Marlon Aguilar and Kori Simonson of Maks The Fox, with Flyer. Photo by Ben Chandler

By now, you folks reading this know that I love discovering new artists who are creating exciting and challenging music, and such is the case with MAKS The Fox, a quartet of musicians from the Chicago area made up of singer/songwriters Kori Simonson (vocals, guitar, keyboards) and Marlon Aguilar (vocals, guitar), with Rachel Schuldt (cello, bass, backup vocals) and Jarod Facknitz (drums). I learned of this group from their publicist, Heather West, who sent a link to their music and upon hearing a track from their first album I requested a phoner so we could talk about their latest album, “That We Exist.” On April 15, a call was placed to Simonson’s home and after introductions were made, she had a request for me.

Simonson: Is it okay if I call my husband and bandmate, Marlon, to add him to our call?

Q: Sure, by all means.

Simonson: Here we go — hi, Lucky.

Q: Hello again, Kori.
Simonson: (Chuckle) Okay. Marlon should be on the phone now, too.
Aguilar: Hello.

Q: Hello, Marlon. Now, I’m calling Chicago, right?
Simonson: Yeah, Marlon’s working at the University of Chicago and I’m at home with our 5-month-old baby, so it’s going to be helpful to have both of us on the call in the event that I need to put the phone down for a moment (laughter). We’re excited to be parents but it’s definitely a weird time for being a parent. Thanks for calling us and talking about our new album.

Q: Well, the first thing I heard from you guys was “Fair-Weather Friend” and that really knocked my socks clear across the room.
Simonson: (Laughter) Yeah, that’s from our first album, it’s a classic. Our new album that’s coming out on April 23 is our third, and we’re really proud of this album and we’ve been at it a little while, but we feel our songs are getting better and better. The drummer we played with on the first album is on the third, so we have some nice, hard-hitting songs, there’s more energy in them and it’s a bit more energetic.

Q: Well, I really like a band that’s willing to push the edges of their own envelope, it shows growth and maturity. The other aspect of your music is the addition of a cello; ever since Harry Chapin’s band I’ve been enamored with that particular instrument taken into the context of today’s music.
Aguilar: That’s Rachel; she’s been with us for all the albums, right, Kori? But this album is a nice change for her because she’s alternating between bass and cello, so you still get that cello that pops up throughout this album.
Simonson: Well, she wasn’t on the first album with us, we had Sarah (Cornish) playing viola with us on the first one and Rachel came shortly after, they actually knew each other because they worked at the String Shop together. On the second album we had both Rachel and Sarah, we had both viola and cello and bass; and now on the third, Rachel has some really nice cello solos. We’re really fortunate to have her.

Q: Well, that warm, rich sound makes what you do unique, in fact, the one word I’d use to describe MAKS The Fox would be unique and eclectic. Oops, that’s two words — sorry.
Simonson: (Laughter)

Q: … but it is something that isn’t heard all that often in folk/rock music nowadays, and that’s a shame, I’m so glad you guys are doing it. Now, have you ever performed up in Maine before?
Aguilar: Ah, no.
Simonson: We have not (laughter).
Aguilar: We haven’t made it too far out of the Midwest, actually. Obviously we’ve done all around Illinois and we did Michigan, but we haven’t had a chance to really go up that way.
Simonson: We’ve also has some stuff at Ohio University, and I looked up and found that you, Lucky, do a lot of blues and band interviews up in Maine, so I guess we’ll have to come to Maine. If you write a review and people like us, we’ll have to drive up there (chuckle).

Q: Just out of curiosity, is what one hears on your albums fairly representational of what a live show would be like?
Aguilar: I’d say the only thing that is textured differently when we play live is that we won’t have the little bit of extra background vocal layers that were added to this latest album, but everything that we put in the record was tracked at home by us, so it was nice to really have this whole extra time to carve these recordings out. During the start of the pandemic we hit a pause for a bit because we weren’t sure it was safe to gather with the band, so we didn’t see them for a couple of months. But as we kind of kept our quarantine circle pretty tight we were able to finish the record, we gave all the tracks to Dan {Duszynkski} and he mixed them up in his Moon Phase Ranch studio in Dripping Springs, Texas. I think with this album we really captured what we’re sounding like very accurately because there was no outside things to distract us, no shows, not even the concept of maybe even going to a show. So we were really in our own world for a long period of time.

Q: And that’s been a reoccurring theme in a lot of the interviews I’ve done since March of 2020, having more free time to work on new music and related activities, and that sounds like that’s the case here. Plus if you’re able to work at home as far as recording and like that, that’s another bonus.
Aguilar: Yeah, we had everything we needed in the house to make this record, and so not every band has the equipment ready to go and set up and just dive into a recording scenario when inspiration strikes, that was all just another highlight of being stuck in our house, we really used our studio space like we never had before.

Q: Well, now it’s time for my traditional closing question. Is there anything, Marlon and Kori, that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Aguilar: Well, I hope people download the album but we are having this pressed to vinyl. We spent a lot of meticulous time in tracking the sound of this album so I hope people enjoy it on not just digital platforms but actually bring the vinyl home and play it and enjoy it as a whole. With the vinyl, people can digest it more as a body of work instead of just picking a track or two for a playlist.

Q: I grew up listening to LPs so I know exactly what you’re talking about. It’s neat that they are making a comeback, everything old is, indeed, new again.
Simonson: Yeah, it’s nice to have people absorb the album in the track order, too. I don’t think a lot of people really do that unless they have vinyl or a CD, where everything now is just really in singles and that’s not how we created this album.

Lucky Clark has spent more than 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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