Reviews & Press

February 10, 2018

Take Back the City

"Joby Fox played in one of my favourite bands Energy Orchard but is now as human rights activist who has been raising funds for and working himself for refugees in Lesbos. Tonight he blew us away with the wow moments.

 

The first Energy Orchard single, Belfast, that he wrote got a re-arrangement and new verse for post conflict days. A boy from West Belfast then sang Maybe I Am, Maybe I’m Not for the kids of East Belfast. Republicans and Loyalists, quite a title, then took us into the forgiveness that Gordon Wilson sent out after the death of his daughter Marie in the Enniskillen bomb and, in some way, for all of us. Joby had an EP awhile back that was dedicated to John and Yoko. Tonight I saw him as our very John Lennon but, forgive me Yoko, with more authenticity! It was powerful stuff. this item about? What makes it interesting? Write a catchy description to grab your audience's attention..." 

October 24, 2017

Refugee heroics of Belfast musician Joby Fox to be screened in documentary

Joby Fox brought the refugee crisis into sharp focus in Northern Ireland when it was revealed he left his Belfast home to travel to Greece to offer his help.

Two years on the musician is still working for refugees and now his work has been documented for the BBC..

  

Al Gilmore’s review of End of the War on Chordblossom.com

I’ll give away my age by saying I saw Fox with Energy Orchard at U.U.J. Freshers’ Week in 1989. I am not that young man anymore and neither is Fox and his music now is very much removed from the electrified Celtic Blues Rock of Energy Orchard. It is a mature brand of contemporary folk/blues. Fox is very much a Belfast boy and is not ashamed of his roots and it shows through in every song on this album in one way or another.

 

‘End of the War’ is a fine example of the singer/songwriter genre and more besides. The music itself is beautifully crafted and expertly produced. The production is crisp and clear with the mix between the instruments and Fox’s raspy ‘lived in’ voice is perfect. The album opens with a lilting simple contemporary folk song ‘Insane Asylum’, and has a lullaby feel to it despite the title. The next ‘proper’ song is ‘R and L’ (Republicans and Loyalists). This is the stand out track on the album featuring a backing track akin to ‘Thank You’ by Dido, a vocal delivery straight from the Fran Healey (Travis) school and a backing vocal that echoes Floyd’s ‘Great Gig In The Sky’. Sound like a strange mixture? It totally works. People are as divided about whether we should sing/write about the Troubles now as the division between ‘R and L’ itself, but this is not a song that goes over old ground or picks sides. It’s personal.

 

Next up is a simple love song, simply called ‘I Love You’. Simple yes, but very effective and, should it ever get the airing it deserves, it will become ‘Our Tune’ for any number of couples, no doubt with the bloke recalling how he finally got up the courage to ‘pop the question’. Again, you have to love the ‘Ulster-ness’ of it as Fox says ‘courting’ (curtin’) in the lyric. Fair play lad.

 

The album closes with the title track. This is a more ambitious jazz-infused track featuring a full band sound, including sax and organ. Being a Belfast boy we think Van The Man, but we could equally think Ray Lamontagne in his jazzier moments. It’s groovy and really well executed. I have to say, it caught me out after what had gone before but my surprise gave way to enjoyment.

 

My only criticism would be that there isn’t enough! 7 tracks with only 4 genuine songs interspersed with instrumental interludes seems a tad short. Temper this though with the fact that this is a dual project to be accompanied by a short film, ‘Los Commandos’, which Fox has ambitiously put together. If the film is as good as the album, the whole package will be very good indeed.

 

Stand out Track // R and L

 

For Fans of // Van Morrison - Ray Lamontague

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April 29, 2012

Tammy Moore’s review of Lost Commandos for Culture Northern Ireland

For one of Belfast’s original punks Joby Fox, former bassist with Energy Orchard, is surprisingly laid-back. The ginger-bearded songwriter grumbles sympathetically about traffic wardens and chats admiringly about Belfast musicians Silhouette, Mama Kaz and Window Seats.

 

Get him talking about his new project, though, though and it obvious that the old fires have just been banked. Lost Commandos is a 7-minute short that sees four armed, balaclava-wearing commandos careering around iconic Belfast locations on a mysterious secret mission. Only to wind up back where they started.

 

‘There’s a twist at the end, too, but I’m not telling you what that is,’ Fox says with a smile, before leaning forwards earnestly. ‘It’s a metaphor for people who are caught in that mindset.’

 

In an era where most artists are eager to brand their work ‘post-Troubles’, Fox is defiant about his refusal to ignore what he calls, ‘the elephant in the room’.

 

‘There is a drive to sanitise it, to push it all under the rug and not talk about it,’ he growls. ‘Well, maybe some people still want to talk about it? I’m a working class boy, that’s where I’m coming from. The MAC and the Titanic Centre are great and that’s all very well, but people in the working classes still aren’t living together in this city.

 

Film isn't Fox's usual art form, but after he left Energy Orchard he wanted to try something new.

 

'EMI signed me up when I just a kid. In some ways I think that inhibited me,' he explains. 'Well, not anymore. I will use any medium I can to get my ideas across.'

 

In case any of his fans are getting worried, that includes music. Along with Lost Commandos Fox is releasing the complementary album End of the War. It consists of seven tracks, 4 new compositions and 3 interludes. Fox cites The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour album as an inspiration, saying that he has always wanted to try to do something similar.

 

Whereas Lost Commandos is essentially pessimistic, depicting people caught in an unending rat-maze of their own making, End of the War takes a more positive outlook.

 

'The album provides an alternative to the mind-set in Lost Commandos,' Fox explains. 'It is journey from the world of the asylum to peace.'

 

A journey that took Fox four 'mad but great' years to put together and was entirely funded out of his own pocket. 'I couldn't have done it without my partner,' he says. 'Sophie [Rasmussen] is very cool and collected and produced Lost Commandos.' He didn't seek funding for the project because he didn't want it to be associated with anyone else's agenda.

 

'I think enlightenment can be found through sharing ideas,' Fox explains. 'I am speaking from my own personal experience, and I just hope that can help people move on.'

 

Lost Commandos and End of the War will be launched at the Long Gallery in Stormont on May 3, followed by a release gig at Culturlann on May 12.

April 26, 2012

Gavin Martin’s review in The Daily Mirror

Four stars - “An underground Belfast figure for 30 years, Fox’s early Bankrobbers and Energy Orchard tunes shone. Those writing skills have advanced on this long-brewing solo debut – a deftly arranged, richly rewarding look at his hometown after the conflict.”

February 01, 2010

Perfect Stranger interview Culture Northern Ireland

Former bassist with Energy Orchard, the curious Mr Fox tells tales of Belfast's punk era - the spitting, the record deals gone wrong, the stage-bound Japanese throwing star

Few people can claim to know what it feels like to be chewed up and spat out by the music industry and come back for more, but ex-punk Joby Fox knows all about it and he's got the stained t-shirt to prove it.

 

Not that he's bitter. The now sober musician fondly recalls his adventures as a wild young man, telling it as it was, back when 'explosive' wasn't a phrase casually bantered around Belfast - although, for a brief period, it perfectly described the city's vibrant punk scene.

 

'That's what it was, it was a social explosion, a real action against mediocrity and all of that. I'm proud to have been part of that,' says Fox as he takes his guitar from its case in Madden's bar in Belfast.

 

Setting his green flat cap down on the table Fox starts strumming a couple tunes unprompted, ahead of the release of his debut single 'Perfect Stranger'.

 

Occasionally the songsmith strums a chord while talking, as if the music itself is part of the conversation. The movement draws attention to the faded love/hate tattoos across his knuckles, hinting at a past as colourful as the scruffy scarf wrapped below his bushy ginger beard.

 

One of the city's unsung rock 'n' rollers, Fox started his music career with 1980s punks The Bank Robbers, releasing records under Terri Hooley’s Good Vibrations label. The band became infamous for publicity stunts like printing £50 notes with the band logo on it, a prank which later had them arrested on charges of counterfeiting and forgery.

 

As a youngster, Fox's exposure to music occured mainly through his parents, but it was only when the curious 14-year-old stumbled into a Rory Gallagher gig at the Ulster Hall that music took on new meaning. Three years later, mentored by Gallagher’s bass player, Fox found himself up on stage performing in the same venue with The Bank Robbers.

 

Fox recalls a particularly anarchic Ulster Hall gig alongside one of the earliest street punk bands, U.K. Subs. 'We went on slightly earlier [than scheduled] to this totally outrageous crowd. They were going bonkers and it was like, the [height of the] punk era – they were spitting and throwing things at us and everything!

 

'We got through a song-and-a-half when someone threw a Japanese throwing star at us and it got stuck in the back [of the stage] in the wood at eye-level, where the orchestra usually plays. So we knew kind of instinctively, it was like telepathy, we all looked at eachother – 'right, get off'!''

 

After an appearance on Channel 4's weekly live music programme The Tube (see video above), Fox moved to London in 1983 with the band signing to EMI and releasing two singles – 'Jenny' and 'Dear Miss Problem Page' – before being dropped just one year later. The band moved back to Belfast and eventually split up.

 

As a founding member of Bap Kennedy's 1990s outfit, Energy Orchard, Fox penned the rock group's most successful single, entering the British charts and reaching the number one position in Ireland, with a song called 'Belfast'. It wasn't all plain sailing in the beginning, but it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable tenures of Fox's career.

 

'Bap Kennedy was my roadie at one stage, and Brian Kennedy was originally the vocalist. After a year or so of silly arguments, we weren't going anywhere', Fox says. 'Brian was going to go his own way and we thought that was a good thing. But then Bap decided he was going to take the vocals. I just thought to myself, "Oh no, that's the end of the band", but as it happened it was one of the most amazing things I've laid witness to.'

 

Songwriting has always been a vehicle to purge emotional tensions for Fox. His debut single, 'Perfect Stranger', written during the mid-1990s, explores the period in his life that, he says, was ruled by alcohol.

 

'It's about kind of going out to a bar, and you meet a girl, glance across the room – bingo! You just know that the pair of you are leaving together. It's kind of hedonistic in a sense. It's about waking up not knowing the girl that you've been with the night before. It's talking about a one-night-stand type of thing, but maybe just the very thing that you need at the time, let's put it that way.'

 

Check out a free download of Fox's debut single 'Perfect Stranger' from JobyFox.com.

 

Joby Fox plays a free gig as part of the Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival at Kings Street Arts on February 25, 7pm (contact King Street Arts on 02890 327297 for tickets) and also as part of In-The-Round Concert at the Kings Head, February 28 with the legendary Ultravox front man, Midge Ure, JJ Gilmour, Colin McGrath and more - tickets £8 from Belfast Welcome Centre.

 

Eddie Mullan

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July 21, 2011

Fox News - Belfast: REVIEW IN THE IRISH NEWS by John Kearns

FOX NEWS – BELFAST musical maestro Joby Fox has delivered a seriously striking EP called End of the War. Joby has been a respected figure on both the local and international music scene for years now and thankfully still possesses the same lyrical passion and musical edge that made him pick up a guitar or indeed a pen in the first place. The EP contains a trio of original ( and I mean original) songs that incorporate everything from beautifully delicate piano and jazzy brass arrangements to sampled dialogue and exquisite double bass lines. The songs on offer are high on melody and fuelled with human emotion, resulting in each one carrying a powerful, social and political message while at the same time being beautifully wrapped up for mass consumption like an iron fist in a velvet glove.

The lyrical calm between two storms however, the unashamedly romantic I Love You which his one of those perfectly simple and direct songs that refuse to hide their sentiments like John Lennon's Oh My Love or Marley's Waiting In Vain and stand tall because of it.

There is a richness to the songs also in terms of creativity - the haven't been written to conform to a three minute pop radio formula - instead they have been crafted in a very organic and natural fashion.

I'm hearing echoes of a few other musical luminaries in here which is no bad thing. Van Morrison, Matt Johnson's best The The moments, Costello on a good day and here comes the big compliment... The Velvet Underground. This EP is a total triumph - long runs the Fox.

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