Our first feature in 2024 brings to our readers a new band, one creating some waves here in the UK. Apart from the outrageous name, this is a Minneapolis-based 1970’s original six-piece rock band, along with the accessories that came with flower power: flares, loon pants, lava lamps and rock n’roll. Scratching the surface, there is also a hard-working band of talented musicians who are creating some great new music. Checking out tracks like “Shadow Girl,” “Breath it In,” and “Naughty Little Girl” from 2023 shows how the band is taking the sense of the 70’s and repackaging it for the modern era. They have introduced a spookier sense of dark melody into the blender. For those who are reading this due to wanting to know about the name, keyboard player Al has a keen interest in birds, and his favourite is the common chicken, apparently. The band wanted to do a nod to his ornithology and tagged it on to ‘Sunflower Fox’, which Kaity came up with while writing song lyrics in Kyle’s basement. 

The band was set up in lockdown and released their debut album, recorded in the same studio where Kansas recorded its string of platinum albums featuring “Dust in the Wind” and “Carry On Wayward Son,” and Stevie Wonder tracked his album “Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants.” You can stream their 2023 EP here.

Sunflower Fox and the Chicken Leg are:

Kaity Heart (vocals), 

James Gross (guitar), 

Mike Schmidt (guitar), 

Craig Holets (bass), 

Kyle Primus (drums), 

and Al Berg (keys)

Kaity and Kyle were the band members sitting down with us for a talk. We began by noting a change in the air of American rock with some of the more established bands like Kiss, Motley Crue and so forth running to the end of their careers (same in the UK, Ozzy, Queen, Judas Priest, the Stones and so on, are at the twilight end of their natural careers). With the old guard stepping aside, we wondered how the new bands were stepping up. What is the state of rock music in the US in 2024?

Kaity: I think it’s a lot better than most people think, but it’s more underground. There are bands like Greta Van Fleet that are doing things. But as we become more active, we are discovering these other bands. There are a few really great retro rock bands, and there are straight rock bands like Dirty Honey (from LA, with Marc La Belle on vocals), and Lost Hearts (alternative rock from Nashville) is another; they are all just starting to find their way. I think it’s all there, but it’s underground at the moment. It’s because you have to battle these major labels to get seen and heard; it’s all against us. Once all these smaller bands figure out a way to work around these big label-supported massive bands, then we can be found. But that is the hardest part now. When those guys were all big, there was this huge focus; there weren’t a million or so acts all streaming and trying to be heard. It was Kiss, or it was the Rolling Stones, and that was it.

Kyle: It’s tough because we have a saturated market. With how accessible music is right now, it is very difficult to be noticed. Unfortunately, it can be a bit depressing.

Kaity: But we keep going!

Some artists we speak to note that in the past, everyone needed the radio station to get their work out there; radio play was everything. Now it’s all streaming, and it’s YouTube and various forms of social media that are needed to break songs. Video didn’t kill the radio star, but maybe streaming has?

Kyle: The new radio play is like a viral TikTok or YouTube video; you need one of those to hit before anyone big is going to notice you. If you watch some daytime talk shows now, if they bring on an artist, they will always introduce you with a comment like ‘as featured in their viral tik tok’ video or whatever.’ That is the new radio play.

Kaity: Or millions of streams.

Which will still earn you about $100! As Gene Simmons notes, the music business never protected artists well enough from the impact of streaming. In consequence, we have an industry where artists are almost giving their music away for free. ‘Here is my new album.’ Have a listen and donate, but why would you donate when it is given for free? Our analogy is that you would not go into a restaurant and have them present the meal for free and then afterward ask you to donate if you felt like it. 

Kaity: Absolutely right. It’s also sad how music has been devalued. Rock stars will always be rock stars, of course, and, on the positive side, accessibility helps, which is wonderful in many ways, and we want people to find us and listen to us. But the sense that anybody can do this, and anybody can now, devalues it a bit. 

On the video side, there is a great video for “Naughty Little Girl” that seems to be a preparation for the zombie apocalypse (also an Instagram from the band alludes to the coming apocalypse!). Now that preparation has to be a good thing, bashing zombies must be applauded! Watching the team on the movie “Shaun of the Dead” beat up that zombie to the sounds of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” remains a solid piece of moviemaking. There is a still from the video here, and it looked like a lot of fun. 

Kaity: The Instagram video you referenced was us preparing to film the music video for “Naughty Little Girl.” We were armed with chainsaws and machetes, among other things, and it is incredible that nobody got hurt! It’s ridiculous! Then, a former keyboard student of mine appeared in that video; she was so endearing that she had to have the chainsaw! So one of our guys was teaching her how to use the thing and telling her to look at the camera, like the show ‘Jackass!’ It really did look like we were arming people for the apocalypse! It was so hot that day; it was mid-July. Each of us is a member of another band too, and one of them had a sound stage; therefore, the rear of the sound stage, which looks like it backs up to a train yard and is filthy beyond measure, does indeed resemble the aftermath of the apocalypse. It was hot, sweaty, windy and dusty, and that was the day!

“Shadow Girl” was a favourite of ours here at the magazine. We loved the harmony guitar and the melody, and it was a very mature and developed song. We had to ask about that song!

Kyle: In the first original band I was in, we thought we would develop a sub-genre we called spook metal, which was supposed to scare you. And I like the track as it is an eerie track; without even the lyrical content, it moves from organ to a spot about two thirds of the way through when we were joking around, and it made it onto the track! A producer we worked with had me read these curse words in Latin, and then we spun them around backwards, and he threw them in the actual song. But I love the spookiness of the track.

Kaity: That was actually the first song we wrote as a band. I am the lyricist with this group, and I started writing this one early in 2020, and we were putting in all this ear candy in it. I knew I wanted it a bit like Fleetwood Mac, adding that big vocal harmony in the middle where it kind of broke down. And as a seventies band, we totally needed backwards talking Latin in there! Everyone will think we are worshiping the devil! Then Ron Nevison got hold of it and started mixing it. He got into it and actually recorded wind outside his house, and that is what you hear at the start of the track—wind from outside Ron Nevison’s house! 

Ron Nevison is a class producer, of course, and has been nominated for several Grammys. Among his big hitters, he produced the “Crazy Nights” album for Kiss and had a hit with “The Ultimate Sin” for Ozzy (a double platinum seller), among many others.

Kaity: He mixed both the first album and the second one that is coming out. He provided vocals for the second album, and we have been working for him now since December 2022. He’s the coolest guy and a complete sweetheart! We ended up working with him after a shot in the dark. We emailed him, saying, ‘this is a shot in the dark; are you taking any projects?’ He literally said, ‘it depends; what have you got?’ We sent in “Breath it In” and “Shadow Girl.” Instead of emailing back, he called our rhythm player, who is quite business-minded, and he was taking a bath at the time. Ron’s name then popped up on his phone, and with that name calling, you answered the phone! So James is in the bathtub, and he said he stood up in shock! 

Thankfully, not face time!

We next moved on to the image. The “Shadow Girl” video, for instance, has pagan imagery and there are a few goth-type images in the visuals. Although the band has a deliberate 70s look, is there a nod to the horror genre too?

Kaity: That video was released around Halloween, so we went in that direction. We styled the video around early Fleetwood Mac and wanted a spooky Stevie Nicks kind of feel. We went for a mix of goth and a stylized feel for Halloween. Otherwise, if you look at our material, it is more straightforward rock 70’s style clothes. The guys all have vintage T’s. 

Kyle: A lot of bell bottoms and flowers! I have a second closet for all the flowers! 

We hit the charity shops over here for a rummage for the older-style clothes, always good for a vintage evening.

Kyle: Thrift stores—we call them here!

Kaity: I have found all these vintage remake stores and boutiques, but most of the clothes we are getting are from the UK, like around 90% of outfits from the UK. 

There is a growing interest in Sunflower Fox and the Chicken Leg here in the UK, and one of our readers actually gave us a nudge to listen to you. We hope to maybe see you over here for a festival or two in the summer!

Kaity: That is very much the plan. We don’t know how this happened, but looking at our Spotify numbers, our support is overwhelmingly in the UK. Magazine, blog and general interview interest have all come from the UK; radio play is from the UK. It’s bizarre, really; we have had more interviews from the UK than from our own home state, which I’m totally fine with!

Kyle: It’s great; I’d quit my day job to tour the UK! And I love the rain!

And as a last fun question, what was the last album listened to from beginning to end, and was it good?

Kyle: I got a record player for Christmas, and I got “Crimson Idol” by Wasp, and I have just listened to it on vinyl from front to back. It’s one of my favourite records of all time!

Kaity: I frequently listen to “Thirteen Tales of Love and Revenge,” the third studio album by American duo The Pierces. I have listened to this album so many times; they are like sisters, and it’s spooky and weird, and every song’s about killing your ex! It’s great, influenced by Fleetwood Mac, and has dark, fun stuff. 

It’s good to hear the vinyl is back. It would be great to see the vinyl record stores getting some newer bands into the stores alongside the big hitters too.

Kyle: There used to be so much thought that went into the running order of albums, which song went toward the end, and so forth. The track order was part of the creativity. But half the reason for getting the record player is that we are going to do vinyl! 

Kaity: We are waiting for the press right now. 

And there we close this interview with a very interesting new band! If we have a mission, it is to connect these great artists you find in our magazine to a wider listening public! However, to keep us improving the magazine, we really do need your support, and if you can go to the ‘support us’ button and buy us a coffee, it helps us feel appreciated and keep improving the magazine. We also have our merchandise shop, Lorraine, looking great in the gear! Read on, check out our many great features and reviews, and do bookmark us on your pages!

The band’s Spotify page.

The band’s website

By Mark C. Chambers


Lorraine Foley


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