Interview – Guy Keltner of Fox and the Law
After half of Fox and the Law, singer/guitarist Guy Keltner and guitarist Ryan Granger came down with scarlet fever during the recording of the band’s first full-length, the choice of name for the quartet’s righteous debut was obvious: Scarlet Fever. The outstanding rock group came together under the inspiration of Keltner, who is the lead songwriter as well. Keltner titled the band after himself, confidently and rightly the fox, and after drummer Dan O’Neil, the law, who Kelnter says can be a bit of a stickler. I’ll call them all foxes, and am sure they all have their moments of strictness.
Fox and the Law’s current lineup goes something like this. O’Neil was the first find. Keltner recalls, “I was working at UW and one of my coworkers, this really cool dude Mario, he knew everybody. One of his roommates was Dan. He insisted we jam, he like force-jammed us. He kept talking him up and I was kind of skeptical.” Turns out Dan was “amazing.” Guitarist Granger turned up through Guy’s university fraternity: He wasn’t in the frat. I thought he was; he was there all the time. He grew up in Spokane with a lot of the guys that lived in my house – they were all childhood friends. We bumped into each other at the Cha Cha and he invited me to jam. Originally he was trying to get me to join his band that ended up being The Grizzled Mighty (Granger’s band with drummer Whitney Petty.)” The last addition was bassist Patrick Dougherty. “Patrick’s band played a show with us – I think it was their CD release. Bassist Jeff Fairbanks was leaving – he told us he was joining the military. A couple days after we found out we were playing a show, and Patrick came out to see it, to see if any one knew if any band needs a bass player.”
The band is known for their stirring live shows (Keltner says playing live “feels like a party”) but I suspected at first it was a challenge to get on bills as a rock band in Seattle. This may sound strange for a city famous for grunge, but as there’s been a saturation of mellow music here, I wondered how things went down at the beginning. My suspicions were correct when Guy comments: “Now there are a lot of rock bands. When we first started a couple years ago it was impossible to get on any bill. For the last ten years it’s been singer-songwriter. I don’t get it. “ Fox and the Law’s dedication is obvious, particularly when you think about how difficult the recording of Scarlet Fever was. “ I did all the vocals while I had scarlet fever. We were working, going to shows and playing shows. The night before I went to the hospital Granger went to urgent care. I went to see (band) Shotty play – I was miserable. I went home and I threw up a bunch. It turned into scarlet fever.” I asked him what track he’s proudest of on the album: There’s two. The guitar playing on “In My Bed.” I wrote the bass line on that one. I usually write the bass line on songs first. I like “Treat Me Right.”
Guy Keltner of Fox and the Law – the Crocodile, May 2012 – photo by Dagmar
Former manager Robin Fairbanks recruited producer Martin Feveyear in to produce Scarlet Fever. But there were troubles. “This record’s been recorded twice already. We brought him what we thought was going to be the final version to master, and he was like, this sucks. He goes, “I know you guys are better than this, I’ve seen you live and you guys kick ass and this doesn’t sound like you.” It took another nine months. Martin’s mom went into hospice and he had to go back to Britain. “ Keltner reflects, then states: “The next record is ready to be recorded.”
Named after his father, Harold, his mom decided she didn’t want to call him that. Instead, when he was a baby she’d call him “a little Guy.” Guy stuck. Keltner’s music background began when his parents had him take piano lessons at the age of five: “They played music all the time. They seemed to put more emphasis on taking me to shows than in having me do kids’ shit.” By the time Keltner attended the University of Washington as an Economics major he still wanted to play music. “I got out early. I was impatient with school. I didn’t have any money when I was in school, and it was hard to work. All I wanted to do was play music. “ Strangely, for having a groovy voice, he was “afraid to sing. I sang at first because I was trying to write songs. “
Keltner’s a writer and reader too. He wrote for several publications including The Daily at the UW, SSG, Seismic Sound and Seattle Scenester. I wanted to know if he liked writing about music? “I like writing about music on that level. If you just tear these people apart I feel angry. I feel like people go for the lazy writing. It makes me angry when I see those snarky reviews. I always try to say something positive. I won’t write about something if I don’t like it anyways. I can see if you’re a big publication and you have to review everything then you’re going to write a bad review. . . blogging should be turning people onto things. It praises the art of it. “ And books? “Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy Toole). . . I love Kurt Vonnegut books. I love Anthony Bourdain as a writer. Kitchen Confidential’s an awesome book.”
Fox and the Law @ the Crocodile, May 2012 – photo by Dagmar
Fox and the Law always strike me as the kind of band that attracts strange events, and yes, they do, such as this story from their SXSW visit: “This is not the best SXSW story, but this one is good. I have a friend that’s from Austin who was staying at a hippie co-op. They were throwing a big party. It’s like a dorm-meets-hippie-thing-meets fraternity/sorority-thing. They all work on the house, and then they have all these bands come through. Japanther was playing there, and we’re all in the crowd. When we were outside we saw people coming out and this kid comes out and he’s screaming, “Where the fuck is he?” I went up to him trying to shake his hand and get him to calm down and he’s like, “Somebody shit on us!” I was not shaking his hand. People just kept screaming, “Somebody shit!” Yikes.
The band’s debut LP is tremendously sexy rock. Fox and the Law is as good recorded as they are live – I didn’t fear this might not be the case, but they’ve pulled off a rippingly great rock album. Hear it live on Saturday at the Sunset, and pick up a copy. Get Scarlet Fever.
Get tix for Fox and the Law CD Release with Strong Killings and Ben Union. Show is 21 +. $8.