometown hero, Lando Chill asking them to open his album release show without ever having heard them play. After scrambling to write material for their first show, they discovered that their own unrehearsed brand of surf punk struck a chord with audiences and it was clear Foxx Bodies weren’t going anywhere.
They recorded their first self-titled album Foxx Bodies just a few short weeks after this show in the living room of a fellow musician and friend, Ben Schneider. It was recorded in one day and without much thought beyond how grateful they were to be living the dream. Fans of the band held the album close to their hearts and on repeat in their cars, screaming along.
Touring their debut album and growing in the Tucson music scene eventually led Foxx Bodies to Los Angeles, where they embarked on their second album, Vixen. Vanek makes her trauma sound dangerously intriguing on Vixen, singing about her life in such a startling and honest way that it makes you examine your own ideas of mental illness, gender, and trauma. Marry that with Moses’ salty, surfy licks, Bucholz’s elaborate fills, [Matt] Vanek’s infectious baselines, and it’s all over. The four desert punks meld together to bring a magnetic, dramatic air to each song, delivering romping punk and the occasional piercing scream.
Listening to Foxx Bodies makes you feel so electric and so alive – you’re almost uncomfortable.