If there’s one word that could accurately describe Foxy Dads front person Ilana Hope, it’s “genuine.” The 23-year old Long Island native has been producing their brand of infectiously earnest bedroom pop for the last several years. While the name Foxy Dads itself may seem silly, (as would the band’s online presence, which frequently includes shorthand text-type and cannabis references), that changes as soon as you meet them in person. Everything -- even the joking -- comes from a real place and is very sincere.
The new Foxy Dads album, ICYMI (which is internet shorthand for “In Case You Missed It”) came out on October 18th and was released by both Chatterbot Records and Open Door Records. The album walks a fine line between vulnerable and fun, like pop music for emo kids.
I caught up with Hope at one of their favorite cafes in Brooklyn to talk about the new album, mid-00’s pop music, The Fest in Gainesville, New York DIY, and what weed really means to them.
Scene Point Blank: “Dissolve” [The first single from ICYMI] is one of the catchiest things I’ve heard this year. Growing up in DIY, it wasn’t cool to be into pop music. Did you ever have an anti-pop stage?
Ilana Hope: Oh absolutely. When I was in middle school, I was kind of against anything that was popular or mainstream. I only listened to things because they weren’t cool, so I could fit the “not like other girls” stereotype. “I’m different and I like this stuff.” Some of it I did genuinely like, but I feel like I really missed out on some really good music because I was just trying so hard to separate myself from how girls are seen. I only rediscovered a lot of really popular pop music now. So I’m a little late to the game, but it’s a big influence.
Scene Point Blank: Like what?
Ilana Hope: Well, Hillary Duff is one.
Scene Point Blank: Metamorphosis?
Ilana Hope: Well, actually not Metamorphosis. I like Hillary Duff’s self-titled [album] because it’s kind of like a compilation. But that’s actually someone I was always into, ever since I was a little kid. I went back recently and listened to a lot of Beyonce and got really into her. I got really into Britney Spears. I’m really into Marina and the Diamonds, but that’s a little more contemporary. And I love SZA, who’s also more contemporary. But I listen to all of the old Jay Z/Beyonce hits, and the old Rihanna hits.
Scene Point Blank: You call yourself “weed pop.”
Ilana Hope: Yeah. (laughs)
Scene Point Blank: On a scale of a marketing tool to your way of life… where is weed for Foxy Dads? (laughs)
Ilana Hope: So I never planned on it being me… I didn’t even try weed until I was 21… I mean I think I had maybe tried it once before and was just like “eh, no.” So I didn’t even start smoking until a lot later than most of my friends. But as someone who has chronic stomach issues, anxiety, and depression, I’ve found that it’s really helped me. So I ended up getting really into it and I started, I don’t know, like smoking pretty regularly. I don’t mean for it to be like a marketing tool. I just kind of write about what I do.
Scene Point Blank: I was trying to be tongue in cheek.
Ilana Hope: Well, I mean it is a marketing tool, though, for a lot of people. It really is! I feel like [joking about weed] is the “trendy” thing to do now. But it’s something I try to take seriously because, one, it is my way of life and it does help me on a day-to-day basis. And on top of that it’s a serious thing that, you know, other people get arrested for it. And there’s like mass incarceration and the war on drugs and I feel like it’s not something where people should put a pot leaf on something and say…
Scene Point Blank: Like, make it into a meme.
Ilana Hope: Yeah. I think you have to have both sides: “hey this is fun,” but also, “this is serious and important.” It affects a lot of people - even people that aren’t smoking. People that are against the way the prison system works and corruption in the [police force] and cash bail... [Fighting for legalization is still a way to] actively fight for people. Even if you’re not fighting for your right to smoke weed, you’re fighting for someone else’s right to not sit in a jail cell over something that is legal in so many other places.
Scene Point Blank: You’re right, it seems like a running joke between all of our bands. Speaking of which, you have a ton of guest musicians on your records. Foxy Dads seems like a community [band], am I right?
Ilana Hope: Definitely. When we first started it was pretty much just me and whoever wanted to play music with me. So we’ve been collaborative from the get go. I used to call us friendship-core! Because I don’t really play an instrument. So if I wanted to make music, I needed the help of other people, and instead of letting that limit me, I tried to use it to my advantage. I’ve [been able] to make music with a lot of different people throughout the course of this band. Right now, we have a set lineup and that’s really great! But I still wanted to incorporate that collaborative element [on ICYMI] so that’s why it has a lot of features. There were supposed to be a lot more.
Scene Point Blank: Really?
Ilana Hope: Yeah! Almost every song was going to have a feature. But, you know, some people get busy, some people fall off, the deadline kept changing... So a lot of things just didn’t happen. But I definitely wanted to keep going and continue to have other people and other input involved. We write everything collaboratively and I can’t make this music without the people that are helping - I really can’t! That’s the good thing about it, because everyone brings something else to the table.
Scene Point Blank: If you don’t play any instruments, how does songwriting happen?
Ilana Hope: Everybody always asks about our writing process and I always feel silly every time I explain it (laughs). I know a lot of musicians that have been to school for [music] and have a certain way they view songwriting and I do the opposite of what people are taught to do. I start with lyrics and a vocal melody first - just an idea [in my head], some words that I like, and a melody that I’d like to sing them to. And then usually from there I record, like, an acapella voice memo in my car through bluetooth. And then I send it off to people to work with.
For both this album and Songs from the LIRR, we worked with my really good friend Joey. A lot of the guitar riffs or beats you’re hearing are from him. He sat down with me and listened to me sing the songs and kind of came up with whatever he felt would compliment the vocals really well. He also records us, so it’s kind of easy to have a writing/recording session all at once. We tend to write and record everything pretty much at the same time, which again, is not how people are supposed to do it (laughs). But it’s really fun.
Once we write the basics of the song and come up with some aspects to it, we’ll share it with my keyboard player Gill who will fill it out with synth parts and come up with some other ideas. Also, now we have Matthew, who just joined our band and will hopefully be writing some stuff with us too. I couldn’t ask to work with better people, because a lot of musicians have trouble working backwards the way I do. But they always find a way to take whatever ideas I have and bring them to the next level… or take my direction, but put their spin on it.
Scene Point Blank: So Dan [Ramirez - owner/operator of Open Door Records] sent me your record.
Ilana Hope: I love Dan! He was actually the first person I asked. I knew that I wanted to do a co-release [for ICYMI], and my first choice was Open Door. So I asked Dan, and as soon as he was down I was like “okay, I’m not asking anybody else, because I got exactly what I wanted.”
Scene Point Blank: I’m always trying to see what Open Door is doing, because he was one of the first people that gave my label a line.
Ilana Hope: I don’t think Dan gets enough credit. I don’t think Open Door gets enough credit in general. They’ve seriously been so important to so many bands’ careers, and everyone just forgets.
Scene Point Blank: The first song on the new record, “Best I Can,” starts off with a sound clip of someone saying “when is Foxy Dads going to put out another record?” and then reveals that you actually reached out to this person and apologized for it not being done yet. “In Case You Missed It” - isn’t that kind of a jab at yourself for that?
Ilana Hope: (Hesitates) Kind of. I mostly wanted to do an abbreviation, because on the back of the last record, it says “thanks,” but it’s just [spelled] “t-h-x” and I always thought that was really cute and kind of fun. I love text speak and shorthand, and a lot of times I’ll write my lyrics the same - like a little text. Because to me this feels almost like a diary. It’s very personal. I don’t want to take [this music] any more seriously than I take my conversations in real life. So I definitely wanted to do an abbreviation [for the album title] and since a lot of this album is about my family and growing up and changing, I thought “In Case You Missed It” would make a lot of sense. And I also thought it would be really funny when people say, “I-C-Y-M-I came out a week ago” or whatever. The clip is from a podcast, actually. [The host] is a huge Foxy Dads fan.