Jonathan Rado and Sam France began accumulating musical knowledge in their early teens, when they left their first band, the Fionas, to start the far more ambitious Foxygen. The Westlake Village, Calif., duo are receiving rave reviews for the accomplished psychedelic rock on their new album, “We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic,” a work that reflects Foxygen's years of discovering great rock music and then trying to create their own new classics.
“With us, I think the music we were listening to was getting better, and I think it sort of happens without you realizing that you're internalizing all of it,” said Rado, who will perform with Foxygen on Monday at Opolis in Norman. “We were listening to it at an impressionable age, and I think we took that stuff in a little harder.
“It was self-discovered,” he said. “I mean, our parents always listened to the Beatles and Fleetwood Mac and stuff — '60s music was around, but it wasn't like my dad was going, ‘Here's “SF Sorrow” by the Pretty Things' or whatever. Because we're part of the Internet generation, it's easy to just sort of ‘album hop,' you know? You just sort of go and it can lead to endless, endless stuff.”
During his not-always-legal music download binges as a teenager, Rado would find himself going down the rabbit hole, letting one classic album open the doors to another. He found himself attracted not only to recognized classics, but to unusual cult albums such as Skip Spence's mad folk-rock masterpiece, “Oar.” Rado and France were always careful not to imitate the music they were collecting. Instead, Rado said he treated each dive into an important album like an education in song structures and arrangements.
And while they recorded several homemade EPs such as “Electric Sun Machine” and “Cat Food, Dog Food, Motor Oil,” they learned to play as many instruments as possible just by picking them up and playing around.
“If you have the knowledge of one instrument, you can sort of figure out the other ones pretty easily — at least for me,” Rado said. “It just stemmed into like, ‘Oh, we need a violin on this song and I can kind of play a guitar,' so I'd just tune the violin weird and figure out how to bow it. I spent a few days learning how to do that just to get a violin on something.”
Rado and France's quickly evolving musical and songwriting ability paid off in 2012 when the duo signed to Jagjaguwar and released their musically diverse official debut, “Take the Kids Off Broadway.” The band's self-challenging work ethic continues with “We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic,” featuring the psych-folk first single “San Francisco” and the multi-part funk-pop wonder, “Shuggie.”
Rado said one of his key influences in terms of musical ambition is Flaming lips multi-instrumentalist, Steven Drozd.
“We saw the Lips when we were, like 15, and it was just really inspiring watching him go around and play keyboards, then guitar, then pedals and stuff,” he said. “We're really, really into the Flaming Lips, so I think for a long time, we were trying to do things that sounded like the Flaming Lips, or a little like Beck, too.”
But Foxygen is constantly moving on to new musical ideas. Rado said that they are trying to make a “difficult follow-up” to “Peace & Magic,” an album designed to be a misunderstood classic.
“The next one is going to be sort of like our idea of a ‘failed record,' like a record that makes no money?” Rado said. “Like ‘Oar' or ‘McCartney II' or the first Lindsey Buckingham record or ‘Tusk.' It's like, ‘I don't know where I'm at in my career or what kind of record I want to make, and I just got this synthesizer and I don't know how to use it, but I'm going to put it on every song.'”
• With: Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Wampire.
• When: 8 p.m. Monday.
• Where: Opolis, 113 Crawford, Norman.
• Tickets: $10.
• Information: www.