If you talk to Stone Cold Fox about what they like most about music, their answers will range from jokes about girls and free beer to declarations of love for the delicious hummus platter in the greenroom of Rough Trade NYC (where they happen to be playing a show next week). But there’s more to it beneath that funny veneer — they’ve toured up and down the east coast and formed an electric synth pop sound all their own. Pretty good for what started as a class project at SUNY Purchase. The band’s synth player and producer Ariel Loh, who was studying studio engineering and needed a senior project, joined up with singer and guitarist Kevin Olken, who wanted to do a solo project. “It somehow turned into Stone Cold Fox,” Olken says. “It just kind of all fell in together.”
They decided to keep the project going past graduation, even though Olken was studying film, and by the time they donned caps and gowns in 2012, they had picked up some new members. Now the lineup of the Brooklyn-based band stands at five: Olken, Loh, bassist Justin Bright, guitarist Graham Stone and drummer Aaron Hamel. If SCF’s indie grooves feel multidimensional, chalk it up to the different views and experiences you get when you’re a five-piece band. Stone, for example, has an opera singer father and was brought up playing piano before he fell into classic rock. Olken grew up around classical and jazz, appreciating the bluesy rawness in musicians like Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green. Hamel was given a drum kit at age two. They all have a current obsession with LCD Soundsystem.
These influences have recently been combined with a certain prolificity. The band is already at work on their next album, holed up in a studio in Connecticut’s “cow country,” even though they’re releasing a new EP titled Tunnel Vision in February of this year. In the meantime, they’re recording infectious covers of earworms. See above.)
That new EP could be a turning point. Though they’ve been playing together a couple years, Stone Cold Fox is still a band in transition. The Young was a tight, bright mix of songs that wouldn’t feel out of place being sung by Foster the People or Fleet Foxes. Now they’re hoping to move into greater rock territory while holding onto that smooth electronic feel. Olken mentioned new single “Contagion,” and how it’s a microcosm of where they want to be: darker, richer, and louder. Stone jumps in: “It better be, we’ve worked on that song for the better part of three years.”
Part of the figuring out process has been a transition from pure studio crafting to allowing songs to “take on a new life,” as Olken says, when they’re played live. “Tunnel Vision is the first record we really feel like we tested out live, before we started recording,” Stone says. “Previously we’d whittle down recordings in the studio and then have to figure out how to lay them live.”
But with each new track they record, Stone Cold Fox feels like they’re coming even more into their own.
“We definitely started as a more folky, lighthearted synth project, but it’s now fallen into darker, distorted pop,” Olken adds. “This new EP is the closest we’ve really come to honing in our sound. We’re always figuring it out. We always want to grow.”