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.
foto door Sara Amroussi-Gilissen