You could be forgiven for thinking that Foxton & Hastings is the name of an estate agent, but it’s actually the moniker for the side-project of Bruce Foxton, former bassist with The Jam and Stiff Little Fingers, and guitarist/vocalist Russell Hastings – both of whom can usually be found playing in mod revival band From the Jam.
This month (October 28), the duo release their third album, The Butterfly Effect – a solid and enjoyable collection of good, old-fashioned, ’60s-style guitar tunes with their roots in Revolver-era Beatles, The Small Faces, The Who, classic soul and, coughs, solo ‘90s Paul Weller.
This is the modern world, but Foxton & Hastings aren’t afraid to turn to the past for their musical influences. Listening to The Butterfly Effect is like digging into a great record collection that’s full of vintage pop, rock and soul – the same kind of music that influenced The Jam, and, subsequently, most of the Britpop scene that emerged a few decades later.
“We all know what ‘The Butterfly Effect’ [the phrase] means, but, in basic terms, when I was listening to George Harrison or Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, in 1969, as a four-year old kid – I was born in 1965 – I was inspired by George’s 12-string guitar playing… or by hearing Stevie Marriott,” says Hastings – him and Foxton are talking to us over Zoom in late September.
‘We didn’t have any perception of ‘This track’s got to sound like The Who’, or whatever – it’s just what came out of the bag’
“Bruce and I have always been inspired by stuff over the years that’s had a knock-on effect [further] down the line, without us knowing it. It’s not a conscious decision – you end up playing a song in a certain style, so, when you record it, you have no idea what it sounds like at all to other people… and then they make their comments about it. The album could’ve been called Influences, really.
“It’s funny when you hear people’s interpretations of the songs – it’s not meant to be disrespectful, but you think, ‘Wow – I wonder where they got that from?” says Hastings.
Adds Foxton: “We didn’t have any perception of ‘This track’s got to sound like The Who’, or whatever – it’s just what came out of the bag.”
Produced by Al Scott, at Brighton’s Metway studio, which is owned by folk-rockers The Levellers, The Butterfly Effect features Big Country drummer, Mark Brzezicki, and Andy Fairclough (From The Jam) on keys. It came about as a result of lockdown.
“You sit at home and there’s only so much TV you can watch,” says Hastings. “It wasn’t a definitive ‘Oh, let’s make an album’ – it started with, ‘Here’s a good little tune – how about this?’”
Adds Foxton: “We had some ideas and then we’d just work on them, but it was difficult to get a band together, because of Covid. Thank God for technology.”
“There was a good mood in the studio. We were just glad to be alive!”
The two musicians would send ideas to each other and then, over a year later, they finally got in a room to play as a band and work on the new songs.
“I remember it well – we all had Covid test kits, even the engineers, so we could get rid of our masks when we were in the studio,” says Hastings.
“Otherwise, we would’ve had muffled vocals,” jokes Foxton.
The Butterfly Effect is largely a positive and upbeat record: “We were just glad to be alive!” says Hastings. “There was a good mood in the studio. We’re pretty positive people.”
Talking about lockdown, he says: “When I look back at it, it seems so ridiculous – we couldn’t even go round each other’s houses and do what we are supposed to do.
“By the time we could physically all be in the same room, we had four of five great ideas. In our first three-day stint, we churned it out. It was a great experience to get into the studio and play.”
The album’s opener, Electronic Lover, is throbbing, bass-driven, heavy, psych-tinged, blues-rock, with backwards Rickenbacker, and first single, Lula, is infectious, ‘60s Californian-pop-meets-The-Beatles, with a superb sax solo by Tony ‘Rico’ Richardson (Bad Manners), that was apparently recorded in his wardrobe, as Covid prevented him coming to the studio.
Feet Off the Ground is a delicious helping of funky and psychedelic, late ‘70s soul-pop, with wah-wah guitar and some great Hammond organ – it could’ve easily come off Weller’s self-titled solo album, from 1992 – while The Fab Four are back on the jangly, harmony-drenched, mid- ‘60s sound of current single, She Said – even the title nods its mop top to a Beatles song.
There’s also a track called Rain, although, to be fair, it doesn’t sound like Lennon, Macca and co, it’s a moody, late-night, cinematic and Weller-like introspective ballad.
One of the standout moments is also a ballad – the reflective and nostalgic Too Old To Cry, Too Young To Die, with a pastoral feel and a stately string arrangement.
Circles and Two of Us are mighty, Who-like power pop – the latter also throws in some Small Faces ‘sha-la-la’ backing vocals – and Time On Your Side is pure, joyous ‘60s/’70s soul with horns that bring to mind Give Me Just A Little More Time by Chairmen of the Board.
There’s more brass on the anthemic closer, Anything You Want, which sounds like The Jam having a knees-up with The Small Faces and a Motown revue, but with George Martin on the control knobs, adding some far-out studio effects for the final section.
Feet Off The Ground and Walking With Me have a jazzy-soulful feel – they’re quite acid jazz and pastoral, and they remind me of early solo Paul Weller or The Style Council.
Russell Hastings: Right – that’s the end of the interview! [laughs] You’re right – they probably are. The instigator of all that stuff – Bruce and I often laugh about it – was Spirogyra, in the late ‘70s. Without trying to be too arty about it, they were just grooves that we sat on – we demoed them at Water Rat Studios [in Woking, Surrey].
I like it when someone says, ‘It sounds like that…’ – that’s fine by me. There was never any deliberate attempt to make the songs sound like anything.
On that note, Two of Us, does have a touch of The Who about it, and some Small Faces-style ‘sha-la-la’ backing vocals… It has a ‘60s and ‘70s mod/power-pop feel, so it’s apt that you recorded it in Brighton…
RH: Unashamedly – yes! It’s got Brighton written all over it – we came up with the riff at Bruce’s house and did a demo version on a phone, while we were playing it live. It has that Who-esque / Mooney style – it’s a homage to Brighton, which is a place that we hold close to our hearts for many reasons. That whole historic thing.
‘I recorded the vocals for Time On Your Side in the morning, and then I tested positive for Covid in the afternoon, so, if they say it’s bad for your voice, it’s rubbish – my vocals sound really strong on it’
Time On Your Side is very Motown, with brass from Nicky Madern, and some great Hammond organ by Andy Fairclough…
RH: Nicky Madern plays brass on one of Liam Gallagher’s albums, and Andy’s our live player – he’s done a sterling job on the whole album. I recorded the vocals for that song in a morning, and then I didn’t feel very well in the afternoon. I tested positive for Covid, so, if they say it’s bad for your voice, it’s rubbish – my vocals sound really strong on it.
I think there’s a Revolver-era Beatles feel to some of the tracks on the album…
RH: I’ll take that.
‘There are no dour or negative messages. I’m not clever enough to write like that’
The last song, Anything You Want, has a Revolver-like psychedelic ending and Motown-style brass – like Got To Get You Into My Life, and She Said has a similar title to a Beatles song from the same album…
RH: Yeah. It’s only now you’re mentioning it… it’s funny and it makes me smile. One day, in the studio, Bruce was already there and I walked in. It was a nice, sunny, early spring morning, back in March, and I’d been listening to Across The Universe. I grabbed a guitar, and said, ‘Hold on – I can’t stop!’ I’d had an idea… Across The Universe blows my mind – it’s simple and so good.
Too Old To Cry, Too Young To Die is one of the album’s more introspective moments – a big ballad with strings – but it’s still quite a positive song, isn’t it? There’s a line in the lyrics which says: ‘Things are getting much better…’
RH: Yeah – there are no dour or negative messages. I’m not clever enough to write like that, to be honest. You get some people who are like, ‘Oh, I wrote this when, blah-blah-blah….’ Oh, fuck off – you wrote it ‘cos it ‘cos it came out like that! Unless you’re some kind of ultra-genius, like Bowie – people like that. I’ll take it from them, but not anybody else. Some people can get far too up their own arses about it.
Collectively it’s about a load of great pop songs… You walk away and you think ‘This is a great tune…’ That’s what it’s about it, innit, Bruce?
The album almost sounds like a Best Of – it’s really varied…
RH: Yeah. I’m really excited for people to hear it. When you’ve reeled off those tracks… It’s been a while since I’ve heard it.
You’re always playing live, as From the Jam, but do you plan to play any of the songs from The Butterfly Effect in concert?
RH: We’re gonna do a couple – we’re always conscious never to bore the audience to death amongst a load of Jam songs! Possibly Lula and Feet Off The Ground, or She Said, which is a great, simple pop song, with a mandolin on it.
It’s 16/17 years since From the Jam formed, but, Bruce, it’s 48 years since you joined The Jam…
BF: Forty eight! Which band was that? [Everyone laughs.]
It was in 1974, which was the year I was born…
How does that feel? You’ve been in From the Jam longer than you were in The Jam…
BF: I was in Stiff Little Fingers longer than I was in The Jam. It seems like another life – it doesn’t feel real, to be honest with you.
‘It was a shame that Paul and I fell out in the first place. We’re good friends again now, thankfully. Life is short – it really is. You should cherish it’
I saw you play in the band One Hundred Men, in Cowes, on the Isle of Wight. My dad took me, in the ’80s…
BF: Wow – that’s going back. It was cowboy boots then…
RH: That’s enough of that! Only cowboys should wear cowboy boots.
BF: I just wanted to keep playing – it’s what I do and what I love doing. I also played with The Rhythm Sisters during that period, before I joined Stiff Little Fingers.
[To Bruce]: It’s been well documented how you reconciled with Paul Weller more than 10 years ago – the death of your wife and his dad brought you closer together. How did that feel to renew your friendship? Was it good to let bygones be bygones?
BF: Totally – we’re too old for all that malarkey. Life is short – it really is. You should cherish it. It was a shame that we ever fell out in the first place. We’re good friends again now, thankfully.
After Covid stopped you touring, it must be good to be back on the road again with From the Jam. You’ve got gigs lined up for this year and next…
RH: It’s great – we’ve sort of forgotten about the pandemic. We’ve both had a few health scares this year, but we’ve got over that, which has put life into a little bit more perspective – what’s important and what’s not. What’s not important is sitting in traffic jams around the UK for days on end, to line the taxman’s pockets, so we’ve eased back a little bit as far as the workload’s confirmed. We were tending to say, ‘Yes, we’ll do that…’, and you end up chasing your own tail and you become ill.
We’re in good health now. I woke up this morning and thought,’Oh – the album comes out soon…’ I like to hear people’s opinions of it. To be honest, we’re doing this album because we liked the tunes that we came up with – we didn’t have any ulterior motives. We were free to say, ‘Fuck it – we’re going to write and whatever we want to do, we’re going to do it’. ‘If it sounds a bit country, great’ or, ‘If it’s got strings on it, great’. We weren’t afraid of anything.
‘We’ve both had a few health scares this year, which has put life into perspective – what’s important and what’s not. What’s not important is sitting in traffic jams around the UK for days on end, to line the taxman’s pockets’
Is it nice being able to do different stuff with Foxton & Hastings other than just being in From The Jam?
RH: Bruce was in The Jam, but I almost had to prove that I was a musician myself and not just a parrot-fashion one. I don’t think I’ve ever said that before. I don’t know where that came from, but it’s true. I wanted to say, ‘Go fuck yerself – I’ve cut my teeth and I can hold my own’.
The Butterfly Effect by Foxton & Hastings is released on October 28 (Townsend Music).