What's not to love about Happy Fangs? Raw, out of breath, out of mind, it's easy to lose yourself in their commotion. Once you've seen the band live or on screen, it's pretty impossible to separate their visual style from their musical one. The duo, made up of Rebecca Gone Bad and Michael Cobra, dons black and white attire, mostly featuring stripes, geometric shapes and face paint, which speaks to the duality of the music. Their sound is shaped by Rebecca's courageous voice and Cobra's feedback heavy electric guitar -- bright sounds paired with often dark lyrics -- the pair is always raw, but rarely stripped down.
Happy Fangs aren't the first pair to pay service to highly stylized black and white accoutrements. Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans of YACHT rock a similar interest. Of course Meg and Jack White of the now defunct White Stripes were drawn to this color pallet with the addition of red. Happy Fangs can certainly be likened sound-wise to both groups, but have a predilection for making heavy pop-punk anthems. This is where the war paint comes in. Maybe we've crash-landed on an island, like a scene from Looney Tunes, and a group of tribesmen find us. They take us to a beach where their leader sits near a giant fire pit with a human-sized pot of boiling water. The ritual begins; everyone erupts into dance. The war paint worn by both Rebecca and Cobra are indicators of their position as music overlords -- go ahead, drink the Kool-Aid.
In speaking with the duo about the new E.P., I asked about how they decided on this particular visual treatment. Both band members are designers and responded in a way typically avoided in the creative world, "It's so easy these days to create whatever you want musically and visually that we wanted to box ourselves in a bit with constraints and see where that lead us." It seems impossible to box in this sound and vision, but perhaps that's why it works -- leave the grey area outside.
The opening song on the new E.P. "Hiya Kaw Kaw" is an introductory anthem providing the call and response expected of the listener. As mentioned it's difficult to separate this band from their live set. The imagination is naturally drawn to a crowd of people moving before a painted Rebecca Gone Bad leading the chant, "Hiya Kakaw Kakaw." The song is the band's war cry and it's their hope that it will become their fans' as well. There are two other tunes that ground this seven song collection. "Midnight Monsters," the third track, comes from a dark place, located in the band's basement rehearsal space in San Francisco's Tenderloin. For Happy Fangs this song is about empowerment, asking questions like, "What happens when everything crumbles? Where do you turn? Where do you find your power?"
Another peak moment is provided by "The Lion Inside You." Happy Fangs used this song in the 48-hour challenge and awards show Music Video Race and won a couple of awards last June. According to the duo, "This song is about unleashing the beast within. We tried to maintain that extremely fresh and raw feeling." The unfiltered sound comes through in Rebecca's vocals, which are sultry and strained, but playful enough to indicate she's in full control. Like all of the songs on the E.P., "The Lion Inside You" is an appeal to something inside fighting its way out. The overall picture the E.P. paints is one of empowerment. The action, however, comes from the individual. The message relayed is one of the beast in the belly rather than the belly of the beast.
Rebecca let on that most of their music starts as a jam session and pours out from there, the subliminal becoming real, "You are definitely more likely to sing about the sludge down deep when you are letting your subconscious contribute to the lyrics." What's to be expected at the release party at the Rickshaw? Lots of surprises and special guests. Happy Fangs invites the audience to rock their whitest whites and blackest blacks, war paint will be provided. They'll be backed by a full band with Vela Eyes on background vocals and dancers taking over the rest of the stage.