Heavy, Heavy Fogg
Consider Black Sabbath for a moment. While the band is widely known for laying the foundations of heavy metal with the ominous, tritonic riffage found on their landmark debut album Black Sabbath, people tend to forget that the four dudes who made up the band were barely out of their teens. It’s amazing enough that a group of working-class 20-year olds came up with an earth-shattering sound, but it’s the sheer effortlessness of their first album that makes it truly special. The same might be said of Fogg: The Fort Worth-based power trio is young, to be sure, but unlike dozens of other musicians their age, they sound like they’ve been handing out a haze of psychedelic doom for years.
The reality: Bassist/vocalist Brandon Hoffman, guitarists Chase Jowell, and drummer Ethan Lyons have been jamming with one another for only six months. “Well, Ethan and I had this noise pop band a few years ago,” said Hoffman. “We played with the Fungi Girls once, and it was pretty bad.”
The Jesus Fur, as Hoffman and Lyons’ old band was known, didn’t last long, but it did put them in contact with the Fungi Girls, in particular drummer Skyler Salinas, who would later become a huge fan of Fogg’s tunes and introduce the bandmembers to Robbie and Jennifer Rux of Dreamy Soundz records. Fogg’s sound is rooted as much in suburban boredom as it is in Sabbath’s Vol. 4, making its smoky, reverb-soaked grooves ideal for the Rux’s Fairmount-neighborhood studio. Already, the band has most of a full-length album recorded, due out in the winter as a cassette on L.A.-based indie label Under the Gun.
Besides Black Sabbath, the dudes in the Fogg share an affinity for other late ’60s/early ’70s heavy metal progenitors like Blue Cheer and Hawkwind, neither of which tends to be popular with people under 20, or even 30 for that matter, and yet the fuzzy leads oozing from Jowell and Hoffman’s amps are firmly rooted in that era.
“I used to hate Sabbath, when I was like 14 and 15,” Hoffman said, adding that he was hung up instead on bands like Oasis and Arctic Monkeys.
“Then he got wise,” said. Jowell.
Still, when you’re only 20, it’s hard to escape the themes and experiences that are just a couple years in the rearview mirror. The band’s music is as far from Oasis as Aledo is from Manchester, but it carries the kind of morose, “fuck it” attitude written on the face of every disenchanted high school kid since Paranoid was new. It’s less an echo of teenage petulance than it is a relative of the Ramones’ “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue.”
Hoffman is the principal lyricist, though he’s more comfortable with bass riffs than coming up with verses. “I basically just go for words that rhyme, and all the songs end up being kind of down and depressing; I guess there’s some self-hate in there that I don’t plan, so maybe it’s a subconscious thing,” he said, laughing.
Even though a song like “Downer” grinds alonga crunchy, anxious chord figure and bummer of a title, it never comes across as gloomy. “Some feelings really aren’t that bad/just let ’em creep into your head,” Hoffman sings, in a high tenor that seems to hover distantly over washy distortion and the bash of Lyons’ drums.
Hoffman’s words might not reach for complicated heights, but the doom and menace in Fogg’s tuneage are way more compelling anyway, as evidenced by the fact that the crowd gets bigger every time they play. Often, Fogg is an early opener in a four-band bill, but even those 9 p.m. slots draw new fans.
“I still can’t get over how good they’ve gotten in such a short time,” said Sean Vargas, frontman for local stoner rock titans FTW. “They play like they’re a lot older than they are.”
Could Fogg climb to the top of Mount Doom as their ancient forebears from the ’70s did? Anything is possible, and they seem to be on a lucky streak too. According to Hoffman, the Under the Gun deal came about because a rep from the label caught an Instagram post on the band and liked what he heard, then sought out the group. Fogg also plans to tour as much as they’re able, having already played a show at Beerland in Austin, opening for Fungi Girls. They’re also contributing a cover of Sabbath’s “Cornucopia” for a tribute compilation from Under the Gun.
“We just want to play music,” Hoffman said. “It’s pretty much the only thing that brings us joy, you know?”