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Monday, January 12, 2015

Happy Fangs on Tina Turner, Their New Record, and the Power of Female Drummers

Posted By on Mon, Jan 12, 2015 at 10:33 AM

click to enlarge Happy Fangs: A new drummer makes three. - KARINA ORDELL
  • Karina Ordell
  • Happy Fangs: A new drummer makes three.

In front of lawn chairs and glow-in-the-dark ping pong tables, Happy Fangs recently played a 21-plus event for Hanukkah — Night at the Jewseum at the Contemporary Jewish Museum.

"For the past year I've been this weird Contemporary Jewish Museum darling," frontwoman Rebecca Gone Bad explains. "They just keep inviting me back."

If you've listened to Happy Fangs' insanely fun riot grrrl ferociousness or seen them play with their cheeks and foreheads streaked with primal war paint, you know their animalism isn't for the typical museum enthusiast. While Rebecca flung ping-pong balls back into the crowd and threw herself onto beanbag chairs, a small but loyal crowd stuck around to ogle the antics.

This crowd's ears were, unwittingly, the guinea pigs for the band's debut album, Capricorn, out Jan. 27. That gives you four days to memorize the lyrics if you want to sing along at the Fangs' record release show, Jan. 31 at Rickshaw Stop. We caught up with the trio during the first week of 2015.

Rebecca: Our music is not for the general masses. It's never going to appeal to the general masses, and I'm fine with that.

Mr. Cobra: We'd rather make something that someone loves or hates, no in betweens. If it's in between then it's mediocre, so why bother. 
In 2014, Rebecca Gone Bad, the lead vocalist with a howl, and Mike Cobra, on guitar, wooed a third fang, the tiny but impactful Jess G. on drums.

SF Weekly: How did you guys meet Jess?

Mr. Cobra: Through friends who are both in a band called Death Valley High. We realized we wanted more energy on the stage and in the recordings, but who do we add? The personality that you add is gigantic and it needs to be, and if it's not then there's a problem. I came back and said, "I want a female drummer that hits harder than any other drummer."

SF Weekly: Why did you want a female drummer?

Rebecca: Because we're sexist.

Mr. Cobra: I wanted a female drummer who could hit really, really hard, because they're rare. Most of them tap.

Rebecca: To simplify: drummer + girl = bird of paradise.

Mr. Cobra: So I got in touch with those friends, and told them this is what we're looking for. Both of them came back and said, 'We know the exact person. But she's already in a band, she lives in Sacramento, and there's no way she's going to want to be in your band.' And so, we sat back for awhile.

Jess: And they were right on all three accounts.

Mr. Cobra: They wouldn't even tell me who she was, but I knew through some mutual friends. So we contacted her, and she was into it.

It was the exact right time — I was already thinking about exploring other options musically. Waiting a month was the best thing, and he didn't even know.

SF Weekly: I know that all three of you fronted projects before getting into Happy Fangs. How do you manage to collaborate cohesively?

Rebecca: With fists! (laughs)

Mr. Cobra: Lots of kicking and screaming. The important thing that came out of this process after Jess joined the band was that this felt like music that only the three of us could make. Anything that didn't fit that standard we didn't bother with - we trashed.

Rebecca: We write most of it live, too. Almost all of our songs you can track back to a practice recording.

Jess: We just jam. We just press record and jam.

Mr. Cobra: Not unlike our improv songs.

SF Weekly: What are your favorite venues in the Bay Area?

Rebecca: I really want to get married at The Chapel.

SF Weekly: Aw, I love that venue.

Rebecca: Hopefully they'll frigging call me back! I wanna rent out your venue for my wedding!

[Her fiancé, Bryan Garza, singer in the band Scissors For Lefty, sings]: Going to The Chapel, if they ever call us back!

Rebecca: So put that in there in case they'll smile fondly upon me. And also it's a beautiful venue. Good sound.

SF Weekly: You have a record release show on the 31st at Rickshaw Stop. Should we expect anything different for this show? Do you know what the rest of the line-up will look like?

Rebecca: Yeah, we're playing with The Trims and Survival Guide. We're going to play every song on the new album. I'm really excited. There's one song where Jess and I sing together, "Cliche," and I think it's going to be freaking awesome. She's scared.

Mr. Cobra: It's the toughest song to play live. Maybe for all of us.

SF Weekly: Could you explain the recording process for Capricorn?

Rebecca: So all of the songs except for the two that were on the EP were written with Jess, and were all written in a live environment. Each one of these songs we shed a bit of our soul for, cheese-grater style.

Jess: The idea was just to do an EP. As time went on, we thought, 'oh why don't we do a whole album' and that cut our time down a whole lot. We had this deadline, and we had to get 9 songs ready. And I only get to see them once a week.

Rebecca: It depended on the moment for it to be great. And I'm proud of those moments.

Jess: But it wasn't how you would expect it to be. So you would go back and listen and sift through things and text each other because that was the communication we had. And we just barely made it. It was a huge weight off.

Mr. Cobra: I think the cool thing about it was there wasn't enough time to do anything that didn't feel natural. It was a self-imposed deadline. I don't think we spent more than 5 months writing and recording the entire thing.

SF Weekly: During your live performance do you ever think about a specific performer and channel them, or do you purely let yourself lose it on-stage?

Rebecca: It's me letting the 5-year-old loose. Here's what I'm channeling. I wasn't allowed to watch anything except PBS, and I somehow snuck this Tina Turner concert. She was doing this move that was incredible, and I figured I could do this in my tutu.

So I set my parents down, and I start taking off my sequined gloves one by one because I had seen Tina Turner do a fucking strip tease! I saw it, and thought, 'Damn, that is genius! Use your clothing as props! It comes off your body! People are amazed!' I didn't think of it as anything sexual. I was so young. So I'm channeling that 5-year-old.

Happy Fangs play with The Trims and Survival Guide, 9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31, at Rickshaw Stop. $10;

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Valerie Veteto


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