Foxygen's tension has our attention

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His role model onstage is someone whose offstage fate he'd certainly prefer to avoid.

"I was just always into the Doors, so when I was young, I'd pretend I was Jim Morrison or something like that," France said. "It sounds really goofy, but it's been coming out recently, like just this ridiculous vibe or something. The other day I was onstage, and I was doing this Indian shaman dance. I was like, 'This is, like, Jim Morrison (stuff), like this is ridiculous.' But it was funny."

That France would be drawing inspiration from a '60s musical icon is no surprise. "We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors," produced by singer/songwriter/producer Richard Swift and released by the Bloomington, Ind.-based indie label Jagjaguwar, is the product of two guys who bonded over '60s rock as kids and let their cool record collections inform their music in playful ways.

"On Blue Mountain" scene-shifts from the verse groove of the Rolling Stones' "Under My Thumb" to the melody chorus of Elvis Presley's "Suspicious Minds" but also visits other contrasting landscapes while somehow making the big picture coherent. "In the Darkness" bathes in sweet harmonies and psychedelic touches, while "Oh Yeah" includes chants out of Jean Knight's "Mr. Big Stuff" yet ends with Rado playing what he calls a "faux hair metal solo" that, in their one disagreement on the album, France hated.

It's hard to say what number album "21st Century Ambassadors" is for Foxygen because "Take the Kids on Broadway" (2012) had been the only previously released one, but then an earlier one, "Jurrassic Exxplosion Phillipic," was made available, and Rado said he and France recorded several more albums in high school.

The prolific pair said they're about to begin recording a sprawling double album in a studio that Rado has set up in Bloomington. France said the material will cover "Fleetwood Mac-style songs with female vocals," electronic experimentation, reggae, "weird tripped-out country stuff" and "typical '60s vibes. It's going to be wild."

Rado also has a solo album, "Law and Order," coming out Sept. 3 on the indie label Woodsist that contains "stuff that I wrote that I didn't feel comfortable bringing to Foxygen." Rado noted that some of the songs wouldn't have fit France's voice, but also he's constantly writing songs and feels a "need to record music always."

"I didn't know anything about it, really," France said. "I read about it on Pitchfork. I was like, 'What the (expletive)'?"

"No, I told him about it," Rado said. "He forgets things."

So the energy that Foxygen will bring to a Friday late show at Schubas and a Sunday afternoon set at the Pitchfork Music Festival will be anyone's guess. Just know that France isn't concerned about making audiences feel uneasy.

"I think that a lot of live shows nowadays are just absolutely so dull," the singer said. "I really love it when there's some personality or something happening onstage. I really want to make people uncomfortable, but I don't want to turn them off. I don't want them to dislike me, so it's kind of a fine line."

"Even I go on stage really not knowing what's going to happen," Rado said, "but I think that's something that makes our shows a little special, that there is this sort of tension because Sam is a little bit unhinged onstage, and there have been incidents" — he laughed — "you know?"

Foxygen plays Friday night at Schubas (10 p.m. show with two openers, 3159 N. Southport Ave.; $14, $7 at door with Pitchfork Music Festival proof of purchase; 773-525-2508) and 1:45 p.m. Sunday at the Pitchfork Music Festival, in Union Park.

mcaro@tribune.com

Twitter @MarkCaro

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