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Salt Fox's rescued manifesto fuels their creative drive

Part of being a musician is never knowing when, or where, inspiration is going to strike. An overheard conversation in public could turn into song lyrics, or the perfect turn of phrase could pop into a songwriter’s head while they’re in the shower.

And there’s the Cedar Falls-based indie pop band Salt Fox, whose entire basis for existence comes from a list of self-improvement goals they found in an abandoned apartment. Salt Fox have come to refer to this list as “the manifesto.”

“The couple who had lived there, the guy had cheated on the girl, and she tried to burn down the whole building,” said Salt Fox member Andy Fuchtman, who was working for a landlord at the time. “Fortunately, she used bleach as an accelerant, so all she did was get some marks on the carpet.”

It was Fuchtman’s job to clean up after the apartment was vacated, and that’s when he found the list. “Buried down, deep in the apartment, was a list of thirteen goals that the man had made as a contract to himself,” said Fuchtman. “I stuck them in my pocket, and then many years later, we started playing music and realized we had to have something we believed in, or else the music wouldn’t really stick. So that’s what we chose.”

A copy of Salt Fox's "manifesto," which directly inspired many of the band's songs.
courtesy of Andy Fuchtman
A copy of Salt Fox's "manifesto," which directly inspired many of the band's songs.

In addition to Fuchtman, who plays guitar and provides backing vocals, Salt Fox includes Michael Rogers on lead vocals and Jacob Pauli on keyboards and drum beats. They released their debut EP, Places, in 2022, but the band’s members go back much further than that. In addition to other projects, they previously played together in Beverly And The Accordion, which featured almost exclusively acoustic instruments. But musical tastes change, and Salt Fox now makes music using electronic instruments and drum beats, along with electric guitars.

“I had been making some little demos for myself,” said Pauli. “They were cheesy, all-MIDI electronic instruments. I played them for Andy one time, and he got excited. Immediately, we thought we could just bring Michael in and he could sing. From day one, the idea was that Michael would sing with no instruments, which is a challenge for a guy who usually has a guitar in front of him.”

Not having an instrument may have been a challenge for Rogers, but the band adjusted quickly to not having a drummer. “It was an artistic decision that, also by a happy little accident, just became very convenient,” said Pauli. “It just became a lot easier to stay the route we are. That’s also my taste in music at this point in my life.”

It was around this time that Fuchtman brought “the manifesto” to Pauli’s and Rogers’ attention, and the rest is history. Salt Fox ran into some added challenges after the warehouse they used to rehearse and record was torn down, not to mention the COVID-19 pandemic. Thankfully, they eventually found the time to get back together and record Places. “The funny thing is we really had to follow the manifesto to even find the time and energy to finish the project,” said Pauli.

Music videos are also a key part of the Salt Fox experience. Four of the six songs on Places have music videos, produced in cooperation with Good Era Film. Their most recent video is for “Pink Palm Trees,” released the same day Salt Fox played the IPR stage at 80/35. The video features the band members’ children in key roles.

“We all wanted to do an EP and do a video for each song. That’s still our goal,” said Rogers. “Putting a visual to a song is a lot of fun, and we have a blast making them.”

Jacob Pauli of Salt Fox, performing at the IPR stage at the 2023 80/35 festival.
Mark Lage
Jacob Pauli of Salt Fox, performing at the IPR stage at the 2023 80/35 festival.

The band still plans to produce videos for the final two songs on Places, but Salt Fox is more than ready to move on to new music. “We have a slew of songs that we need to get recorded,” said Rogers. “We want to release another EP, or maybe singles with videos.”

Pauli is already looking beyond that next EP.

“Number Four says, ‘stay focused, each day get stronger,’” said Fuchtman. “That’s the only way we’re really gonna get there.”

Salt Fox were IPR’s Artists of the Month for July, and also appeared at our stage at 80/35. Videos of their performance are on IPR’s YouTube channel. Places is available on streaming services.

Tony Dehner is an award-winning Senior Music Producer, host and writer for Iowa Public Radio Studio One. He holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Northern Iowa. Dehner has worked for over two decades bringing the best AAA music to IPR's audience, and is a passionate believer in the Iowa music scene — after all, every musician was a “local musician” at the beginning of their career!