Is ‘The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)’ so bad it’s good? Could it be that the viral hit is actually revolutionary? Is there even a point (and does it matter)? One thing’s for certain—it has captured the zeitgeist. Millions of people have watched and rewatched the totally bonkers YouTube video, and that’s precisely the position the Norwegian brothers of Ylvis were hoping to be in.
Vegard and Bard Ylvisaker, who’ve been working together professionally for 13 years, have been thrown into a new ring of fame in a matter of weeks. Their hit song ‘The Fox’ surpassed 100 million viewers on YouTube this last week and jumped to the sixth spot on the Billboard Top 100 Chart in the U.S., which led to performances on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and the Today show. The brothers are established celebrities in Norway, but given their new fandom in the states, the Ylvisakers want to make sure there is no confusion: they’re doing it for the comedy.
“It’s like a protective mechanism,” Vegard stressed.
“Basically, yeah, we’re cowards,” Bard chimed in. “Because we raise the comedy flag, we can get away with more.”
“We can be as pretentious as we want,” said Vegard.
“It’s like if some person in a bar thinks [‘The Fox’] sounds nice that’s nice for us, but if it’s drifting off then people can say ‘well, it’s comedy,’” added Bard. “Or, if someone’s like, ‘wow, they’re off pitch’ it’s like, ‘it’s OK, they’re comedians.’”
They refuse to call themselves songwriters, but there’s no denying the cleverness in the lyrics—even if most of it is gibberish. Ylvis brings up the question that many (okay, very few) of us have thought about, but have never asked out loud: What noise does a fox make? And they even offer answers! It’s even funnier when it’s spelled out. Go ahead, sing along:
Ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding! / Gering-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding! / Wa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pow! / Hatee-hatee-hatee-ho! / Joff-tchoff-tchoff-tchoffo-tchoffo-tchoff!
But actually, what you hear in the video isn’t what they originally dreamt up. While sitting around bouncing ideas off each other—the scene of most of their brainstorms—the brothers did a little recording of their own on Bard’s phone. And their first fox sounds are much different—even … angrier:
When they officially recorded ‘The Fox,’ with assistance from Norwegian producing team Stargate, things took a slight change. Not only did the fox sounds become friendlier, but Vegard’s whistle at the end of song was altered with the help of auto tune. It was first sung as a howl, he said. But no one complained.
“It ended up coming out better than I first expected and I liked it,” Vegard said. “I love those things, like when good things happen by accident.”
The eccentric costumes in the video were an accident, too. The Ylvisakers originally hired a man to make their costumes, but it didn’t work out. A day before the shoot, they arranged to rent costumes from the Norwegian Film Institute, but there weren’t any actual fox costumes. Instead, Vegard wore a squirrel costume and Bard wore a bear costume.
“At first we thought ‘this is crap’ and this looks silly and suddenly we thought maybe this isn’t a stupid idea and maybe the silliness would add to it,” Vegard added.
“And the fox hoods were cool, they looked nice,” they concluded.
Before Ylvis, the Ylvisaker brothers were experimenting in their rooms. It was always more about being commenters on music, rather than making the music, they explained.
“If you’re gonna sing a song about your love life, you have to make yourself vulnerable. But if you turn it into a comedy you can still keep the distance,” Bard said. “Once you’ve chosen a path of comedy, it’s really hard to crossover. You can’t change from making fun of others to become to the thing people are making fun of. That would backfire pretty quick.”
“Unless you’re like Justin. But he’s just special, I guess,” Vegard lamented.
But they’re happy to stick to the genre. The duo created their own production company Concorde TV and launched their own comedy show on Norwegian television “I kveld med Ylvis” in 2011 after years of making their way through the national TV spotlight.. “We own more than 50 percent of the company,” Vegard said proudly. “So, we have to disagree if we’re not going to have it the way that we want.”
“But if we agree, things just happen. Just like that. It’s like North Korea, Jing Un and King Jung In,” Bard joked.
Even though they’ve experienced fame, you might think the bright, aggressive stages in New York and Vegas would alarm the Norwegian duo.
“It’s hard to describe it without seeming like the biggest dick in the world,” Vegard started, “but I don’t get nervous. I don’t know why. I was really nervous the first time I was on stage when I was 16.”
“As an upside down stripper,” Bard chimed in.
“Ha, no! Like when I was just performing at school. I was standing behind the curtain and my heart was going thumpthumpthump, but as soon as the curtain opened I was fine. And I’ve haven’t been nervous since.”
And even with the tsunami of fame crashing down, it only hardly fazes them.
“I guess now we’re getting bigger, so now everything will fall apart,” Bard said unconcerned.
Vegard reasons, “Anyway, it would be OK. We’re emotionally handicapped.”