Comprised of Rebecca Gone Bad from My First Earthquake and Mr. Michael Cobra from King Loses Crown, San Francisco, California garage-pop duo Happy Fangs made their way to NYC to be a part of the grand spectacle that is CMJ. By all accounts, CMJ is self-destructive blend of everything the music industry is about: Half music, half mixer, and half bender, but would you want a marathon to run in any other way?
Currently touring in support of their self-titled EP, which dropped on the first of this very month, I caught with the group to talk about the new EP, playing at CMJ 2013, and what else they have in store for the rest of the year!
G- Hi there and thank you for speaking with Live High Five today! So let’s get right into it… How long has Happy Fangs been around and when did you first get started? Do you remember the moment that you really felt the group “click?”
M- Well, we played our first show a year ago and we actually got together because Rebecca’s other band and my other band shared a rehearsal space… We met that way. I’m actually a film director as well for my day job, and I did a couple of videos for her band for fun.
And we just knew each. When she left her band, we started doing some demos together, trading on line. And then we started doing more things together, and what we really found, which was great, is that we kinda didn’t need to sit down and write demos… We could just write them on the fly.
M- So, the majority of our songs come from impromptu jams, and that is when I really felt that it started clicking and was gonna work.
And then, all the sudden we had a show with one of our favorite bands from the UK called Blood Red Shoes, and we had to get it together. We run a drum machine for the backing track, and we literally got the drum machine a week before the show. I didn’t even know if I could program it (laughs,) but we made it happen, and it’s been happening since.
So, we’ve been playing a ton in San Francisco and working on our EP with some great producers, and then got accepted out here (to CMJ) and came out here to the East Coast.
G- Very good! Now, since you brought up the EP, you are currently touring in support of it… How has the reception been to the new songs, and have you noticed any fan favorites off of the record?
R- Yes. I would say… There is this song we have called “Hiyakaka” that people now scream at us.
R- They scream at us “Hiyakaka” because if you’ve ever screamed “Hiyakaka,” it’s very redeeming…
M- Very visceral.
R- And that is kind of our war-cry song. So, we’ve been playing it last in our set and that seems to really rile people up…
G- I kinda want to yell it right now.
R- I know, right?
G- Can I?
M- Go for it.
(And this is where interviewing in NYC gets fun, because I loudly scream “HIYAKAKA” in the middle of Washington Square Park. This happens at least 3 more times)
M- Feels good, right?
G- That was awesome!
R- It’s an energy release, right?
G- I feel like I just threw a fireball in Street Fighter 2 or something.
R- Like a vulture schooled in the martial arts.
G- I love that!
Now, staying with the EP for a minute, let’s talk about the recording process for the album? Where did you record it, who was behind the boards, and how long did the release take to get it ready?
M- So, we recorded in 2 different studios in San Francisco One was Hyde Street Studio C with Scott McDowell. He did the majority of the EP, and we also did a couple songs with Patrick brown at Different Fur in San Francisco. We kinda piece-mealed it. We write some songs, picked the 2 best and went in, picked some more songs and went in, and did that 3 times and ended up with a 7-song EP.
R- I will also say that there was never a day of recording with producers where they didn’t say the words “Track blasted.” So, I think we did pretty well, considering we basically did a song per day, not to brag.
G- Wow! You really pounded it out then.
M- We tend to go in really fast and make things happen.
R- When you’re paying for your own studio time, you don’t dilly-dally.
M- We make sure we are pretty ready for every situation when we walk into the recording studio. We had a ton of fun doing it, too!
G- Nice. So, in addition to CMJ, what do you guys have in the works for the next few months and upcoming year?
R- CMJ has given us stars for eyes, definitely…
And we are dreaming big! We want to dream really big, and we want to show more people our music with music videos, so we have 2 of those slated to come out later this year, and I think we want to reach more people hand-in-hand. Not Kumbaya style, but more fist-touching-fist.
M- I think our goal is to get into a national tour early next year, and when we go back we’re going to continue writing new tracks and also really work the Bay area radios, and West Coast as well. So we’re gonna start working that next, and hopefully work into a national tour.
R- So whatever city you’re in, we’re coming to.
M- So get ready!
G- Watch out, folks… Happy Fangs are gonna sink themselves into ya! 2014 National Tour… I like that. Good stuff!
R- Get some dental coverage!
G- Ok, so since you’re trying to jump on a national tour, let’s speculate a little bit… Are there any bands or artists that you’d like to share a stage with in the future, or if you could put together your own feasible 3-band dream lineup to be a part of, who would you guys want to go on tour with?
M- Do you have 6 hours to talk about this?
R- This was a LONG conversation during our epic road trip that we called a tour. We talked a lot about this. I’m gonna go with Wild Flag and Savages.
M- Wild Flag.
R- I’d love to play with some more gals. No offense, gentlemen, but I want more ladies on our lineups.
M- I would agree, and I’d also like to go with Cage The Elephant. I think that they’re a band that are probably going to have another breakout year this year, and Death From Above 1979, one of my favorite bands, if they can get their act together and release what they’re supposed to be releasing. I don’t know if it’s gonna happen, but I love their intensity and I think we share a similar intensity. Different types of music, but we share a similar intensity on stage.
R- Also, this might not fit, but I’m told Luscious Jackson got back together, which is a childhood favorite of mine. Well, not childhood… A teen-dum favorite, and that would… I’d just… That was my first concert ever, so I’d love to share the stage with them.
G- Mine was MC Hammer.
R- Nice! I shared a stage with him once.
G- Did ya?
R- Yeah He was very… I mean, his pants were very form-fitting. It was weird.
G- So he wasn’t all (doing the dance) “dunt dunt dunt duh nun nunt, dunt duh nuh nunt, dunt duh nuh nunt?”
R- He was just, like, too cool for it.
G- See? He should’ve kept with his original schtick.
M- Yeah he should’ve.
G- But when you bring 200 people on stage with you during your first tour… Eh, he doesn’t have the money for that anymore.
M- Yeah he’s screwed. (laughing)
G- Ok, so we discussed (yelling) “HIYAKAKA,” which is an awesome name and I’m going to commandeer it…
R- Please do.
G- … But do you have a favorite song you have ever written or one that is most fun to perform, or if you could only give 1 song to someone who’d never heard Happy Fangs before, to try and make a new fan, what song would you give them and why?
M- I would go with “Hiyakaka.” If we wanted to make a new fan and give them an idea of what we’re like, and what we’re like live, I’d go with “Hiyakaka.”
R- I’d go with a song that we wrote called “That Activity.” It’s a little bit less war-cry than “Hiyakaka,” but it has this approachability to it. We played in Philadelphia last night and, I’m going to admit to you, my parents were there. They drove in from Pittsburgh to be there and they danced to that song. And I kinda pride myself on the fact that my parents don’t like my musical tastes, but the fact that they don’t like my music and we could get them to dance to that song… Done.
M- If we had a Rick Springfield hit, it’d be “That Activity.” That’d be the one.
R- Oh, and this is something you might not know about us if you haven’t seen us yet… We wear war paint at every show.
M- We do. We also do one other thing that is really unique. Every show, we write a custom song on the spot.
M- Yeah. So every show, we ask the crowd what it should be about, and we usually get a ton of people yelling at us. We run a backing track for the drums… We don’t have a drummer… that we change every few shows, and I write the riffs live, and she writes the lyrics live.
R- And he doesn’t really have to write the riffs live, but he, like I said, I’ll be like “Why don’t you just play something happy” and he’ll be “Let’s see what the suggestion is, because that will dictate the riff. I have to write lyrics to the riff, but he also take it very seriously.
M- Yeah. Last night, we go the suggestion “Firecat.”
R- Someone yelled “Fire,” and someone else yelled “Cat.”
M- That was the name of the song, and it couldn’t just be happy! I had to scream, right?
G- That sounds like a ripper.
M- Yeah it need to rip! So, I wrote a ripper…
R- It clawed.
M- And she write the lyrics. We do it every show, and it gets people excited. It definitely… The hipsters that are too cool for school and have their arms crossed change their mind after that. It changes things pretty quickly.
G- Right on.
So, I want to ask a question I’ve never asked in an interview before because I’m liking the company…
R- Thank you.
G- But I want to know… You’ve done interviews in the past for prior bands and this bands, and are there any questions that you’ve never been asked that you wish you would be asked that you’d like to answer right now?
R- Ooooh! That’s a really hard question.
M- That’s a damn good question! You have to give us a second.
G- Take your time.
M- That we haven’t been asked…
R- Why I do this! (laughing)
G- Well, why do you do this?
M- Yeah that is a good one. Nobody ever asked us that.
R- I do this because I really feel like I want to reach people in a way that’s really unique, and I want to reach people when I’m not there, and I want to reach people in person, and I want to do things they can appreciate.
M- Mine is a bit different. I started playing drums when I was 9 and I started playing guitar when I was 15, and I focused on a graphic design career and I kinda didn’t make music and I really wanted to, and I hit a point in my life where I realized that when I was 50 years old, I was gonna be really pissed at myself if I didn’t do this. So, I dug my claws in and started going for it, because I want to live my life. I want to have experienced this and do it, and do it for real.
G- Good! Good answers!
M- Feels good!
G- It really does! That’s a stress reliever right there! I mean, somebody might get institutionalized if they use it too much in the wrong context, but…
R- It’s true, but primal scream, yo!
G- Primal scream and shout! Ha Motley Crue reference!
So to finish up today, you guys made a very long trek here, and you just told us why you do this, which makes complete sense. You’re on the build, and recording, and playing shows, and your hearts are in it and you’re working really hard to do what you want to do.
There are a lot of kids out there that want to play drums and guitar and want to try to get into a band and go on tour and play CMJ 2014. So from your experience, what advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands everywhere who want to make it in music, on the road, and fulfill their own musical dreams so they’re not pissed off at 50?
M- Stop wanting it and start doing it.
R- Yeah I think that’s actually something that Mike said to me today in the car, in all his philosophical wisdom. I’m gonna misquote it, but it was ‘Anything worth doing…’
M- Anything worth doing is worth doing 100%. Don’t bother skimping on it. Do everything you can. Be cool with everybody. Understand that everybody that is trying to do it is trying to do it just like you are, whether it’s the sound guy or other bands or whatever. Just enjoy it, but don’t EVER give anything but 100%. Anything less than everything is not enough.
G- Goddamn right!
R- We should have our own inspirational poster, see!
M- We should.
G- You guys are alright!
R- Mr. Cobra’s Inspirational Poster.
G- “Inspirational Quotes,” by Mr. Cobra.
R- He’ll look really mad and sinister on the poster, but the quote is totally profound.
G- And underneath or on the other side, you can have one of those comic bubbles with you (Rebecca) peering over yelling “HIYAKAKAAAAAAA!” That’d be awesome!
Well look, I just want to say welcome back to NYC…
M- Thank you.
R- Thank you!
G- Welcome to CMJ, even though I had nothing to do with putting this together…
M- Well, you’re the reason it happens.
G- I appreciate that… That’s the first compliment I’ve received all week except for “Get the hell outta the way,” which I think is a compliment in NYC.
R- Oh, I like your hat. That’s the second one.
G- (laughing) Right on! Well, I just want to say thank you again for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today.
R- Do we end with a high five? Is that how we end it?
G- We can totally end with that if you want!
R- You’ve got an iPad in one hand and an iPhone in the other… How are we gonna high five?
(all high fiving)
IT’S LIVE! That was a high fifteen.
M- One more time.
(high fifteen again)
G- Awesome! Guys, I mean guy and lady, play very well at your show tomorrow, be safe in your travels back to the West Coast, and we look forward to round 2 in the future! Take no prisoners. HIYAKAKAAAAAAAA!