Studio Soundtracks is a regular series that celebrates the music that artists, designers and other creatives love and listen to while they work.
London-based design and art direction studio Foxall are certainly no stranger to music; it seamlessly underscores pretty much everything they do across the fashion, editorial and advertising worlds. Founded by brothers Andrew and Iain Foxall, their background is mainly in fashion publishing, having worked as art directors and designers of Vogue Turkey, GQ Brasil, Ponystep—that bastion of east London hipness—and Near East magazine.
The pair is forthright in its admission that their work is influenced by art, literature and music, and while at work this mostly means electronic music—“mainly Soundcloud mixes, Spotify loopholes, old MP3 databases and sometimes vinyl if we have time to be flipping records over,” Andrew explains, “electronic music is the common denominator of music tastes in the studio, and ranges from techno to ambient and back again.”
Although now firmly settled in East London, for their first few years the studio were based in Istanbul. The brothers say that they “wouldn’t work without something on in the background.” They got involved in the city’s music scene, and even had decks set up in the studio with friends often coming round to do little studio DJ sets. Turkish electronic musician Tolga Fidan interned for a while there, “and would come back to visit and play a live set for hours and hours while we worked,” says Andrew. When they weren’t treated to live sets, the studio would likely be tuning into a lot of early Radio Nova.
Foxall’s current London studio neighbour is none other than Trevor Jackson, of art direction, graphic design, DJing and the band Playgroup fame. “We had a new employee and he made the innocent mistake of wearing the Joy Division Unknown Pleasures t-shirt and Trevor immediately said ‘Oh, nice T-shirt, never heard of them before, where did you get it?’ etc.” says Andrew. Awww.
“Our simple aim was to inspire people to get dressed up and go dancing”
As far as music-based studio projects go; Foxall’s first “proper music work” was the 2015 video for Basic House’s track Unmaking: a brutal, disquieting but brilliant techno-informed piece brought to life by their collaboration with Universal Assembly Unit, using motion capture “to create large dancing beings,” as the studio explains. “One is inspired by Willy’s tail in a Captain Pugwash children’s book. Another is a tangle of glow sticks. The blue tyres are taken from an amazing shot from photographer Nico Krijno. Our simple aim was to inspire people to get dressed up and go dancing.”
The studio project The Party Next Door, which launched in early 2018, was a limited-edition magazine that takes the form of a vinyl record, presenting an eleven-hour recording from an all-night house party in London, edited down to twenty minutes. The idea was to explore the nature of the contemporary magazine.
“For us, the idea of a magazine is wrapping something around something that’s happening in the world, and gets you excited about it and augments a certain feeling,” Andrew told Eye on Design. “It sort of creates a world and extends from that, so that you want to inhabit it—the sort of feeling I had when I first read i-D magazine back in 1996. A record makes you spend time with it: you might look at the sleeve as you listen to it, or you might look at it later, but it forces you to give it your attention.”
“A record makes you spend time with it, and forces you to give it your attention”
Andrew and Iain’s parents were a folk duo in Scotland for a while, and they grew up with a father who was a classically-trained cellist who would even take sheet music on long car journeys to sing out—“so we had lots of music around the house,” says Andrew. The first music that the brothers owned was “probably those hits cassettes you used to get for petrol points; Lionel Ritchie, Kylie and so on,” says Andrew.
“My first record was De La Soul’s The Magic Number cut out from a Kellogg’s Frosties packet. I nicked one my dad’s sanding discs and glued it on the record so that I could scratch it. From there, tastes veered from early happy hardcore cassettes to clubbing at Edinburgh’s gay clubs; techno parties in Zurich and a lot of dancing in Turkey.
A glance at the Foxall playlist, created exclusively for Elephant’s Studio Soundtracks, reveals glimpses of all these various interactions and interests, from pure dance music to techno-leaning math rock; Jackson’s band Playgroup and, er, an edited remix of a Facetime ringtone (it’s brilliant). Ever experimental, thoughtful and with a wry humour, this is a banger of a playlist, expertly crafted by two designers who clearly very much know what they’re doing. See below for the tracklist, and listen to the playlist on Soundcloud here.
iOS 11 Facetime ringtone (Foxall edit)
Theo Parish — Sweet Sticky
Moodymann – Amerika
Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley – Jack Your Body (Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley remix)
Ian Pooley – Chord Memory (Daft Punk remix)
Playgroup – Untitled (vinyl only)
The Maghreban – Now Easy
Playgroup – Get Down
Battles – Tonto (The Field remix)
FaltyDL – Wondering Mind
Nightwave – Quadratic Mind ft. Martyn Bootyspoon
Randomer – Fat Purple Figs
Bruce – Steals