Portland’s Red Fang Bucks All ‘Portlandia’ Stereo-Types and Continues to Churn Out No-Frills Metal

 :: Bluebird Theater :: November 19 ::

By Joe Kovack

If there were prerequisites for starting a heavy rock band, a few of those requirements might include beer drinking, long hair and beards, a fuck-em-all attitude and a common interest in brutal head banging music. Portland-based Red Fang meet and exceed these requirements with ease.

Unlike the “Portlandia” stereotype that all Portlanders care about is how local their chicken is, Red Fang’s members aren’t granola-eating hipsters; they are children born of the Northwest grunge era that dominated the musical consciousness in the 1990s. Playing in various bands in the Portland rock scene in the early 2000s, the members of this hard rock quartet hung out for years and eventually let their common interests unfurl through heavy riffs, melodic hooks and lots and lots of beer. All this can be seen in their ample video library, which has helped propel the band from obscurity to sharing the stage with the likes of Mastodon and Clutch. A dying artform in the music world, their videos generated over a million hits on YouTube and changed the course of the band.

In a recent interview with The Marquee, bassist and vocalist Aaron Beam spoke about how one moment can change everything. “That first video [‘Prehistoric Dog’] completely changed the direction of the band,” Beam said. “It lead to us getting hooked up with our first record label, Sargent House, and from there that was just a clear demarcation between our floundering for years and then suddenly being able to make some money playing music.” Their videos, all directed by Whitey McConnaughy, look like low budget home movies but are the perfect compliment to a band with no frills. It also doesn’t hurt that metal-loving comedian Brian Posehn makes a cameo as the store clerk in the band’s video for “Wires.”

Now after their second full-length release Murder the Mountains (2011), put out by their new label Relapse Records, the band is starting to gain their sea legs after years of navigating choppy waters. Taking some much needed time to write songs before their fall tour, the realization that this is not all fun and games has set in for Red Fang. “This is the first time we’ve actually had to learn how to write an album as part of what they call an ‘album cycle,’” Beam said. “We’ve always just toured and then recorded as an afterthought, and now you record an album and put it out and that’s the impetus for touring. It’s good ‘cause it means we’re busy, but then it starts feeling like a job. The work is way more fun than any other job I’ve had, but when those bits of work creep in we feel a little bit sad sometimes.”

While many other bands in their genre like Mastodon and The Sword seem to take on conceptual albums, Red Fang is more just straight-forward rock without complication, yet rife with subtle intricacies built upon layers of heaviness. “We definitely don’t have a theme when we write songs. While we’re working on this new record, I’ve come to appreciate how it can help you with ideas and steer you in a certain direction, so maybe we’ll do it for the next one. But for now, whatever falls out, falls out,” said Beam.

With all band members sharing in the process, the group writes together as one, each bringing in a perspective that ends up shaping their sound. “We each come from a slightly different place, and we’re all trying to push the songs into a different direction. It’s when we balance out those ideas that songs ends up having more character. If I were completely in control of the song, it would just sound like a crappy Xerox of a Jesus Lizard song or something, but instead it’s like four crappy Xerox’s layered on top each other and then it looks kind of like Impressionist art instead of just a crappy copy,” explained Beam.

Red Fang’s current tour with friends and label-mates Black Tusk hits the ground in late October for a short stint in the U.S., before heading back to Europe for a fifth time in two years. It will be a healthy mix of Murder the Mountains as well as some older stuff with a few surprises as well. “There’s currently three new songs we’ll have and we might make up a fourth one during sound check,” said Beam. “So we’ll try them out on the road a little bit and see how they’re going, tweak them and hopefully people will like them.”


:: Red Fang ::

:: Bluebird Theater :: November 19 ::


Recommended if you Like:

• Mastodon

• The Sword

• The Melvins


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