“Luck plays a part, having a plan – which we never had, we just stumbled from thing to thing – and there’s a certain element of ruthlessness that you need as well,” that’s The Fauves' frontman Andrew Cox’s idea as to why success comes for some bands and yet eludes others.
Ruthlessness was perhaps the main missing element in this enduring Melbourne band. The band was formed by three best mates on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula in 1988.
“There’s a real, in a nice way, a tall poppy syndrome in our band,” Cox says. “You could never get ahead of yourself without everybody else just ribbing you and pulling you back down. No matter how much I may have wanted in my dreams to be a true rock star frontman, it was just never gonna happen in this band.”
The Fauves did achieve modest success with their first two albums through Polydor in the final years of major record labels’ dominance. But just because your band was signed to a major in the ‘90s, didn’t ensure that a vision or a plan was in place.
There was a view to release two songs ahead of Future Spa’s release. These were ‘I Love The Fight Game’ and the band’s most successful song ‘Dogs Are The Best People’.
“We had no idea which was the right one to go with,” Cox says. “We could never have imagined that people would like it at all, because [success] just wasn’t a thing that happened to our music prior to that time.”
Because their first two releases only made a modest impact sales wise, there was pressure exerted from their record label.
“We had a fairly fractious relationship with our A&R guy who was constantly making it clear that we needed to have radio songs,” Cox says. “But at the same time we held very close to the ideal of ourselves as very pure artists.”
We had a fairly fractious relationship with our A&R guy who was constantly making it clear that we needed to have radio songs.Andrew Cox
Such was the constant haranguing from their record label rep that a song was written about him in the form of ‘Don’t Get Death Threats Anymore’.
“Phil [Leonard - guitarist] sort of had, well not a screaming match, but a showdown with him at one point and basically our A&R guy stopped calling him. So that was him expressing his sense of relief. The death threats were sort of a metaphor for those horrible phone calls.”
The band were in their late 20s when Future Spa came out and Cox agrees that a level of maturity equipped The Fauves with the confidence to change their approach from the more art rock endeavours on their first two albums.
“The lyrics got a lot simpler, a lot more direct, but consequently a lot more meaningful,” he says. “There is that sense of growing up in suburban Australia through the ‘70s. My memories of what that was like does come out pretty strongly in the lyrics.”
Future Spa struck a strong chord with a broader audience, propelling the band into a period of popularity which included an ARIA nod. But, by the end of the decade, they’d been dropped by their record label.
The Fauves have continued releasing albums over the years and reflecting now in 2016, with their 12th album due next year, Cox says things have ended up pretty nicely.
“For us, our friendships were so important, I think really early on we just decided we’d always put our friendships first,” Cox says. “The payoff is that, 28 years later, we’re better friends than ever. That’s the thing I’ve always treasured about our band, is that we’re all still best friends.”