Woman came about because, one sunny afternoon in Bermuda, it suddenly hit me. I saw what women do for us. Not just what my Yoko does for me, although I was thinking in those personal terms. Any truth is universal. If we’d made our album in the third person and called it Freda and Ada or Tommy and had dressed up in clown suits with lipstick and created characters other than us, maybe a Ziggy Stardust, would it be more acceptable? It’s not our style of art; our life is our art… Anyway, in Bermuda, what suddenly dawned on me was everything I was taking for granted. Women really are the other half of the sky, as I whisper at the beginning of the song. And it just sort of hit me like a flood, and it came out like that. The song reminds me of a Beatles track, but I wasn’t trying to make it sound like that. I did it as I did Girl many years ago. So this is the grown-up version of Girl.
-John Lennon, 1980
Foy Vance decided to Freshen us up at Gastown’s JD’s Barbershop before his flight to Ireland.
Slicker than slick the team at JD’S Barbershop was kind enough to hook us up. Vancouver’s first and finest modern barbershop. Straight razor shaves and expert fades. Located in Gastown in downtown Vancouver.
Foy Vance was born in the North Ireland town of Bangor, but his passion for traditional music was born in the southern states of America. As a child, Foy relocated with his father, a preacher, to the American Midwest settling in Oklahoma. With his father, Foy travelled the American South, widening his horizons and absorbing the rich musical traditions he was exposed to. Returning to Ireland some years later, Foy began writing his own music, deeply shaped by the sounds of his youth. Since those days, he has spent a considerable amount of time on the road, touring with the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Michael Kiwanuka, Marcus Foster, Snow Patrol, and Ed Sheeran. Foy also scored Oscar-winning short-film The Shore with David Holmes, who collaborated with Vance on his 2012 Melrose EP. Foy’s newest album, Joy Of Nothing is available now.
With his latest album, “Joy Of Nothing,” – the first effort for his new label Glassnote (home of Mumford & Sons, Phoenix and more) – Foy Vance has crafted a masterwork of the sweet hurt of love and what it does to the men and women involved with all of the fallout. Vance works with those familiar refrains of finding and holding onto a guiding light, of falling back on one’s resiliency (with the backing vocal help of Bonnie Raitt on the excellent cut, “You and I”), of shutting off from the world and living behind guarded emotional walls, of knowing the contents of one’s soul better than anyone else ever could and of ripping everything up, throwing the scraps into the air and just going for whatever gusto might still be left to have in this life of such short terms.
Foy has been writing about these spectacular miseries for years. Since his debut, “Hope,” in 2007, Vance has made the flutter and flail of happiness his chief export. That record ended with his now nine-year-old daughter Ella singing a hidden track version of “You Are My Sunshine,” a song that famously includes mention of the gray skies, if only to punctuate the sunshine and its effects. He uses this same method to describe both the birth and death of love, many times over. Vance is moved by the fractions of love and sentiment, giving himself over to the quiet deluge. His is a voice that rattles you and forces you to let it in so that you may all enjoy a dark room, a modest fire and something to toast with.
“Joy of Nothing” is a record that makes love feel like the most alive and powerful force in the world. It presents a collection of 10 stories that show — with rousing, tear-the-sky-out-of-the-ceiling and all of the bodies out of the ground passion and equally impassioned tenderness – how everyone chooses their own verses. They often find their ways to tragic ends, but Vance reminds us constantly that we reap what we sow and sometimes we’re reaping very little. He presents the sadness that we find in our coffers as something valuable, as something that shouldn’t be dismissed as failure. He presents the sadness that he’s collected as rich with importance – with as much significance to his happiness as anything else.
The songs on “Joy Of Nothing” are all heartbreakers. They are uplifting in their many forms of destruction. Vance presents to us broken love and trampled upon happiness in a way that makes us want more of it, as if it is exactly what we should be looking for. He gives us people who aren’t fine, but will be all right in the end. You can sense that they will find happiness when it’s meant for them. They will burden their hearts and they will rid them of the black smoke that comes from fried wires and belts, when the entire spirit feels like it’s breaking down. These are anthems that remind us that the spirit always rebounds. Vance just hugs tight the loved ones that haven’t left and he twists the corners of his mustache a little tighter, reveling in the light pinks and soft oranges of his many twilights, braced for another verse.
Today in 1972, Alice Cooper was at No.1 on the UK singles chart with ‘School’s Out’. Here he reflects on what this song meant to him as we go ‘Behind the Song’ with Alice Cooper.
What inspired you to write this song?
What’s the greatest three minutes of your life? There’s two times during the year. One is Christmas morning, the next one is the last three minutes of the last day of school.
How did you feel about it when it was ready to be released?
Out of the 14 Top 40 songs we’ve had, ‘School’s Out’ was the only song I was ever sure of. I said ‘If this isn’t a hit, I don’t belong in this business.’ It had every element — it was released right when school was letting out, it was a summer song, it had that hook, it had the lyric and I would have been shocked if that wasn’t a hit.
What was your experience with school?
Essentially I was Ferris Bueller, and I basically ran the school. We had girlfriends doing our homework, and the teachers loved us because we made them laugh. So school was like a piece of cake for me. Not that I ever did anything, I was just the class clown. When I wrote the song, I was like, ‘Jeez, this doesn’t apply to me at all! I love high school, I’d spend the rest of my life here!
Words of wisdom for those still in school…
I think many students graduating today wish they could stay in school, too – but for different reasons. It is a hard job market and I have watched my own son struggle within it – after graduating college with honours.
So I say start wherever you can and be the best you can be. Specialized skills are more valuable than general knowledge. Make yourself indispensable… If you’re in the general work pool, you’re gonna get lost – even if you’ve got a degree. You have got to be the guy or the gal.
And I say make some noise, will ya? Someone I once knew used to say ‘The squeaky wheel gets the oil.’
Nobody knows that better than you Alice and your noise and colour is playing on today. Catch him on the road in a city near you with Motley Crue / All Bad Things Tour throughout 2015.