Imagine yourself on stage in a foreign land. Hot, bright lights flash in your eyes and a slick of sweat starts dripping down your back. The crowd is shouting words at you in German as you try to discern just what exactly they are saying.
Someone yells, “Hochdruckreiniger!”
You squint into the crowd. “Hochdruckreiniger?” you repeat, hesitantly butchering the pronunciation.
“It means power washer!” comes the laughing reply from out in the audience. You look at your partner, take a deep breath, and you both launch into your best improvisational attempt at rhyming the word in song.
For the nomadic, folk-singing sweethearts Sarah Vitort and Scott Gilmore of Fox and Bones, this is far from a moment of embarrassment or fear. Quite the opposite. This is the moment when they know they’re having a successful night. It’s all part of a well-crafted live show in which audience participation is key and awkward moments are not only embraced, but encouraged.
In a time when the world feels increasingly serious, it’s their way of bringing the audience in on the fun of making music.
Once upon a time, their live shows had been predominantly about sharing their art, but there was something missing from the performances. Having been a summer camp counselor for years, Gilmore remembered that most of his fondest memories came from spontaneous audience participation games aimed at creating unity through laughter and shared experiences in what Vitort calls a “fluke” of inspiration.
“It is about the music,” Gilmore notes, “but it’s also about connecting. How can we make each moment memorable [because] it’s only going to happen at this show in this way, so how can we make each mistake memorable?”
Of course, it wasn’t easy at first. Vitort remembers how difficult it was to break free from the idea of a perfect performance and welcome something more offbeat. “For me, I’m not the type of person to go out of my way to embarrass myself,” she says wryly. “But I’m getting better at it and realizing how fun that can be, breaking that fourth wall between you and the audience.”
For the duo, success has grown from this philosophy. Moving forward, their goal is to embrace who they are together, a couple with a distinct capacity to love big and laugh hard, so that the music they create feels authentic.
Their recent video for the single “Little Animal” from their album Better Land (produced by Dominik Schmidt of Rola Music and recorded at The Rye Room—watch below) exemplifies this new wave of self-acceptance and authenticity. After struggling to create a more serious, cinematic video for their earlier release from the album, “Love Me Like a River,” they ditched the facade of drama with Gilmore donning a dog suit instead.
When asked to describe their music, Vitort and Gilmore often use words like “heartwarming, silly and quirky.” For the pair, these adjectives are more of an acknowledgement of the way they live their lives than a simple description of their music.
“I’ve always been drawn toward optimistic [music],” Gilmore adds. “In a strange way these songs are a mantra, so we want to be very careful what we are repeating... the things that you say turn into your actions, and all of a sudden that’s your life.”
The video for the title track “Better Land,” featuring artwork by Chris Bigalke (Showdeer) and animation by Zach Winterton, will be released mid-winter. For the couple, it is the summation of their ideology as musicians: Put lighthearted optimism back into the world in order to set the stage for what comes next.
“We have a lot more power [within our communities] than people are giving us credit for right now,” Vitort says. After all, as Gilmore puts it, “[Whenever things seem bad] that just means there is so much room to get better.”
MOST RECENT RELEASE: Better Land out now—listen to the title track below