By Christine Leonard
CALGARY – Sometimes the best thing about travelling abroad is when you finally get back home and can sleep in your own bed again. That couldn’t be truer for Portland’s Red Fang. Having just returned from a month-long run through Europe in support of their latest album, Only Ghosts (2016, Relapse), guitarist/vocalist Maurice Bryan Giles, bassist/vocalist Aaron Beam, guitarist David Sullivan and drummer John Sherman genuinely enjoy kicking back with family and friends over the holidays. But, true to the anthemic stoner rock band’s virile nature, just four days into their sojourn Giles is already thinking about mixing business with pleasure and getting the pack together to make fresh tracks in the studio.
“I’m feeling reinvigorated and looking forward to digging back in, but it’s just a matter of discipline,” says Giles. “We try to take advantage of our downtimes and do things creatively and differently.
Bulldozing their way through the songwriting and production process like a moose in a headshop, Red Fang has produced a quartet of thunderous LPs since their inception in 2005. Renowned for the heavy hooks and ominous overtones displayed on their self-titled debut on Sargent House in 2009 and subsequent releases, Murder the Mountains in 201.1
Whales and Leeches in 2013 (both on Relapse Records), the vulpine outfit is actively reaping, and savouring, the fruits of their labours.
“We’re all in our forties, and have been in this band going on thirteen years, and it’s still really mentally engaging for us, because we share a lot of influences musically, but also our tastes extend in very different directions. There are certain traps and pitfalls that we tend to fall into, so whenever we can do something outside of our usual thought process I think that’s where the good stuff is coming from.”
More than just a bunch of hard partying, beer-quaffing hooligans, Red Fang have proven themselves as cunning songwriters and string-slingers. Still their ears are always to the ground. Because, according to Giles, the next great riff might be lurking right around the corner!
“The guys are always surprising me, and over the years, I’ve learned to trust them.
For example, in the middle of “Wires” there’s a quiet sort of breakdown, and we called it the Spaghetti Western part. At first I thought, ‘What in the hell is this? This is ridiculous!’ But at some point I was like, ‘Well, I’ll try it.’ And I learned it. And it grew on me like a fungus and now I just can’t see that song existing without it. So, the things that are outside of my comfort-level are the things that ultimately give me the most joy in the long run. To me it’s fun when something’s like ‘Ick!’ initially. I kind of like that.”
Pushing past the yuck-factor has yielded impressive results for Giles and company whose music videos have put their sludgy melodies on the map. The ultra-violent shorts built around “Prehistoric Dog”, “Blood Like Cream”, “Shadows” and other viral video ventures have singled Red Fang out as perpetrators of the most entertaining headbanger daydreams on the planet. We’re talking over ten million views here, dudes.
“The credit for the majority of our videos lies with Whitey (McConnaughy), the director. He’s just a super motivated guy who’s really passionate and creative, so he’s always coming up with ideas and occasionally he’ll call us to see if we’re interested. We’ll just laugh our asses off and say, ‘Hell, yeah! We’ll do that!’ None of us consider ourselves actors, we’re more re-actors. He doesn’t really have to tell us what our motivation is beyond ‘Drink beer!’ We’re just lucky to have him. I’d say that his videos are a large part of the reason that people know we exist, which is nice.”
Prepared to deliver a tidy cross-section of their piledriving library on their upcoming North American tour, Red Fang feels a stronger connection to their audience than ever. The scene-stealing foursome may have displayed (and destroyed) their living rooms for the camera, but the magnitude of that explosive exposure is secondary to the soulful unveiling that occurs when Red Fang opens up on the stage.
“The videos are a great reflection of our sense of humour, because we never wanted to be, and never could be, a band that walks out of the fog and flexes our muscles,” says Giles. “We’re just not those guys. And no one would believe it if we tried. But the music is very much from the heart with us. It’s still a riff-driven band, but when it comes down to the vibe I want it to mean something, because we’ve got to go out on the road and play those songs hundreds and hundreds of times. That’s why I’m really excited about the new songs. It’s the most modern version of the musical headspace we’re in these day and we hope that the crowd is along for the ride.”
Red Fang performs Jan. 16 at the Rickshaw Theatre (Vancouver) and Jan. 18 at the Big Winter Classic Festival (Calgary)Big Winter Classic festival, Portland, Red Fang, Relapse Records, Whales and Leeches