The Foxglove Hunt
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The Foxglove Hunt

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Fine China’s Rob Withem and Joy Electric’s Ronnie Martin collaborated as The Foxglove Hunt and assembled some simply stunning songs on “Stop Heartbeat”. Culling from influences from the ’80’s New Wave movement and electro-pop outfits, namely the Pet Shop Boys, New Order, Tears for Fears, and Joy Division, The Foxglove Hunt manages to produce danceable tracks that could easily have been on any pre-“Home Alone” John Hughes soundtrack. I must admit that each time I listen to the opening track “A Concealed Weapon” I’m completely fooled as to when it was recorded. Not many other retro-sounding bands do this much better. -

The Foxglove Hunt
Stop Heartbeat
3 and 1/2 Stars
Title: Embrace your inner John Hughes soundtrack.
Subject:Pretty in Pink High School Reunion
Body:Duckie, I can't believe you on MySpace! Did you hear the news? The booked The Foxglove Hunt for our hich school reunion! It's a duo from Phoenix from other keyboard bands-have you ever heard of Joy Electric or Fine China? Anyway, The Foxglove Hunt sound exactly like the synth-pop acts we used to listen to. like the Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode, Spandau Ballet and New Order. Seriously, the band gets the tiniest details right: Tinny drum machines, gothic sound effects, whispery synth blushes and melodramatic vocal swoons. THe band even covers Psychadelic Furs' "Love my Way, but with even more dreamy keyboards and melancholy emoting. I can't wait to dance up a storm to these catchy songs at the reunion! Blaine and I will be there; I would love to catch up!

-Andie Zaleski
- Alternative Press

Highly melodic synth pop heavily influenced by late 1980s British artists. The songs on Stop Heartbeat remind us very much of Fine China and Joy Electric. But wait...there's a reason for that. The Foxglove Hunt actually is the duo of Rob Withem (of the band Fine China) and Ronnie Martin (of the band Joy Electric). Withem writes most of the music here and Martin handles the programming. The end an extraordinarily nice, smooth, upbeat collection of tunes. These two guys obviously share similar tastes in music and this collaboration is like a match made in heaven. In addition to original tunes, there is also a decent cover of The Psychedelic Furs' "Love My Way." Cool danceable upbeat cuts include "A Concealed Weapon," "Business Casual," and "The Pure In Heart." We'd be willing to bet that these guys will be working together again in the very near future... (Rating: 5 out of 5) - LMNOP/Babysue

One of the nice things about being one of the oldest bloggers on the internet is that when a band like The Foxglove Hunt comes along, you can add some sort of little anecdote to the mix for insta-cred. In this case, my back story comes from 2000-2002. The Foxglove Hunt is the work of Rob Withem and Ronnie Martin. While those aren't exactly household names, I was excited to see that Rob was still writing music.

His old band, Fine China, wrote terrific Smiths/Joy Electric inspired tracks and I listened to You Make Me Hate Music more times than I care to admit. Fine China was one of those random acts I stumbled on courtesy of EMI (Tooth & Nail was one of their imprints) that really stuck. For every 10 CDs I threw away, one really hit home and got a lot of spins. Even more exciting was that he hooked up with Ronnie Martin (of Joy Electric) again and the duo still crackles. Stop Heartbeat is an unashamed trip to the 80's. It's electro pop synth that could have been unearthed from a Class of '84 time capsule.

Seriously. If this was a band of 18 year-olds from some art college, people would be hating on them, but the fact that two music vets are still creating beautiful music with shimmering guitars and synth driven riffs is kind of a-ok in my book. There are some standout tracks - The Mayflower Compact and Don’t I Know the Way for example - that would make the stiffest jerk break into the Molly Ringwald dance, but the whole record speeds by pleasantly. They continue to pay tribute to the past by throwing in a Psychedelic Furs cover (Love My Way) and seem relatively uninterested with the state of music today.

And I would wager there are a lot of people that could care less about the new music and just want something as fun and familiar as the Foxglove Hunt. - HeroHill Blog

Spry, ecstatic, wide-eyed electro-pop from a pair of long-lost ace faces, Rob Withem (of Fine China) and Ronnie Martin (from the fabulous Joy Electric), who well understand how danceable one-fingered keyboard alchemy must be balanced with a sense of the epic melancholy that can come from just the right synth wash or a whooshing, triumphant chorus. It's that devotion to the inherent majesty that can be wrought from new wave/synth-pop that separates Foxglove Hunt from every other cokehead with a synthesizer who figures that this sorta thing begins and ends with "Are Friends Electric." They anchor songs with these great eighth-note bass lines that sound like tears falling in rapid succession. The synth lines are definitely of a different time, yet still without sounding like museum pieces. The shared vocals sound overwhelmed and fragile, instead of louche or sleazy, and that anti-edge of innocence and joy makes the album a whole lot more effective than many of their template-aping colleagues.
As well, Foxglove Hunt's tasteful borrowing from impeccable influences makes songs like "A Concealed Weapon" soar by on a Peter Hook-ish bass line swoon and a head-rushing, silk-gloved fist-in-the-air chorus like all the best New Order. More echoes of Manchester's second finest, along with the Pet Shop Boys' sumptuous blankets of electro glitter on "Strength Early," the elegantly constructed keyboards counterpointed by little-boy-lost quavery vocals. And speaking of choruses, check out the tear jerker from "That's Getting Personal," one that Echo and the Bunnymen wouldn't mind pinching, spidery simple guitar lines envelop keyboards rising up to the heavens and that falsetto cooing "Are you really fine?" over and over and over again.
Of course, things occasionally do get a little too early-Depeche-Mode chirpy and sugary, like the too-cute-by-half chorus and bouncy castle keyboards of "Business Casual" and "Mayflower Compact." The architectural essaying "The Life Highrise" combines the more insistent, martial beats of a daf (and some robot handclaps) with the metropolitan eye for detail of a David Sylvian and calming Kraftwerk-simple keyboards occasionally clash with guitar feedback. Bonafides are proudly displayed on a chiming and enjoyably 100-percent synthetic cover of Psychedelic Furs' "Love My Way" -- played it to a Furs lover from way back, and he had me repeat it a few times, good sign. Sounds remarkably more naive in the hands of Foxglove Hunt, whereas the Furs always sounded sort of sinister and world-weary. I like this album, it seems like a complete, consistent statement of what the future could have been. - Ink 19

Some of the best '80s music was made by duos — Hall & Oates, Wham!, Roxette, Eurythmics, Pet Shop Boys, Tears for Fears. If The Foxglove Hunt had been British and around in the '80s, they would be atop that list. But The Foxglove Hunt are two guys from Phoenix, making music in 2008. Thank God The Killers and their contemporaries helped usher in an '80s nostalgia revival. Thing is, they never quite nailed an authentic retro sound, incorporating enough modern pop and indie rock to prevent anybody from mistaking their albums for something made 25 years ago. But The Foxglove Hunt manages to pull off an indubitable imitation. All the elements of '80s New Wave are here — catchy electronic beats; high-pitched, breathy boy vocals; dreamy, swooning synthesizers; even production that sounds old school (props to producer Bob Hoag at Flying Blanket Recording in Mesa). The twosome that is Foxglove Hunt — Robert Withum (from Fine China) and Ronnie Martin (from Joy Electric) — craft catchy synth-pop in the vein of New Order, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and The Human League. They also cover the Psychedelic Furs' 1982 hit "Love My Way." Standout originals include "The Life Highrise," with its robotic ricochet dance beat and dramatic choir vocals; "Don't I Know the Way," driven by digital cowbells and a whimsical, Cure-like guitar progression; and "Business Casual," a bouncy dance song complete with muted horn and bell effects.

- Phoenix NewTimes

The past five years have seen scores of post-punk revivalists come and go. Few, however, have chosen to reinterpret the poppier side of the genre’s spectrum, preferring Joy Division’s dirges to the sunnier sounds of, say, the Pet Shop Boys. It makes sense. The London duo and their club-bound kin infused their music with conga percussion, faux choirs and tinny horn sections. All are techniques which sound laughably dated. These are not generally sounds that we like to remember outside of ‘80s-themed bachelorette parties or the occasional shower karaoke.

This phenomenon can be traced throughout rock and roll. You’ll always find more bands who list the Velvet Underground as an influence than the Mamas and the Papas. The Velvets are cooler because they were forgotten and inaccessible. It’s easier to build on these underground sounds and repackage them for a new audience. Not so with tunes that are so unabashedly pop in the first place; not tunes that are still haunting our FM radios through the ‘80s Retro Drive Time Flashback Countdown with Barb and Doug.

Wouldn’t it be simpler to just ape Gang of Four? Why would a modern indie-rock band want to associate with this fluff? And that’s exactly what the Foxglove Hunt has done. It’s right there on their MySpace page. Influences: Frankie Goes to Hollywood. How many bands are ready to admit to that? The nostalgia doesn’t stop there. The band actually shipped out a promotional 3.5” floppy disc containing their lead single. Adorable.

Rob Withem’s breathy vocals, which somehow manage to sound piercing and gauzy at the same time, mesh perfectly with the band’s synth-driven sound. His injured songbird voice lends an element of melancholy to otherwise ebullient songs. Withem also contributes fine guitarwork that doesn’t sound too far removed from his output in the now-defunct Fine China.

Ronnie Martin contributes everything else, for better and for worse. He’s honed his electro-pop sound for nearly two decades as Joy Electric. He has shown a steadfast dedication to pure, monophonic synth, refusing to incorporate drum machines or any other instrumentation into his songs, resulting in workmanlike machine pop. Joy Electric’s clockwork melodies, while certainly poppy, evoke a methodical dedication. Here we find no such loyalty to his craft. He unleashes his fondness for the sonic palette of his favorite synth-pop touchstones. The uncharacteristically polyphonic bleeps and bloops gallop along in nostalgic abandon.

What saves Stop Heartbeat from being an ‘80s tribute album is Withem’s ear for original melodies. The best ones rival “Melt With You” and “Take on Me”, with unique chord progressions that stick. The album’s finest track, “Business Casual”, features everything corny about ‘80s synthpop, but by the time the awesome chorus is out of the gate, you’ll be clapping along with the MIDI trumpets. “The Mayflower Compact”, however, is an exercise in retro-fetishism that falls flat. The unoriginal synth riff overpowers everything else in the mix, reducing the tune to a sickly sweet morass.

Stop Heartbeat is ultimately a likeable, if unadventurous, record that manages to recapture what was so great about those new pop songs: a keen sense of melody and an ironic sense of humor. In the rare cases when those anthemic melodies are absent, the songs are rendered forgettable. Rob and Ronnie do not venture far beyond emulating their heroes. But you have to give them credit for having the guts to take on such un-hip source material. Foxglove Hunt pulls it off with panache. -

This week I interviewed both members of a fantastic new band called The Foxglove Hunt. If you haven't heard them yet I highly recommend it! If you are a fan of New Order, Tears For Fears or The Psychedelic Furs then you will love, I repeat, love this band. Their full-length record Stop Heartbeat is a non-stop masterpiece, hit after hit, one of my favorite records of the year. Enjoy!

For more info on The Foxglove Hunt visit:
Photo by Jeff Newton

10 Questions for The Foxglove Hunt

1. I know their music is nothing alike, but do you think Brian Molko from Placebo sounds a lot like Neil Tennant from Pet Shop Boys?

RONNIE: I've never noticed a resemblance, but he does sound like he comes from the same school of vocalists as Tennant.

ROB: I honestly have never listened to Placebo.

2. What was your approach to making The Foxglove Hunt’s sound different from your old bands Fine China & Joy Electric?

RONNIE: Using different instrumentation, mainly. Joy E is a completely monophonic- analog-only approach, while Fine China was generally more of a rock thing, so for this I decided to use only synths and drum machines that were manufactured in the 80's. Beyond that, the idea was to make an album that sounded like those classic singles albums from the 80's, where every song sounds like a hit. "Substance" from New Order being a good example.

ROB: My songwriting approach was much more focused and limited. With Fine China I would bring basic song ideas to the band and we would rehearse them for quite awhile and tweak the arrangements, etc., but with Foxglove, everything was very premeditated. I wasn't interested in weird unexpected parts, but rather putting the verses where the verses should be, and the choruses where the choruses sould be, and in the rare instance where there was a bridge, the bridge is where it should be.

3. I found that when asked, the average person likes The Smiths over Morrissey’s solo career, myself included. What do you think it is that’s missing from Morrissey’s solo work that could make it have the same influence as The Smiths (besides Johnny Marr)?

RONNIE: I've always thought that Morrissey's best work is as good as The Smiths because it sounds virtually identical. If he's given the proper chord changes, which Marr always gave him, then his melodies will come out in full because they're always essentially the same. Nevertheless, "There is a Light that never Goes Out", was a once in a lifetime moment.

ROB: I agree with Ronnie here. I think the reason people idolize the Smiths so much over Morrissey is because of wondering what could have been. Four brilliant albums (maybe 3.5 if you want to get technical) and they were done. It's an epic move.

4. I couldn’t find any music videos for your band. Do you plan on making any videos and if so, for which tracks?

RONNIE: Yes, just completed a video for "A Concealed Weapon" which you can find on My Space, I believe.

5. I have a couple friends that are really involved in the Phoenix music scene, but their sound couldn’t be more different from The Foxglove Hunt. How do you feel about the vibe and diversity of your local music scene?

RONNIE: A scene is only as good as its diversity, in my opinion. A thousand four piece, samba wearing, skinny jeaned screamo combos does not a scene make.

ROB: The Phoenix music scene is actually quite diverse. Yes, there are an overabundance of the above referenced screamo combos, sort of like how there's a Walgreen's on every corner. They're not necessary, they're just there. There do seem to be a number of bands attempting to make intelligent, beautiful music in this scene, however, and that is great.

6. I first heard a song of yours on a college radio station and, as a New Order fan, was instantly hooked! I love it and I love that you don’t hide your influences. What is it about bands like The Psychedelic Furs and Tears For Fears that you relate to?

RONNIE: Thanks for that. It was just the quality of the songwriting. It was the age before irony and retro took over how new artists approached their craft, so you really got a new take on things. When you think about something like "Shout", you had never heard a song that actually sounded like that before, or "Love My Way", with the way they recorded those marimbas mixed with the synths. There was a slight diversity of sound, which lacks now because bands have the option of throwing everything in the mix, which they tend to do a lot of times.

ROB: That's great, thanks. I think for me, the approach to songwriting that bands like TFF and the Furs took continues to be compelling. It's taking a formula and reinterpreting it thousands of different ways, but still recognizing how well the traditional structure works. Those bands weren't afraid to be classic, yet at the same time break new ground in terms of sound and texture. They understood the medium.

7. There are few albums that are flawless fr -

I always get pretty excited when two separate musicians I love team up to form a new band. For instance, I nearly had a heart attack when I heard Jack White and Brendan Benson were forming The Raconteurs. So I was equally pushed to the edge of cardiac arrest when I first heard of The Foxglove Hunt - the new eighties-indie-pop band from Joy Electric’s Ronnie Martin and Fine China’s Rob Withem.Now unless you follow obscure Christian indie music, their names won’t mean much to you, but I can assure you they’re two very talented individuals. Ronnie Martin has been recording synth-pop under the moniker Joy Electric for fifteen years on Tooth and Nail Records, while Rob Withem was the frontman for Fine China for nearly ten years. So The Foxglove Hunt aren’t a couple of kids making eighties-style new-wave for irony’s sake, but two veterans of the music industry who’ve been playing this type of music before it became in vogue (again).Their debut album Stop Heartbeat is unapologetic ’80s electronic indie-pop, heavily influenced by legends such as New Order and The Smiths. Its very true to the genre - almost a tribute to these bands (they even throw in a Psychedelic Furs cover - “Love My Way”). Fake hand claps and choirs abound amidst electronic beeps and blips. It may come off as cheesy to some, but personally it puts a smile on my face. Atop of all the synthesizers is Withem’s guitar work, which adds accents and fills out the sound, but never really overpowers the synths. There’s no mistaking this is primarily an electronic driven album.Looking past the sometimes jarring electronic flourishes, the vocal melodies are what really sets The Foxglove Hunt apart. Withem’s laid back voice and engaging melodies is what always made his old band Fine China great, and he continues with it here. His vocal tone may not be appealing to everyone, but I think he has a perfect voice for the style of music.All in all, The Foxglove Hunt’s debut album Stop Heartbeat is a great listen all the way through. A couple of the songs seem like filler, but there are no tracks that I skip or that stand out as particularly uninspired. It’s hard for me not to judge the band by the member’s other endeavors, and I’d say I prefer Fine China’s similar sound to The Foxglove Hunt. But since there won’t be another Fine China album, The Foxglove Hunt is a more than worthy replacement. Hopefully this band isn’t a one off side project and they continue to make music.8 out of 10

The Foxglove Hunt “Stop Heartbeat” Album Review
Posted by: Jeff VanNieulande
Mon, Jun 23

- blog

Ronnie Martin is the brains behind Joy Electric and one half of The Brothers Martin. Rob Withem was the lead singer of Fine China until they split in 2006. The two recently came together to form a new wave band called The Foxglove Hunt. We recently got the chance to talk to both members about Stop Heartbeat, the best album you haven’t heard yet.

What is the story behind the name The Foxglove Hunt?
Ronnie: I don’t remember the details. It was something I suggested to Rob when we were thinking of names and I guess he liked it well enough. It obviously has an old English feel to it, which is one of things that drew me to it. Who knows…

Rob: There really is no story. Just a name.

How has 80s new wave affected your life?
Ronnie: There were possibilities back then because a lot of styles still hadn’t been mined yet. The songwriting of the 80s almost took a cue from the 50s, in that it was instant and not nearly as self conscious as what had happened in the 70s. It was just a great time for new songs and new sounds.

Rob: Great 80s pop for me always has the perfect mixture of joy and sadness. I think I always perceived that tension within myself, but never made sense of it until I started hearing songs like Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now by the Smith’s or Leave Me Alone by New Order. I feel understood by these bands, as ludicrous as that sounds…

What are your favorite 80s movies and television shows?
Ronnie: Star Wars, Field of Dreams, Hoosiers, Back to the Future, Family Ties…

Rob: Say Anything, Rocky IV, MacGyver, Cheer’s, Magnum P.I.…

For those people that don’t already know, what do you do besides The Foxglove Hunt?
Ronnie: I’m involved in another project called Joy Electric, produce and remix other artists, and run a family shipping company with my brother. Too many things, really.

Rob: I co-own a residential construction business in Phoenix.

What made you want to start The Foxglove Hunt?
Ronnie: I had always wanted to do something with Rob as a vocalist, because I have far more limitations in that area than him. We talked about it in 2006 and it became a reality shortly after. I was really interested in doing a project where I could just concentrate on the music and production and leave the songwriting and vocals to someone else, and Rob would have always been my first choice, so… it all worked out.

Rob: Ronnie and I had been talking about the possibility of working together on a new Fine China record, when FC broke up. In the aftermath of that, we began to let the idea of a completely new project take form, and I sent a couple of demo’s over to Ronnie to see what his take on them would be. It just sort of came together without a lot of effort. I had been wanting to do a pure electronic pop record for quite some time, and this seemed to be the perfect opportunity.

Why is Stop Heartbeat the best album I’ve heard in over two years?
Ronnie: Nice of you to say, but it’s really just two things: songs and energy. You hear a lot of really interesting synth-based productions these days, but it’s rarely backed by any songs that bring those classic hooks and timeless songwriting to the table. Our aim was to make a classic singles album, where the energy stays constant and every song could be a “hit.” Obviously we’re not getting national or global airplay, but we envisioned the album having that potential.

Rob: Thanks for your kindness… I think this is a really fun and consistent and energetic record. It kind of flies in the face of a lot of the over-produced yet having-no-songs records we see coming out in recent years. Anyone can make a record sound huge in their bedroom in this era, but you can’t fake a song. We tried to get it right — synth leads, verses, choruses, everything in it’s place in a courageous way — not worrying about being predictable.

What is America missing these days that we used to have back in the 80s?
Ronnie: Kajagoogoo. A band out of leftfield that writes an amazing chorus and has a worldwide smash.

Rob: Cassette singles.

What do you hope to accomplish with The Foxglove Hunt?
Ronnie: A quality of songwriting second to no one.

Rob: A litany of hits.

Seriously, Stop Heartbeat is the best album out right now. What would you tell people to convince them of this case?
Ronnie: Listen and compare.

Rob: I would say it’s obvious that it’s great. Just look at how few people have bought it…

Written by Blake Garris -


The Foxglove Hunt - Stop Heartbeat



The Foxglove Hunt is a new collaboration between Rob Withem (Fine China) and Ronnie Martin (Joy
Electric). Drawing from 1980s electronic and new wave influences like The Pet Shop Boys, New Order
and Tears for Fears, their debut record "Stop Heartbeat" is a nonstop exercise in unapologetic synth-pop
grandiosity. If this record doesn't make you want to dance, then maybe dancing isn't for you. Mixed by
Bob Hoag (Dear and the Headlights, Fine China, Joel Plaskett).
Rob Withem and Ronnie Martin each have their own history of making music. Martin has released over
a dozen records and EPs over the last 14 years under the moniker of Joy Electric, before that with his
brother Jason Martin of Starflyer 59 as Dance House Children and again recently with the appropriately
titled, The Brothers Martin. Martin also produced the first full-length record from Withem’s band, Fine
China, When the World Sings (Tooth & Nail) in 2000. Although Fine China went on to work with different
producers for their next two records, You Make Me Hate Music in 2002 and The Jaws of Life (Common
Wall Media) in 2005, when the members of Fine China called it quits in 2006, Withem and Martin
decided it was time to make good on years of talk about working together again.
Withem wrote new songs and sent demos to Martin who began programming drum and synthesizer
arrangements for the tracks at his home studio in Riverside, CA. The project then moved to Flying
Blanket Recording in Mesa, AZ where Bob Hoag recorded Withem’s guitars and vocals and mixed the
ten songs that are Stop Heartbeat, including a cover of The Psychedelic Furs classic “Love My Way”.

The Foxglove Hunt is specifically interested in licensing some of their songs for film and tv. Also, full instrumental versions of all tracks are mixed and mastered and available for consideration. Tours are unlikely at best due to the side-project-like nature of this project and other commitments, but festivals and one-offs are ideal.