By Dan Osto – Contact Writer
Boston-based trio Pet Fox is made up of musicians Theo Hartlett (vocals-guitars), Morgan Luzzi (bass), and Jesse Weiss (drums). While each member has cut their indie rock teeth in other beloved northeast bands (Hartlett and Luzzi play in Connecticut fuzz rock act Ovlov, Weiss with Boston’s Palehound), the trio creates rhythmic, guitar-driven indie rock all their own, effectively blending a wide array of each member’s influences, ranging from general indie, surf, garage, emo, and 90s revival.
Only a month ago, we were stoked to catch Pet Fox at Standby’s Record Release Show at Wherehouse Hartford. As their dope performance and setlist suggested, we knew that they were cooking up some new material for their upcoming sophomore release. Little did we know at the time how near that release would actually be! Today, we are stoked to premiere Pet Fox’s excellent new album Rare Occasion, which comes out officially this Friday. You can pre-order the record at Pet Fox’s Bandcamp here.
One of the most exciting aspects of Pet Fox’s 2018 self-titled was how fully formed it felt right out of the figurative musical box. Even at the getting-to-know-you stage of its first listens, song highlights like “How To Quit” and “You Cry Wolf” resonated like well worn singles on a indie rock cassette already played through every beach drive the summer before. More than just a strong pop sensibility, there was just a certain warmth about its production, guitar hooks, lyrical one-liners, and dynamic shifts that just stuck around well after each song’s three-to-four minute runtimes. While the immediacy of the record was appreciated, it would certainly be interesting where Pet Fox might go next, and what highlights would definitely go on the next mixtape.
Rare Occasion answers that question, and pretty much expands on the first record on every level. Opening with its title track, the band quickly illustrates the qualities that made Pet Fox appealing in the first place. Songs like “Rare Occasion” and “Find Me” are sunny summer jaunts with an emotional core, decorated with excellent production, shimmering guitar hooks, bouncing basslines, and invigorating drums that always go above and beyond the obvious rhythmic accents.
As a singer, Hartlett is an unconventionally engaging vocalist in his own right, with the ability to simultaneously emote and deadpan lines like “to clarify / I nearly died”, with wide-eyed conviction and bummed disinterest. Hartlett comments on the album’s lyrical content: “Overall, I think this is a very introspective record for myself… I’ve gone through a lot of big changes in my life over the past year and I found myself stuck on dreams, regrets, and my constant battle with indecisiveness.” On Rare Occasion, the expectations of everyday life are often pondered and unresolved, where simple juxtapositions like “Welcome home / tell me where you’re coming from? / to overthinking now” and “Got a job / how the hell do you manage that? / a rare occasion” resonate with diary-esque rumination. As an artist between homes, jobs, states (geographical and emotional), the comfort of actual certainty really is a rarity to celebrated. Of course, its not all about the lyrics, with many one-liners complemented with wordless falsettos that tend to hit at just the right place, right time.
While Hartlett takes the form as thematic mouthpiece for the band, Pet Fox is very much a unit (definitely their own squad) in songwriting creation. Rather than starting with a bunch of almost-finished songs on guitar and merely adding drums and bass to them, the band crafts their music with synergy. It shows. Look no further than early single “Swerving”, a 90 second splatter-painting of a guitar-pop song that, rather than following a conventional verse-chorus approach, like its title and thematic content, indecisively swerves between musical phrases. The track reflects both sides of the creative coin, featuring heavily composed melodic instrumentals but also the thrill of spontaneous, technical jamming that couldn’t be easily reduced to a solo acoustic guitar.
Overall, the band keeps it short and sweet on Rare Occasion, with most songs tracking between 2-3 minutes. This brevity works to the band’s advantage, capturing that lightning-in-a-bottle, technical creativity not usually witnessed in like-minded rock acts. For a band born out of other beloved projects, Pet Fox has clearly established a voice of their own, and perhaps self-evidently after a couple spins to this record, might find themselves as the new favorite.
Later this month, the band will play two gigs. On July 24th, they will be playing ONCE Somerville with Rozwell Kid, Perspective, A Lovely Hand To Hold, and Dog Stuff (Event Page Here). On the 26th, they’ll be opening Maneka’s Record Release Show (!) with Bethlehem Steel and Oceanator (Event Page Here).
Stream Rare Occasion by Pet Fox on Bandcamp and Spotify below: