EXCLUSIVE: Fan gets Scranton band Those Clever Foxes to reunite for all-day music fest on April 30 in Wilkes-Barre
In March of 2015, Those Clever Foxes called it quits, but even after a full year passed, fans of the Scranton indie punk band still haven’t forgotten about them.
In fact, one fan in particular, Ray Meoni, is making sure they’re heard live at least one more time.
Organizing some of his favorite local bands to perform in an event dubbed “Ray Meoni Doesn’t Need a Ride to This Fest,” a play on the fact that he was always asking for rides to shows up until he started driving himself, Meoni is now giving back to his fellow music fans with this all-day festival on Saturday, April 30 at The Other Side in Wilkes-Barre, which includes a possibly one-time-only reunion of Those Clever Foxes.
“It was Ray’s idea to have us back and do this. There was small talk of us being like, ‘Hey we should jam sometime soon,’ but nothing like doing a full show for something like this,” vocalist/guitarist Sean Flynn said.
We caught up with Flynn to look back on the music and memories that the Foxes left behind, recall the highs and lows of the group, find out what they’ve been up to since, and see what they have in store for the future.
NEPA SCENE: Tell us about the origins of the band.
SEAN FLYNN: The band started out of this idea of, “Let’s just get together and play music and drink.” The original four of us were going through a real rough patch at that point and just wanted to get together to cheer each other up. We figured that if we can get at least eight songs together, we can get an opening slot for our friends’ bands and get drinks at the bar all night. We really winged it, and it barely held together. It was really bad, but we didn’t care because we were having fun. Eventually, we kind of woke up and realized that we should either give up or get serious and try and do something.
NS: How long was the band around for, and how much music did you release in that time?
SF: This coming October would be our five-year anniversary. We released two EPs. Our first was “Four Bedrooms,” which I still personally have 150 copies of that we never bothered to do anything with. Then, we released our full length album “Quincy Avenue” in 2013 and, later that year, we put out “Something You Can’t” for free. That was basically the songs we didn’t get around to record for the full-length and, funny enough, became the EP we ran out of so fast. We put it up online and burned basic CDs for it, and they were all gone after two shows.
NS: What are some of your favorite memories of being in the band?
SF: My favorite memories are the tour we did for the full-length. What I do remember about that was great, like when we had an off day, so we wandered around Brooklyn all day and got to all these old parts of New York and got great food and records; it was a real treat.
I always will remember, though, writing “Quincy Ave.” A few of the nights when [bassist, vocalist] Nick Blockus and [vocalist/guitarist] Doug [Griffiths] would come over to my apartment at the time, we would sit on the living room floor with acoustic guitars and beers between us and we worked on the closing song of the record, “The Dangers of Living.” Watching it get spun out of the air and Doug and Nick going back and forth with the lyrics and guitar licks – it was cool moment.
NS: What was your best or most favorite show?
SF: My two favorite shows are the second time we opened for Murphy’s Law and we co-headlined the bill. We were playing at one of our usual haunts, The Rattler, and the place was just completely full. When we started to play, the place just came alive with people moshing and singing our songs. Halfway through the set during one of the faster songs, I get hit in the head with a beer. During our last song, everyone is dripping in sweat and it is like a rainforest in this tiny place – people jump on stage to sing and dump beer on my head. I welcomed it because it was cold.
The other show I love was a night at The Vintage Theater and, for some reason, there was just a lot of buzz about the show. I don’t know why, but people were talking about it. We tune up and are getting ready and see the room is completely full. We’re five minutes from playing and someone tells me, “Hey man, this show is sold out. There are people outside who are listening.” That stuck out. We didn’t say it, but there was a moment of, “Well, these people came for a show, so let’s give it to them.”
NS: On the other side of the coin, what about the worst show you can recall?
SF: The worst show? The first year-and-a-half of the band.
NS: What were your fans and live shows like? It seems you guys had a pretty fervent fan base.
SF: Our live shows started out like any other band, with us just trying to get people to come and listen to what you got. It gradually turned into where you start to see the same people over and over, and they would be bringing friends with them and it just kept going from there. Then, we noticed that these kids started to really listen to the songs and wanted to see us live.
The live shows from our side were usually meltdowns of some kind. Cables and amps would break, and the guitars usually always had something wrong with them. Every show was like, “Please, God, do not let anything break for once.” And when all the moshing and people jumping up on our microphones started and you’re playing to full rooms, you don’t notice your amp settings were wrong for half the set or your strings were out of whack. We have had people who listen to every kid of music say they enjoy us. Hardcore kids, rock kids, people who are really into hip-hop, they all say in some form, “I’m not really into this kind of thing, but you guys are really good.”
NS: What songs are you most proud of when you look back on them?
SF: I would say “Florida” and “It’s Not Enough to Just Be a Man” were really big moments for us. I remember watching Doug write “Florida,” and I remember when he brought in “Not Enough” and it wasn’t fully done yet, but you could already tell he had something to say and needed to say it. “Those Games We Play” I am really proud of; even though it’s only three chords, I got out a lot of frustration with that song and what/who it’s about. Even though I can’t relate to that song the same way, like I’m sure it is with a bunch of our songs, I love that song and I’m happy I will get to play it again.
NS: What lessons do you feel you may have learned from your time in Those Clever Foxes about being in a band or making music?
SF: I certainly got a strong work ethic out of being Those Clever Foxes. We practiced two or three times a week for a minimum of three hours. We always had a strong game plan going into practice, as in, “Go over this song and that song to warm up. Go over some new stuff and make it tighter then start something new. Go.”
NS: Why did the band ultimately break up?
SF: The band ended for various reasons. There were a lot of external and personal issues going on with us as individuals, and then the general stress of being in a band that is five people will get to anyone. We had a lot going on as people at that moment, and everything was coming to a head and, before we all knew it, became Apple Records almost. John Lennon made the joke, “It’s because you got the count wrong that whole life is a misery.” We didn’t get that far, but we were heading that way.
NS: When you broke up, you were working on an album. Was that ever released?
SF: No, that album never got finished. We should have been taking a breather for a second and talking to each other as people and friends. We were in no condition to be making an album at that time.
NS: What have the band members been up to since then?
SF: Well, I was already going with Old Charades when we ended, so I took the time I needed when all that went down and focused on making Old Charades its own thing. Doug and Nick and [bassist, vocalist] Donnie Kirchner had Final Descent to focus on, but they put that on the back burner as well. Doug started focusing on his new project, Purcel. We all just kind of went our own ways after the band ended and we had our last show. There was a small moment of, “See ya when I see ya,” kind of, but we would eventually all check in with each other and just be like, “Hey, I’m still alive. How are you?”
NS: Have your experiences in Those Clever Foxes influenced Old Charades at all?
SF: After being in Those Clever Foxes, I definitely learned to slow down and take everything one step at a time and remind myself that I need to enjoy it. Those Clever Foxes were a machine that was grinding all of us. In Old Charades, it’s very relaxed and the same page vibe. I think that’s why that band is a three-piece – there are less variables to have to move around.
NS: What made you guys decide to come back together for this reunion show?
SF: Ray would always run into one of us and ask when we were getting back together or something of that. He finally started saying, “I’m going to get you guys back together.” He finally kind of got in touch with all of us the same day and told us that he wanted us to do this show of his. There was a moment of back and forth and voices being heard, but then it was like, “He won’t go away or take no for an answer. If he wants it that bad, we should do it for him.”
NS: How did you meet Ray? It seems like he has been a big supporter of Those Clever Foxes over the years.
SF: We met Ray from him coming to our shows. He was one of those kids that would just be at every show – when he could get a ride – and tell people about us. He would wear our shirt and ask us to play certain songs and all that. He was a big fan of ours.
NS: What has it been like getting together and playing these songs again?
SF: We have been practicing and getting ready when we have the time. Getting any number of us in a room at the same time is impossible. We have our original bass player back, Nick Blockus, and it is a trip to play with him again because it seems like forever since I played with him. We are definitely having the moments of, “Wait, how did this song go?” or forgetting a line, but it has been surprisingly going really well. It didn’t take long to remember that, once we get in a room and get on the same page, we play very well together. It is weird singing certain songs or lines. They were written so long ago, and we are so far away from the people that we were that it’s hard to relate to them anymore, but they are still fun to play.
NS: What can fans and people who have never seen the band live before expect from this show?
SF: We got a trick or two up our sleeve, but nothing wild. We are giving the set list a good once over for this show since we know people want to see us. I think, though, that the five of us just want to have fun and make sure everyone has fun that came to see us. We are joking how we’re older now and have to be like, “Stop… breather here… breather there…,” but I know that we’re going to come out swinging like we always do when we get on stage. We cannot not be like that.
NS: Is this a one-time reunion or do you think it will happen again?
SF: The conversation of, “What are we doing with this?” has been brought up a few times but never gotten into that deep. We are just looking ahead to the show right now. I honestly can’t say what the future will hold for us. That topic would be on a table in an envelope that says “Open May 1st.”
NS: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
SF: I have to say thanks to Ray for having us on the bill and thanks to all the people who got behind the announcement that we were doing this. It meant a lot to see that that many people wanted us to come back and do this. You don’t see that part of it. We’re just another local band from Scranton, but apparently there are enough people in our area that want us to do this. That is extremely humbling, and we can’t say thank you enough to those people. See you April 30th.
Photo by Michelle Beck Imagery
by Rich Howells
Rich is an award-winning journalist, longtime blogger, practicing poet, adequate photographer, and podcast co-host. He is the founder and editor of NEPA Scene.