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How wigs, karaoke, and Fargo birthed So Fox

Eric Odness didn't pay much attention to the Selby Tigers when he first saw them play in 1998. He'd driven down from Fargo to see Rocket From the Crypt at First Avenue, but the headliners canceled, so he spent the night on the balcony drinking with friends and ignoring the scrappy openers. After moving to Minneapolis the following year, he met Selby Tigers singer Arzu Gokcen at a birthday bowling party, but she still didn't make much more of an impression on him.

"We introduced ourselves and that was it," he says. "She sat with her arms crossed, her lip drooping down the whole time."

"Shut up," Gokcen says, giggling. Both singer-guitarists are sipping brew in Gokcen's cozy Nordeast apartment with the other members of her new band, So Fox: bassist Randy Dever and drummer Brian Eveslage. On the wall Joan Jett stares down from a flyer while Blondie rocks abstract in one of those famous slapped-on-board Steve Keene paintings. There's also a shelf lined with vintage wigs resting on Styrofoam heads. This is So Fox culture.

The band that was almost called Fancypants LeFox: (from left) So Fox's Arzu Gokcen, Brian Eveslage, Randy Dever, and Eric Odness
Daniel Corrigan
The band that was almost called Fancypants LeFox: (from left) So Fox's Arzu Gokcen, Brian Eveslage, Randy Dever, and Eric Odness

"Everybody always likes to tell me how mean they think I am when they first meet me," Gokcen says. "People don't think that I'm shy, but I kind of am."

Coming from a woman who hosts karaoke nights and fronts rock bands, this is tough to swallow. Better known as "Arzu D2," Gokcen has for three years coaxed hipsters to sing like fools at her "Staraoke" parties in various bars. With local indie hopes the Selby Tigers, she was a wild-eyed and assured frontwoman, donning every wig in the '60s rainbow and belting teen-angst tantrums so poppy, she seemed ready to join the superheroines on her wall. That band ended, as did her marriage to guitarist Nathan Grumdahl (now of Monarques), and now her year-old group sounds more angry and R-rated--Frogtown Tigers, anyone?

Produced for maximum harshness by Selbys bassist Dave Gardner, So Fox's eponymous new debut seven-inch on Redemption Value Records is packed with the sort of "cool parts" you normally get only once or twice an album--the signature intros and climaxes associated with classic punk. Just as unique are the group's dual, unison vocals, which are so jerky and forceful that they seem to be trying to convince you of something--probably of just how fucking lowly you are.

"You tried so hard to break me/To break me/You almost got your way," they harmonized at a 2003 Christmas party in the downtown Minneapolis Grumpy's Bar (Gokcen works at the Coon Rapids one). But Gokcen's performance face is more O Brother, Where Art Thou? than "Oh Bondage! Up Yours!" She rolls her eyes instead of furrowing her brow. She also hops slightly to the bass-and-drum blur behind her, like a Singing Flower bobbing in front of an oncoming train. She's not mad, in other words, she just writes that way.

"How angry can you look in a glittery dress and a beehive?" asks Odness, laughing.

Though they seem natural friends now, Odness and Gokcen didn't really connect until he started showing up at her sometimes sparsely populated Staraoke nights. So Fox might not be the first band formed by karaoke addicts, but it's probably the first group whose singers are a karaoke hostess and a guy known mainly for his fearless rendition of Lionel Richie's "Hello."

Odness happened to know two other recent Fargo transplants, whose flip professionalism made them perfect for a new band with Gokcen. Odness had idolized drummer Eveslage and bassist Dever in countless Fargo groups when he was still a teenager.

"If you go up to Ralph's Bar in Fargo," says Gokcen, "look at the flyers on the walls. It's all these guys' bands. Any show that was worth a damn, these guys would open."

Odness had even played briefly with Eveslage in the rock group Mothmus, before getting kicked out (there's still controversy over this incident), while Dever's longtime punk-metal unit Orange Seventeen once shared a bill with Lefty Lucy, Gokcen's pre-Selby Tigers band. Odness calls Dever's Orange Seventeen "the best fucking band ever," and attends the occasional reunions. Dever's mates are also eager to get it in print that Orange Seventeen once opened for Ted Nugent at the Fargodome.

"Randy's still waiting for this band to reach that level of stardom," Gokcen says, smiling. "I can't give you the Nuge, Randy. Maybe I can give you REO [Speedwagon] someday." The bassist's face goes dreamy for a moment.

Anticipating the name's future marquee value, it seems worth asking: Why "So Fox"? Gokcen always liked "Fox," she says, and toyed with several possibilities--"Jerk Fox," "Fox Patrol," "Butt Fox."

"Fancypants LeFox was a cat that my friend adopted from these breeders, and their last name was actually LeFox. I thought that was really great for a name, but everybody was like, 'Oh, Le Tigre.'"

"You had a problem with 'LeFox' but you didn't have a problem with 'Fancypants'?" Eveslage deadpans.

"I would never call a band with boys in it 'Fancypants.'"

"I just bought a sewing machine," offers Dever, wrinkling his nose. Everybody laughs.

Gokcen insists she thought "fox" was outdated slang, anyway. "I never heard anybody call somebody a fox. I hate it when people are like, 'Oh, So Foxy.' I was by no means trying to comment on how any of us looked."

Eveslage agrees. "'Cause then we would have been called 'Fancypants.'"

 
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