IMAGE: Darryl James
A few months ago, someone asked WW’s music staff if we had any predictions who would top this year’s Best New Band poll. For a minute or two, we drew a blank; not because we couldn’t think of any new bands, but because there didn’t seem to be a clear front-runner. We had our favorites, but could the 188 insiders who responded to our poll agree on anything?
The winner, as is often the case with this annual celebration, is a band that has dazzled audiences from across the musical spectrum. Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside play striking live shows that are notable for both the band’s fluidity—with elements of jazz, folk, pop and punk in its arsenal—and its frontwoman’s indisputable stage presence. Love or hate it, you simply can’t ignore this band. And Portland, it would seem, loves Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside. Given the attention, we’re expecting record labels to follow suit.
If there’s a common thread to this year’s 10 best, it’s that from top to bottom, these ten acts are hard not to notice. From Typhoon’s dozen or so members to the kids from Wampire stripping down to their underwear to Red Fang’s loud, melodic riffage (and impressive beards), these are bands (and we do mean bands, as no solo musicians made this year’s cut) that command attention—we devote the next 10 pages to giving them ours.
HEAR IT: Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside, Typhoon and Deelay Ceelay play the Best New Band Showcase Friday, May 7, at Berbati’s Pan. 9 pm. Free. 21+.
HOW IT’S DONE: WW invites a wide array of local bookers, club owners, PR people, managers, door people, bartenders and past Best New Band winners to vote for up to five artists or bands that have never appeared in previous Best New Band issues. Voters can pick artists in a ranked order, or give them all an equally weighted vote. For more on the process, see localcut.wweek.com a little later in the day.
The Top 10
1. Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside - 107.5 Points
WHO: Sallie Ford, Jeffrey Munger, Tyler Tornfelt, Ford Tennis
SOUNDS LIKE: A 21st-century Ella Fitzgerald who channels rock-’n’-roll history through Gossip Girl.
Onstage at the Doug Fir Lounge in early April, Sallie Ford is quietly tuning her guitar. She’s wearing retro black cat-eye glasses and a blue polka-dot dress that wouldn’t look out of place on I Love Lucy; one assumes her band, the Sound Outside, will play “more of that typical Portland folk bullshit,” as the scruffy-looking dude standing to my left so aptly puts it. He continues yapping as Ford awkwardly fidgets in front of the mic and thanks the anxious crowd for coming. The lights go down and she opens her mouth.
“I can feel it deep down in my soul/ From the top of my head to the tips of my toes,” Ford sings in a soulful, guttural blues drawl. “I’m telling you, darling, you’re making me weak/ Making me tired, unable to speak.”
The room becomes so quiet you can hear a glass shatter way back behind the bar.
I imagine this isn’t the first time Ford has effectively silenced an entire crowd. The 22-year-old has one of those voices that invites cheap clichés and usually garners off-base comparisons. While there are definitely hints of jazz legends like Billie Holiday and the brash woodland hiccups of Joanna Newsom, Ford’s pipes are beasts entirely their own, fluttering between an anxious upper register and a deep groove, equal parts geeky musical theater and sexy siren song.
“When I stop singing between songs, people see my nerdy, giggly, weird side and realize that I’m not a smooth, sultry jazz singer,” she says from the porch of bandmate Tyler Tornfelt’s Southeast Portland home, bursting into her unmistakable, piercing laugh. “But that’s not going to stop me from trying.”
Until moving to Portland in 2006, Ford kept her talent mostly hidden from the public eye. She grew up home-schooled in Asheville, N.C., listening to the Beatles and playing the violin (“All the classical-music kids thought I was a weirdo”) in a creative household. Ford’s father, Hobey, is a world-renowned puppeteer—he created “Peepers Puppets” and is the recipient of three Jim Henson Foundation grants—and her mother teaches music. Still, she struggled with the idea of performing until venturing west and playing solo gigs at tiny watering holes like Chaos Cafe and Mississippi Pizza.
It was there she met Alaskan transplants Tornfelt and Ford Tennis, who had been playing together as the rhythm section for various bands in Anchorage and Portland. The threesome—with Tornfelt on upright bass and Tennis on drums—began playing around town, and eventually met lead guitarist Jeffrey Munger while he was busking during Last Thursday. The wiry Munger was a natural fit, and his guitar skills—which are subtle and fluid, more Robbie Robertson than Eric Clapton—fleshed out the quartet’s sound.
Still, until last spring, the Sound Outside was relatively obscure in its hometown. That’s when Seth Avett of North Carolina folk-pop outfit the Avett Brothers invited the band to open two sold-out shows at the Crystal Ballroom. They were introduced through mutual friend and local artist Jeremy Okai Davis; Avett’s bond with Ford was so strong he asked the band to play as its main support for a New Year’s Eve show in Asheville—for an audience of 7,000.
“It definitely broke us in,” Tennis says of the show. “It was really cool having to step up to the challenge of playing for so many people,” Ford adds. “We became a much tighter band.”
That closeness is apparent the minute the band takes the stage, where the juxtaposition of Ford’s off-kilter voice and the group’s vintage chops really blossoms. The Sound Outside mixes swinging rock ’n’ roll with strong doses of Americana and blues, putting a contemporary spin on a set of old-fashioned sounds. Despite Ford’s bubbly nature, most of her songs are honest, sassy and modern rather than goofy. “I like writing things that are racy or edgy. There are four songs I wrote that are like, ‘Wow!’ People don’t expect that from me,” she says.
In the rollicking “Write Me a Letter,” for instance, she sings about listening to Sunny Day Real Estate and Jets to Brazil, eulogizes the death of the Polaroid picture, and slips both “fucking” and “damn” into a verse. The song is catchy and relevant, rallying against current technology without sounding like some Luddite rant. “Today, I think I saw 10,000 cell phones,” she sings over a handclap beat and spare guitar. “But not one decent conversation.”
As a set of dark clouds pushes the band inside, conversation turns to the future. At present, the Sound Outside still has only one five-song EP (2009’s Not an Animal) to its name. The band hit the studio in the winter with producers Mike Coykendall (M. Ward, She & Him, Blitzen Trapper) and Adam Selzer (Norfolk & Western) and now has 11 songs—including the ballad “Miles,” one of the first songs Ford ever wrote, and the jaw-dropping “Shivers”—ready for release once it finds the right label. For now, though, the Sound Outside’s concern is simpler: picking a few kid-friendly songs to play for You Who, a monthly afternoon family show at the Kennedy School.
“Our new goal is to play on [Nickelodeon’s kids’ show] Yo Gabba Gabba!, ” Munger jokes. And with Ford’s arresting voice, it’s hard not to picture the Sound Outside doing the unthinkable—silencing a room full of kids. (MM) IMAGE: Nilina Mason-Campbell
Grab a track here: http://blogs.wweek.com/music/files/mp3s/danger.mp3
2. Typhoon - 94 Points
WHO: Tyler Ferrin, Toby Tanabe, Kyle Morton, Dave Hall, Devin Gallagher, Pieter Hilton, Alex Fitch, Ryan McAlpin, Jen Hufnagel, Shannon Steele, Nora Zimmerly, Eric Stipe, Casey O’Brien.
SOUNDS LIKE: An invigorating hike to the top of Mount Eerie and the tumble back down.
SCENE: Late July 2006, a warm summer night on Northwest 3rd Avenue down in Chinatown. It’s a Tuesday, so it’s quiet, except for a swelling chorus of horns and feedback emanating from Food Hole, a tiny, broke-down club with duct tape on the front window. Inside, there must be 10 kids with drums and guitars, horns and shakers, wrapping up an utter calamity of a song.
When they finish, a slight kid with a mess of curly, dirty-blond hair and a button-up shirt, dwarfed by his acoustic guitar, takes a deep breath and starts up another tune. You can barely hear him sing at first, so Bennett (the sound guy) turns him up a touch. The kid has a lower voice than you’d expect for his size—shaky and breathy, like a punk singer turning to soul music for the first time. But he’s got a voice. The song is about a sailor lost at sea. The other kids in the band—they can’t be more than 18 or 19 years old—are swaying back and forth, then singing along. They shoot sly looks to one another, making no attempt to hold back their smiles. Guitar cuts in, the drums start to pound, and soon it’s firing on all fronts. It’s amazing.
YOU (leaning over sound board): “Who is this?”
BENNETT: “They’re called Typhoon.”
CONTEXT: Turns out these kids are from Salem. They moved up to Portland en masse, a handful of them moving into a funky house next to the freeway in Southwest Portland. They call their label (and just about everything else they work on) Boy Gorilla. Boy Gorilla—also home to the stunning Eskimo & Sons—looks poised to be the next big thing in the Portland music scene.
SCENE: An empty Portland club, summer of 2008. Typhoon is on hiatus, and no one’s entirely sure whether it will come back again. Its members are making zines, starting new labels and falling in and out of love with one another, but not playing music as a group. Frontman Kyle Morton is somewhere between a three-week visit to a Michigan monastery and a trip to New Zealand, dreaming of writing film soundtracks.
(Needle picks up; music stops. Fade to black.)
SCENE: Present day, Genie’s Cafe in Southeast Portland. Two of Typhoon’s members drinking coffee and eating eggs Benedict. Subtitle reads, “April, 2010.”
KYLE MORTON (still baby-faced): “Whether or not we knew what we were doing is debatable.”
TYLER FERRIN (mustachioed, unkempt horn player and Typhoon co-founder): “Everyone wanted to work on their solo project. No one wanted to work on the thing that got us the attention in the first place.”
MORTON: “I stopped writing for a long time. I kinda lost why I was making music. I’d start a lot of songs, but I couldn’t finish them.” (Long sip of coffee.) “It was really nerve-wracking for me to bring songs to practice. There were so many people. People would get bored and leave. I knew I was supposed to take a leadership role, but I didn’t want to-slash-couldn’t.”
CONTEXT: It takes a deal with Jared and Brianne Mees’ Tender Loving Empire label to get Typhoon active again. Some members leave, some new ones join. Morton carves out an album called Hunger and Thirst, the band’s first release in over three years. It’s a 43-minute meditation on death, friendship and impermanence that uses every weapon—many of them more subtle than the name Typhoon would imply—in the band’s arsenal. Some moments are utterly overwhelming, and others are markedly restrained. Morton draws on both his love of philosophy and personal experience (a long bout of illness that began with a case of Lyme disease when he was an early teen) to pen the songs. The band goes from a rowdy collective of kids to a disciplined, powerful group with two to three drummers (depending on the show). Buzz grows on both the gorgeous album and the intense live shows. Typhoon is back.
SCENE: Back at Genie’s. Cue “Starting Over (Bad Habits)” from Hunger and Thirst. The song, like Typhoon itself, is sweeping and orchestral—at times it’s as sparse and dry as the desert, and elsewhere it’s vaguely tropical, with military horns and a soulful chorus. Morton and Ferrin clean their plates and share stories of their band’s recent tour with French musician Yann Tiersen.
FERRIN (goofy smile): “We get really cuddly.”
MORTON (laughing): “You have to—there’s no room in the van. On the other hand, there’s all your friends. You have a posse, and you never feel scared, you always feel safe.” (CJ) IMAGE: Nilina Mason-Campbell
Grab a track here: http://blogs.wweek.com/music/files/mp3s/StartingOver.mp3
3. Deelay Ceelay - 74 Points
WHO: Chris Lael Larson, Delaney Kelly
FORMED: Summer 2007
SOUNDS LIKE: Ratatat (minus the guitar wankery) with a more intense dual-drummer assault and a visual-arts degree.
It’s almost as if the members of the double-drummer multimedia project Deelay Ceelay don’t want you to know who they are. Chris Lael Larson and Delaney Kelly play their kits onstage in near-darkness (well, they have to for the audience to best see the projected videos that are as much a part of the band as its rhythmic onslaught is). When they appear in those videos, their faces are always obscured. And when pressed about their band’s history, both drummers demur, refusing to name their previous project together and saying only that Deelay Ceelay first took shape in 2007 and later played its first show at the 2008 Time-Based Art Festival. “We like being elusive,” says Kelly with a laugh. (For the record, the twosome first played together in Antlerand. Sorry to spoil the mystery, guys.)
The band, which offers its four-song debut, Thank You, free on its website, owes its unique, percussion-based lineup and laissez-faire distribution method to the fact its two members have already been in a more traditional band and are now in the position to reject the parts they hated. “There is definitely a component [to Deelay Ceelay] of crossing off the aspects of being in a band that we were tired of,” says Larson, the video artist of the group. “We made the rule that the only litmus test for whatever we were doing was, is it enjoyable? Because somehow, with the last band, we had gotten away from that.”
Therefore, Deelay Ceelay has no vocalist, no onstage guitar solos (though the band does play to a backing track, which is where all of the songs’ melodies come from) and, most of all, nothing for fans to buy. “We hated sitting at the merch table,” says Larson. “You play a show and you give it your all and what do you do immediately following? You sit at a merch table and sell people shit. I loathed it. So we were like, ‘Let’s just give [our music] away.’ And it was so liberating. We’ll never sit behind a merch table again.”
A Deelay Ceelay show is part gallery installation and part dance club, featuring centerpiece videos of flashing colors, modern dance, nature imagery and animation that pulse along with the stomping live rhythms. The visual component has been key since the band’s inception. It’s partly born out of necessity—“we’re trapped behind drum sets and there’s no frontperson, but we want there to be some humanity onstage,” explains Larson—and partly a natural response to what the duo felt was missing from the electronica shows they were attending, at which DJs simply fiddled with laptop computers.
The irony is that, though it makes highly percussive songs built over foundations of blissful synth pop or ambient guitar loops, Deelay Ceelay never meant to be an electronica outfit. “It wasn’t until we got back from tour in October that I had this moment where I realized, ‘I think we’re an electronic band!’” remembers Larson. “I didn’t feel like I was affiliated at all with the movement—there’s all these magazines electronic musicians read and little drum machines they use, and I don’t know about any of that stuff. But I guess we are [electronic musicians]. It’s just instead of playing keyboards or [using] a mouse, we play drums.” (RR) IMAGE: Courtesy of Deelay Ceelay
Grab a track here: http://blogs.wweek.com/music/files/mp3s/NoVex.mp3
4. Hosannas - 59.5 Points
WHO: Richard Laws, Brandon Laws, Christof Hendrickson, Lane Barrington
SOUNDS LIKE: Really well-written robot romance novels turned into off-Broadway plays.
Hosannas’ approach to playing music is pretty Zen. “We try, the whole time we’re playing together, not to get attached to anything,” says guitarist and co-vocalist Brandon Laws from the band’s windowless Southeast Portland practice space. “That’s our biggest thing as a group ethos: saying, ‘All right, you love that part, just throw it away completely and let’s start again.’”
Of course, Hosannas is used to transience. Late last year, an email from Aussie rockers the Church forced them to change the band’s name from Church to Hosannas. And while the Portland quartet, which toured for over four months last year, lives in Portland, that doesn’t mean it always has a home address. “Oftentimes [we’ve] been couch surfing or living in the van or squatting, living in the girlfriend’s house for a really long time,” Richard Laws, Brandon’s brother and bandmate, says. “Some sort of benefactor is involved—or just squalor.” This is more true for some of Hosannas’ members than for others. “I actually am homeless,” Richard admits. “I always live in the van. There’s not a sharp definition between tour and home anymore.”
Here, huddled in the band’s practice space, Hosannas seems quite at home. Drummer-keyboardist Christof Hendrickson leans casually against an amplifier, drummer Lane Barrington is sprawled out across the floor as if stargazing, the Laws brothers—who share relatively few physical characteristics except for full heads of hair and slightly slouched posture—sit coolly and recount their infrequent episodes of brotherly hate. “We used to have wrestling matches,” Richard says.
“We haven’t gotten in a real physical fight for a long time,” Brandon adds.
“I get to be the alligator, and they wrestle me,” Barrington says.
All four of Hosannas’ members—not just the Laws brothers, who write most of the songs before presenting them to the band for a battery of changes and reinventions—seem like family. It’s a quality that works its way into the group’s music: From the shape-shifting noise-folk pop of its early CD-R releases—collected in the new Hush Records compilation, Then & Now & Then (see album review here)—to the louder, more orchestrated material from its forthcoming record, Hosannas has always approached even its wildest tunes with an almost militaristic sense of structure—even if the members’ lives have very little of it.
That Hush, a label with a long and influential local history, offered to release Hosannas’ new disc was special for the band members, who had felt like outsiders for so long. “It’s cool being part of it,” Brandon says. “Now Portland is a part of our band. It’s good to feel like a part of the music scene, officially.”
“When we were actually recording this stuff, we didn’t really know anybody,” Richard adds. “It’s been a long road.” Hosannas, once a band without a name, has found a home. (CJ) IMAGE: Chad Crouch
Grab a track here: http://blogs.wweek.com/music/files/mp3s/happiness.mp3
5. Wampire - 56 Points
WHO: Rocky Tinder, Eric Phipps, Cyrus Lampton
FORMED: June 2008
SOUNDS LIKE: Acid-dipped bliss pop with a dance-spazz edge.
Having only just solidified its lineup in December, now-trio Wampire is one of the newest of the Best New Band nominees. “Since the beginning, we’ve always had the analogy of the band as a baby,” says co-founder and co-frontman Rocky Tinder, acknowledging the band’s relative greenness. “At first it was a newborn, and after a while we were like, ‘OK, this baby is growing consciousness.’ And now we feel like the baby’s crawling, and we’re learning to walk.”
Tinder and his friend from high-school jazz band, Eric Phipps, initially started Wampire two summers ago as a way to continue to make music together after moving to Portland from Salem and leaving their former band, Rootvilla, behind. The dueling guitarists started playing explosive live shows (many of which ended with the pair stripped down to their skivvies) that emphasized the dance beats of their psychedelic dream pop and diverted attention from the iPod that provided the synth and rhythm tracks that filled out their sound.
“We recognized it was just two people playing guitar and a lot of what you’re hearing is prerecorded, so we stressed wearing goofy outfits and being dumb while we were playing,” says Tinder. “Also, [what we play] is kind of dance music, but it’s also really chill. So I feel like it’s our responsibility to do something to get people moving.”
The band released a tape-only debut last summer and added drummer Cyrus Lampton four months ago. It is planning several upcoming vinyl releases and is in talks with labels to release them. So while Wampire may still be a baby, it has every intention of growing up. “I can’t wait until we’re teenagers,” says Lampton, laughing. (RR) IMAGE: Robbie Augspurger
Grab a track here: http://blogs.wweek.com/music/files/mp3s/Orchards.mp3
6. Operative - 55 Points
WHO: Scott Goodwin, Spencer Doran, Jed Binderman, Alex Neerman
SOUNDS LIKE: Getting run over by a semi trailer, then living to make it to the next rave.
The opening of Operative’s “Ramp” certainly doesn’t sound like a dance song. Built on a series of ascending tones, it’s completely devoid of rhythm—just one high pitch that continually rises, like the sound that’s stuck in your skull the morning after attending a My Bloody Valentine concert without earplugs. This continues for over three minutes, to the point of fatigue and frustration, when something odd happens: a 4/4 acid house beat emerges, and “Ramp” becomes oddly, well, danceable.
“I thought it was kind of silly and ridiculous at first, but it felt super intriguing, too,” says Scott Goodwin about his decision to mix intense, minimal noise with techno beats.
Goodwin, who moved to Portland from Seattle in 2006, had been releasing music under his own name for years, but it wasn’t until he decided to explore the concepts behind “psychoacoustic” music—the study of subjective human perception of sounds—that everything clicked. Operative was born after Goodwin’s failed attempts at performing the almost-11-minute-long “Ramp” solo led to the creation of a group (Spencer Doran on electronic drums and samples, Jed Binderman on regular drums, and Alex Neerman on electronics), which aims to combine the theory of psychoacoustic music with a physical live show. Instead of one dude standing motionless behind a laptop, Operative performs its songs with limbs whacking away on dual drum sets and a bank of Goodwin’s homemade instruments.
“I have a semester of high-school-level electronics learning, and that’s about it,” Goodwin says. “Somehow almost everything I’ve built has worked to some extent.” The same thing could be said about Operative—but this machine melts faces off. (MM) IMAGE: Sarah Meadows
Grab a track here: http://blogs.wweek.com/music/files/mp3s/Pulse.mp3
7. The Miracles Club - 54 Points
WHO: Honey Owens, Rafael Fauria (seen here with dancer/collaborator Ryan Boyle)
SOUNDS LIKE: The very peak of an MDMA high, set to music.
There are plenty of people in Portland (and beyond) who preach about the power of house music, about the glorious feeling of oneness that can come from losing your shit on the dance floor with a few dozen like-minded souls. But few sermonize about it with the fervor of Honey Owens and Rafael Fauria, the duo known as the Miracles Club.
“I keep coming back to the concept of this ecstatic feeling,” says Owens. “And being able to get there without the use of drugs. To be able to reach this ecstatic state naturally through dance. You’re on the dance floor and you’re being swept away and being carried away with the transcendence of the music.”
The pair has been, for the past year or so, working to bring audiences to that state through epic DJ sets and live performances that enmesh the four-on-the-floor pulse of vintage Chicago and Detroit house music with the dubbed-out psychedelics of groups like the Orb and Ultramarine.
As the title of its debut 12-inch single, “Light of Love,” would suggest, it is a sound that tries to bring in all aspects of the world’s favorite emotion. The song is 6½ glorious, shimmering minutes born from both the romantic connection felt between Owens and Fauria and the spiritual devotion captured in the name of this musical project.
“The real Miracles Club [on Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard],” says Fauria, “symbolized what we wanted to do with this project. It is a community center that, on Sundays, becomes this place of celebration and music, with people showing up dressed in wonderful suits and draped in gold. That’s the kind of vibe we wanted with our project.” (RH) IMAGE: Sarah Meadows
Grab a track here: http://blogs.wweek.com/music/files/mp3s/Newlove.mp3
8. Aan - 51 Points
WHO: Bud Wilson, Reese Lawhon, Mica Rapstine
SOUNDS LIKE: Isaac Brock crashing a craft fair. But underwater.
George Lonell “Bud” Wilson Jr. doesn’t do what’s expected of him. The founder of Aan is a fifth-generation cattle rancher: His father mows alfalfa fields outside Leadore, Idaho (pop. 90). But here’s Bud in the big city, producing music videos and fronting an experimental band. His dad’s OK with it: “He understands that I have this thing inside me that I need to do,” Wilson says.
Aan defies preconceived notions as well—the woozy wobble of distorted guitars is lulling, until it is pierced by Wilson’s voice growling and crying like a Jäger-bombed Dan Boeckner. (See a review of Aan’s new EP, I Could Be Girl for You, on page 42.) That jagged sound might be traced back to Wilson’s first Portland gig, working sound at now-defunct downtown dive Food Hole. “Doing sound there just means controlling one microphone and making sure the amp doesn’t get kicked over,” he says. “As much as I would like to say I took a lot of inspiration from that, it’s probably not true. I like pretty things.”
Still, Wilson is diligently expanding his horizons. “I’ve been really, really trying to get into AC/DC and Van Halen,” he says. He imagines adding more party to Aan’s loneliness-crazed sound: “I’d love for everybody to take their shirts off and be having a good time, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.” (AM) IMAGE: Sarah Weber
Grab a track here: http://blogs.wweek.com/music/files/mp3s/wetanddripping.mp3
9. Atole - 38 Points
WHO: Manny Reyes, Jacob Soto, Sarah Gottesdiener, Marius Libman, Tim Ferrell
FORMED: 1998 (as a solo project), 2007 (as a band)
SOUNDS LIKE: The perfect party band, if that party is a drug-fueled bacchanal.
Manny Reyes doesn’t rest. Sure, he may get some sleep every now and again, but otherwise, the 30-year-old vocalist-keyboardist-dancer-mastermind behind the ever-evolving group known as Atole never seems to stay put. Not when he’s onstage with his band, bouncing and shimmying to its slinky electro-disco pop, and definitely not when he’s relaying the history of this long-running musical project.
Reyes spins a breathless tale, starting with his days as a closeted gay teen in Las Vegas and ending with his current out-and-proud self, a beacon of the indie dance/electronic scene in Portland, with stops along the way in New York, San Francisco and beyond. The sound of Atole has evolved with him. An early iteration of the project had a performance art feel to it with Reyes playing, as he put it, “straight-up indie-rock songs sung in Spanish” accompanied by prerecorded material played on boomboxes. Now it’s a multicultural gang of dance-floor acolytes playing bumping disco and house.
Now that he has settled in Portland and settled on this danceable, giddy sound, the forward momentum lies in getting things recorded. The band has a 7-inch ready for release and is already working on putting new material down on tape. And at some point before the end of the year, Atole’s first full-length will be out on Audio Dregs. Not surprisingly, when Reyes describes the music on the album, it’s all in terms of motion: “It’s gonna be fast. I wanted to make a record that you could jog to or dance to or have sex to. It’s all killer and no filler. It’s going to start and finish before you know it.” (RH) IMAGE: C.J. Levine
10. Red Fang - 37.5 Points
WHO: Brian Giles, Aaron Beam, David Sullivan, John Sherman
SOUNDS LIKE: High on Fire hotboxing Fu Manchu’s van.
Let’s get this out of the way: Red Fang is not a metal band. Drummer John Sherman bristles at any suggestion to the contrary. “We’re a heavy rock band,” he says, before co-frontman Brian Giles ices the cake: “I like Graham Nash as much as I like Slayer.” Sherman calls bullshit and Giles backpedals from his bold statement, but they’ve made their point.
The M-word issue isn’t purely academic. Red Fang’s not yet big enough to disregard the chatter that surrounds it, and each interview is another opportunity to shape the increasingly noisy conversation. Definitions still matter; every show is important. Sherman wants this profile out weeks before its publication date—he’s not sure Red Fang can pack its upcoming Backspace show without a write-up. And Giles expresses reservations about Red Fang’s impending tour of the West Coast, where the band will be headlining for the first time.
You’d think they weren’t aware of the message board freak-out that greeted their “Prehistoric Dog” video, wherein the Red Fang boys don beer-can armor and battle LARP geeks. It’s almost like they don’t know just how good their band is, or how much people care. Almost. Giles has noticed more and more fans sporting Red Fang shirts—and, he’s proud to add, “not just on laundry day.”
He should probably get used to seeing his name decorating strangers. On its new Chris Funk-produced album (release date and label TBD), Red Fang doesn’t so much hone its craft as revel in its own simple perfection. The riffs are still monstrous and the choruses still improbably catchy, but it’s all bigger, brighter, heavier—as if microphones just figured out how to capture what the band does best. The new songs say what Red Fang’s members are too humble to admit: We fucking rule. (CS) IMAGE: Courtesy of The Agency Group
Who’s Got Next?
Best New Band Poll 2010, finalists numbers 11 through 25.
11. Dirty Mittens
12. Blue Horns
14. Kelli Schaefer
15. Boy Eats Drum Machine
16. Mean Jeans
17. Why I Must Be Careful
18/19 (tie). Luck One
18/19 (tie). ASSS
20/21 (tie). White Hinterland
20/21 (tie). Reporter
22. Inside Voices
23/24 (tie). Tope
23/24 (tie). A Weather
25. Mimicking Birds
PAST BEST NEW BAND WINNERS: Menomena (2004), Talkdemonic (2005), Copy (2006), The Shaky Hands (2007), The Builders & the Butchers (2008), Explode Into Colors (2009)