Once upon a time in Los Angeles, a girl was looking out her window and writing a poem. That poem was titled, “Foxtails Brigade”, and that girl was Laura Weinbach. Laura grew up surrounded by art and creativity. Her mother was a classical pianist and her father was obsessed with jazz and Afro-Cuban music. Her eldest brother was a jazz pianist and her two younger brothers played the saxophone and trumpet. Laura was born with a proclivity for music as well. Her incentives to improve as a musician, however, often transcended the rewards of artistic accomplishment. Instead, music got her out of being punished.
“I was kind of a brat when I was a kid. I was just unruly. I didn’t like being told what to do,” said Laura.
“My dad would offer me ways of redeeming myself from being grounded by creating mix tapes of his favorite jazz singers. If I learned how to sing the songs exactly like they did, I could finally be done being grounded and go out and play with my friends.”
Laura must have gotten herself in and out of trouble very frequently as a child. The quality of her singing voice today is remarkable.
As an adult, Laura began composing songs on nylon-string acoustic guitar and combining them with the poetry she had written in college. Along with her friend and violinist, Sivan Sideh, she relocated from LA to the Bay Area where they produced their debut album, The Bread And The Bait.
Eventually Sivan would have a child, forcing the duo to part ways musically. This opened the door for Laura’s current musical partner, violinist Anton Patzner, to join the project. Anton has become a familiar face around Chico as the leader of string-metal group, Judgement Day, who’ve toured through town many times. With the addition of Patzner, things started moving pretty fast for Foxtails Brigade.
“I feel like Anton has really taken a lot of initiative in terms of being a creative force and a driving force behind Foxtails Brigade,” commented Weinbach.
Their latest album, Time Is Passed, is a collection of Christmas-y tunes originally inspired by a single song titled, “I’m Not Really In The Christmas Mood This Year”.
“Initially I wrote the song in July of 2011 thinking to myself that Christmas was just around the corner and that I was dreading it. My family has issues, basically, and it meant that I would have to deal with family dramas,” explained Weinbach.
“I was driving home one day from the beach and I wrote that whole song in the car just by singing it out loud to myself. The lyrics pretty much wrote themselves.”
The rest of the music on Time Is Passed originated as the by-products of a film score Anton and Laura were commissioned to write for the 2011 indie movie, Losing Ferguson. The decision to turn these recordings into an album before Christmas came very late, leaving very little time to effectively flesh out the vision for the album. Come 2012, Foxtails Brigade returned to the studio with the goal of eventually re-releasing Time Is Passed.
“We realized we could do way better recordings and we could extend them. We added a few new songs entirely to that collection. Now I feel like the whole product is a much clearer, stronger final piece,” said Laura.
The production quality has definitely improved and the additional songs such as opening track, “The Unloved”, are magnificent. The album voices consistent themes of dissatisfaction and unhappiness, but it’s a beautiful sadness. The juxtaposition of these themes mixed with the uplifting sonic landscape of a magical winter wonderland creates a mesmerizing listening experience.
“It’s definitely something for those who want to connect with somebody who also is like…bummed,” said Laura with a laugh.
“It’s not necessarily a record that spreads good cheer, but that’s not what I do.”
What Foxtails Brigade DOES do is provide one hell of a show, employing classically trained musicianship as the vessel for Laura’s quirky and emotive lyrics. Their show at the Origami Lounge this week will be their fifth visit to Chico, but only the first time they’ve brought their full band (including a percussionist and upright bass) to town.
Whether you’re filled with the holiday spirit or not really in the Christmas mood this year, Foxtails Brigade’s live performance promises to be one to remember.
Foxtails Brigade performs this Friday, December 14th at the Origami Lounge featuring local acts Jack Knight, Evin Wolverton, and The Rugs. This all-ages show starts at 8PM and costs $5.