Life on the road will play havoc with your head. If anyone can vouch for that it’s Canadian garage outfit Hooded Fang. Coming over like a spate of incurable sleep paralysis where fantasy and reality meet, the band’s unreal tour bus lifestyle is revealed through Gravez - their equally mind-bending brand new album.
“We’ve been to the moon and back. There were really amazing times and really rough times… like any journey to the moon,” reveals bassist April Aliermo. “We ate crocodile balls, slept on floors and couches, watched TV and movies, and looked out the window in between. All this steady instability must have influenced Gravez.
Seamlessly following on from last LP ‘Tosta Mista‘, the new record is a continuation of the spontaneous, lively, heavily splintered guitar sound that has secured Hooded Fang as high flyers on The Hype Machine and nominees for Canadian Mercury equivalent, the Polaris Prize. Yet whereas ‘Tosta Mista‘ was a danceable take on real life’s ups and downs, ‘Gravez‘ is a skewed, off-the-wall piece of moving punk pop fiction blurring the boundaries between what’s real and fake, each track powering along like an interstellar joyride through The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
“It’s not called Gravez for any real reason but may refer to the impending lurk of death,”reveals singer/producer Dan Lee enigmatically. “Some of it is about instances in life, some of it general imagery, or nonsense.”
If ever a band were to have a Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds moment, this is it. “So many faces and they’re all the same… why you lookin’ at me?” sings Dan in gleeful paranoia on opener ‘Graves’. Elsewhere ‘Ode To Subterrania’ comes over like a West Coast War of the Worlds and baselines reverb like a rubber band through the Tarantino soundtrack style of ‘Sailor Bull’. ‘Wasteland’ tips a hat to The Black Lips if they played 60s tropicalia whilst the bluesy slant of ‘Genes’ recalls a more lethargic The Bees. The sinister ‘Trasher’ sounds like each band member smearing their face in green for their own Halloween Party celebrations – albeit a good 4 months premature. Altogether wrapped up in 30 minutes dead; this is a group who know there’s nothing to be gained for labouring the point.
Overflowing with the taught energy of their live shows and the sound of a found kinship within the band, ‘Gravez‘ represents a collective who have found their stride. Through the album’s mixture of live band recordings done in their friend’s studio and a bunch of tweaked home ‘demos’ recorded by Dan in his bedroom, what you never get is the blinding sheen of over-production.
“This is our first album as this line-up, and the first time that we got together in a studio to record live off the floor… we’ve toured a lot, so we felt comfortable playing together,” they say.
Joining Dan, Hooded Fang is April Aliermo (bass), Lane Halley (guitar), and D.Alex Meeks (drums). That the group even had time to write, let alone record a brand new record is a surprise. Aside from main band duties they continue to play in numerous side-projects, run a label (Daps Records) and work at April’s artist-led playschool, giving kids music lessons as well as putting on a host of all-ages shows. “We have a lot of different projects on the go. Hut, Phedre, Lee Paradise to name a few… it’s one evolving sound that comes out in different ways.”
And yet, ‘Gravez’ is a carrot-shaped beacon dangling on the horizon. “We still have a lot of material, both live-band recorded, and home recorded. They just didn’t fit on this specific record, so we’ll release it later”. Hooded Fang’s wheels are well and truly in motion; this is a band whose relentless work ethic is due as much recognition for being as wildly imaginative as it is raw. Hop on board, and join them for the ride.
I was able to ask Finn some questions and frankly found out some unsettling things. I think you will be able to see which ones I am referring too. But one question sparked a lite hearted conversation about the best burger in the USA. Of course they are In & Out fans, but I told them they need to give our Dick’s Drive-in a try. So because of that conversation and me involving the good people at Dicks. They will be heading to the Queen Anne location to give the burgers a try with their fans. So feel free to join them after their Kexp in-studio at Dick’s for some lunch and maybe a photograph opportunity.This should happen around 3 O’clock.
If you could describe your music – and you had to use movie genres as the basis of your reasoning – what genre and why?
Oh I really have no idea. We’re a Family/Gore Fest. Like The Princess Diaries meets Machete.
“To say that Jessica Pratt is an old soul would be a vast understatement,” says Jenn Pelly of Pitchfork. “The young San Francisco singer/songwriter’s deeply intimate folk sounds so sincerely cast in from the 1960s that it’s hard to believe she didn’t release a proper LP during that period of time.” Pratt’s spooky and seductive self-titled debut is the inaugural release on Tim (White Fence) Presley’s new imprint, Birth Records. “I never wanted to start a label,” Presley says, “but there is something about her voice I couldn’t let go of.”
Pratt’s debut release includes recordings from over the last five years, and steady advances in sophistication of recording and melody are evident throughout. To the artist, the record is a time-lapse document of discovery, both musical and personal. But in strangers’ hands, Pratt’s debut is another kind of discovery altogether. A fully-formed emerald artifact dug up cobwebby and cold but no less green for its time spent buried. Sun-bleached and sounding a thousand years old, Pratt’s debut is arrestingly brand dazzling new, and watch how the lights in your living room go soft and yellow when you put it on.
Pratt, who is planning to tour in March with Presley’s White Fence, has garnered praise in the Bay Area supporting acts such as Bart Davenport, Colossal Yes, Tim Cohen and Dominant Legs.
Jessica Pratt’s debut is now available digitally on iTunes and Amazon. CD/LP is available now at http://birthrcrds.com.
The first leg of her upcoming tour kicks off in May, where she will provide main support for Father John Misty. She will play two shows with Grouper before hitting the road with Julia Holter in July and White Fence in August. Full list of tour dates below:
05/04 Phoenix, AZ – Crescent Ballroom*
05/06 Dallas, TX – Granada Theater*
05/07 Austin, TX – Emo’s East*
05/08 Houston, TX – Fitzgerald’s Upstairs*
05/09 New Orleans, LA – One Eyed Jacks*
05/10 Nashville, TN – Marathon Music Works*
05/11 Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade*
05/13 Knoxville, TN – Bijou Theatre*
05/14 Asheville, NC – The Orange Peel*
05/15 Carrboro, NC – Cat’s Cradle*
05/16 Washington, DC – 9:30 Club*
05/17 Hoboken, NJ – Maxwell’s *
05/31 Austin, TX – Central Presbyterian Church (Chaos in Tejas) @
06/01 New York, NY – Union Pool
06/02 New York, NY – Le Poisson Rouge @
06/15 Sonoma, CA – Huichica Music Festival
07/11 Washington, DC – Sixth and I Historic Synagogue #
07/12 New York, NY – Le Poisson Rouge #
07/13 Philadelphia, PA – World Café Live #
07/14 Boston, MA – The Church of Boston #
07/16 Montreal, QC – La Sala Rosa (seated show) #
07/17 Toronto, ONT – The Drake Hotel #
07/18 Detroit, MI – Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit #
07/30 Las Vegas, NV – The Bunkhouse ^
07/31 Reno, NV – Holland Project ^
08/04 Seattle, WA – Neumo’s ^ (WHITE FENCE-HEADLINES)
08/05 Vancouver, BC – Biltmore Cabaret ^
08/10 Los Angeles, CA – The Troubadour ^
08/11 San Diego, CA – The Casbah ^
Trevor Powers, whose stage name is Youth Lagoon, began writing his debut album The Year of Hibernation in 2010. Based around the idea of psychological dysphoria, Powers tried to document the trails of his mind through songs of minimalism and hypnotic ambience. Powers later described his writing process as “my mind communicating with me, not the other way around…it can take me to scary places but I’ve realized those bizarre thoughts I have don’t define me.” After signing with Mississippi-based label Fat Possum Records in 2011, he toured much of the following year before going back into solitude to write.
Wondrous Bughouse, Powers’ sophomore album (released March 5 worldwide via Fat Possum), was spawned from what he describes as “becoming more fascinated with the human psyche and where the spiritual meets the physical world.” During the time he wrote, Powers became intrigued with the metaphysical universe and blending those ideas with pop music.
”Youth Lagoon is something so personal to me because writing music is how I sort my thoughts, as well as where I transfer my fears,” explains Powers.
”My mental state is usually pretty sporadic… a lot of this record was influenced by a fear of mortality but embracing it at the same time. Realizing that human life is only great because it is temporary. Experimenting with ideas about dimensions. I’m not a gifted speaker, so
explaining things is difficult for me. But music always makes sense.”
04/17 Los Angeles, CA – El Rey %
04/18 Santa Barbara, CA – Soho Restaurant & Music Club
04/19 Indio, CA – Coachella – 2pm – Mojave Tent
04/21 Phoenix, AZ – Crescent Ballroom +
04/22 Tucson, AZ – Club Congress +
04/24 Austin, TX – Mohawk ^
04/25 Dallas, TX – The Loft ^
04/26 Houston, TX – Fitzgerald’s ^
04/27 New Orleans, LA – One Eyed Jacks ^
04/28 Birmingham, AL – The Bottletree ^
04/30 Orlando, FL – The Social ^
05/01 Atlanta, GA – Terminal West ^
05/02 Nashville, TN – Mercy Lounge ^
05/03 Asheville, NC – The Grey Eagle #^
05/04 Carrboro, NC – Cat’s Cradle ^05/06 Hoboken, NJ – Maxwell’s ^
05/07 Northampton, MA – Pearl St. ^
05/08 Hamden, CT – Spaceland Ballroom ^
05/10 Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer ^
05/11 Columbia, MD – Sweet Life Festival
05/13 Toronto, ON – Great Hall ^
05/14 Columbus, OH – A&R Bar ^
05/15 Chicago, IL – Metro ^
05/16 Madison, WI – Majestic Theater ^
05/17 Minneapolis, MN – Fine Line ^
05/18 Seattle, WA – Seattle University ^
05/21 Eugene, OR – WOW Hall
05/22 Portland, OR – Wonder Ballroom
05/23 Vancouver, BC – Venue
05/24 George, WA Sasquatch! Fest
05/26 Boston, MA – Boston Calling Festival
06/05 Brooklyn, NY – Barclays Center *
In my relatively short career as a songwriter, I have run the gamut from purely fictional story songs (well, maybe not purely fictional, but close!) to incredibly personal recollections of my own life. This one belongs firmly in the latter category. I began writing “Greenville, WA” at the onset of my most recent heartbreak and finished it months later, when those feelings had become an annoying but mostly faceless undertone. It struggles with trying to find, nay create, a sense of closure while trying to maintain the openness and vulnerability and love that I prize in myself.
In some ways, at least in the beginning, this song was simply a therapeutic exercise. It was an effort to force myself to look at my unraveling relationship with a certain degree of objectivity that, of course, is impossible during times like those. Later, upon admitting to myself that closure would only come in time, I turned to taking some shots at my ex-girlfriend and the ways in which her storytelling mirrored our relationship.
My ex-girlfriend is a wonderful person: sweet, creative, smart, passionate, funny… and she’s a real storyteller. She has a way with words that is unique and inspiring: honest but self-conscious, imaginative but concrete, sad but beautiful. She makes simple things complicated and complicated things simple. She is also one of those storytellers that will engage you in a flourishing story that ebbs and flows and builds, only to stop dead in her tracks just as you are expecting a punchline or a resolution or a revelation. It isn’t intentional—for her the story is over and she’s satisfied. For some, I imagine, this would be aggravating. And, upon repeated experiences, potentially insufferable. But, for me, it was endearing and only served to charm me further. For the length of our time together, this fact never changed.
Upon reflection, the ensuing lyrics became the song’s central idea, and Greenville, WA was born: “And somehow it’s starting to make sense that all your stories lacked an end. They started out so strong, all falling short of a denouement. Well, I never needed one like I need now. No, I never needed one like I need now.”
Later, the process of writing the music came easily. I tried to let the musical movement of the song enrich its themes, too. The involvement of the rest of my band was crucial in honing these ideas. Hopefully it ebbs and flows and builds and ends differently than you expect.
Look for Dirty Sidewalks full performance next week. But until then here is a teaser of that killer set they played in downtown Seattle for Seismic-Sound’s “Destination Unknown” series.