Moxy Früvous Biography
Think back a few years. The 80's have ended: college graduates are beginning to be confronted with the fact that a degree does not equal a job; a new form of music, call it "alternative" or "progressive" as you will, is seeping up from the ranks of the disgruntled garage-band musicians. Perhaps in response to trends such as these, perhaps to bring in some extra pocket money, and perhaps just for a lark, four young men formed a band and took to the streets of Ontario for some busking. Thus was born Moxy Früvous.
In 1990, Mike Ford, Murray Foster, Dave Matheson, and Jian Ghomeshi were neither novices to the world of music nor strangers to each other. They knew each other from attending Thornlea Secondary School in Thornhill (a suburb of Toronto), from theater classes in high school, and from various musical projects. Jian and Murray had been in a mid-80's new wave band, Tall New Buildings; they were joined by Mike (to create The Chia Pets, which played covers at weddings and the like) and later by Dave.
Moxy Früvous frequented Harbourfront and the Bloor St. Cinema on the weekends, often playing three 20-minute sets in an afternoon and drawing crowds of a couple hundred people with their antics. Their music was catchy, somewhat extemporaneous, and driven by their vocals, keeping instrumentation to a minimum. As legend has it, one afternoon a producer from CBC radio grabbed them to perform on "Later the Same Day," a drive-home show. Früvous became regulars on the show and were commissioned to write short satirical songs about local issues. From these came "My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors" (for the authors' festival in Toronto) and "The Gulf War Song"; but most were what Früvous calls "short shelf-life songs."
Früvous began playing indoors in the summer of 1991. In early 1992, they decided to release an independently-produced cassette. They printed only a thousand opies, originally believing it was for their friends and family that they were producing it. Over fifty-thousand copies of the cassette and a year's worth of placing on the Canadian Independent Charts changed their minds. They toured across Canada, promoting their cassette and winning a CASBY award for Favorite New Group. Offers, of course, came pouring in from record labels, and they opened for performers like Bob Dylan and the Barenaked Ladies.
Früvous signed a five-album contract with Warner Music Canada, with releases in the U.S. by Atlantic Records (an agreement no longer in effect). The first of these to be released was "Bargainville," a fifteen-track album which included recordings of five of the six songs from the independent cassette. It was an immediate success: the first single, "Stuck in the 90's," hit the top ten in radio and video, and the album went platinum. Früvous took to the road again in the fall of 1993 on the Bargainville Tour, touring across Canada and down into the U.S. in early 1994, where "Bargainville" was being released.
Moxy Früvous has maintained an extremely busy tour schedule for most of the time since, extending their range to regularly include the northeastern and midwestern U.S. They played Europe in the summer of 1994, hitting England, Scotland, and Denmark, and returning for engagements in the next couple summers, including the prestigious WOMAD festival in 1996. For the first time in years, they ventured to Western Canada and down the West Coast of the US in 1998 and have included those areas in their 1999 touring schedule as well.
Früvous took a break from touring in early 1995, heading back to the recording studio. The result was an album more rich and dense in instrumentation--most of which the band played themselves, with guest Danny Levin appearing as violinist on several tracks. The songs were more personal to the band, and most of their fans considered the work a distinct break from "Bargainville." The Canadian release of "Wood" was not followed by a release in the U.S., and for this reason, the band became disenchanted with the performance of Atlantic Records. A year after "Wood" was recorded, Früvous produced an independent EP, "The B Album," which they describe as a collection of unreleased "satirical bits and oddities" culled from their work from 1990 onward. "The B Album" features short works with inobtrusive or no instrumentation; it was picked up by Warner in Canada after some success with primarily self-promotion by the band.
They resumed their fast-paced tour schedule immediately after recording "The B Album," finally breaking in November of 1996 to record their third full-length album, "You Will Go to the Moon." Unsurprisingly, it is also an album of experiments and surprises, new instruments and the constant challenge to explore uncharted musical terra. In the U.S., "You Will Go to the Moon" was the first release of fledgling indie label Bottom Line Records. Bottom Line also rereleased "Wood" and "The B Album" in the United States in 1998, making those albums widely available there for the first time.
Früvous still considers their live show to be the backbone of their success as a group--and anyone who has seen them perform is likely to agree. Always innovative, easy-going, and highly responsive to their audiences, they indulge themselves in banter and quipping on stage, break out into impromptu and improvisational songs, freely switch among the several instruments (many unconventional) that each plays, and establish a rapport with their audiences. It's therefore no surprise that their next album was an attempt to capture the energy and joie de vivre of their shows. Recorded at six shows (and throwing in tidbits from a couple more) during their fall '97 tour, released in the spring of '98, and greeted enthusiastically by fans and critics alike, "Live Noise" was finally the album that showcases most of what makes Früvous the unique band they are. Bottom Line Records had enlisted the help of BMG in distributing "Live Noise" more broadly in America, so for the first time, fans in the U.S. and in Canada could locate a Früvous album with equal ease on the shelves of their major music outlets. Having access to a concert in the CD player won't make them any more blase about attending as many shows as possible, though. Their fans are just as enthralled to see the Lads up close and personal as they were back in the days when Früvous was playing on the streets of Toronto for pocket change.
Continuing the musical adventure that is Moxy Fruvous, the band proceeded to break out new material at their live shows starting in April of 1998. In preparation for their next full-length release, the band test drove more than 14 new songs in front of audiences across the United States and Canada. Entering the studio in March of 1999, they recorded with producer Don Dixon. 12 of the recorded tracks were chosen as a package. The result was "Thornhill", an album showcasing the influences that the times and music had on the four members of Moxy Fruvous while growing up in that suburb of Toronto. With a new flourish of publicity in and around Toronto, the album was released in August of 1999. In the United States, the album was released on Bottom Line Records. With their Warner Canada contract up after 5 albums, the group released "Thornhill" in Canada on True North records.