An Interview with Red Fang: Every Little Twist

Red Fang have been on the go more or less since their 2009 self-titled debut came out. Certainly since they put out their first album on Relapse, 2011’s Murder The Mountains. Constant touring, appearances here and there on compilations, hilarious videos—all this in combination with their unrepentantly glorious hooks has made Red Fang royalty in good-time metal. Their 2013 album, Whales And Leeches, is like a party that everyone’s invited to and where nobody gets stabbed. In other words, like a really good party.

Dig tracks like “Blood Like Cream” and “Crows In Swine” if you don’t believe me. Sure, Red Fang have their brooding moments—“Behind The Light” comes to mind, or “Failure”—but doesn’t every bender? The epic “Dawn Rising,” on the other hand, brings in YOB frontman Mike Scheidt for some of Red Fang’s most epic rock to date, and the prevailing sentiment of the album is a gotta-go-gotta-go groove that’s irresistibly engaging.

As they do, the band—bassist/vocalist Aaron Beam, guitarist/vocalist Bryan Giles, guitarist/vocalist David Sullivan and drummer John Sherman—are taking the show on the road. They hit the city this week with The Shrine and more in tow. Beam recently took some time out to talk about Whales And Leeches and how they manage to keep such a grueling schedule:

When did you actually start writing for the new album?

We had a lot of pieces that had been written a long time ago. Various parts from songs that are probably six years old. But the real writing actually started, I would say, middle of January or so of this year. So we had a good about two and a half, three months, to write. We had to tour in the middle of that. We went down to Australia and played Soundwave, so that interrupted a little bit, but yeah.

January doesn’t seem like that long ago. Did things come together quickly?

Actually, it was kind of typical of any kind of project where you have a pretty big project and a deadline looming. You sort of procrastinate until the last minute and then realize, “Oh wait, we only have three days until we have to do this and we only have six songs.” It wasn’t quite that drastic, but we definitely finished up a lot of songs pretty quickly, the last couple, two, three weeks or so.

But like I said, we sort of had parts laid out, we just hadn’t solidified things into songs, so that’s what we were doing. Not even writing new songs, but trying to come up with parts and arrangements that worked.

You mentioned “Blood Like Cream.” When you’re writing, especially post-“Wires” and things like that, do you know how insanely catchy it is? Does it get stuck in your own head?

Oh for sure, yeah. It’s hard to avoid, because we play them so many times that it invariably gets—even the non-catchy songs get stuck in your head, but you know which ones are the really catchy ones because they’re the ones you can’t help but find yourself singing all the time where you go, “Whoops, sorry everybody” (laughs).

Your vocals throughout the album: I thought Murder The Mountains was a big step from the self-titled, and here they sound very clear. You sound more in command of your voice. Do you feel more confident singing?

I think I felt pretty confident when I was doing Murder The Mountains. I was probably over-confident. But it’s just like, being on tour as much as we have, I just have naturally got better at singing, just from the practice. Back then, when we recorded Murder The Mountains, that was really before we started doing a lot of touring, and so it was probably kind of like going in cold for doing the vocals.

But we’ve had plenty of time, a year and a half, two years, to warm up for this record, so yeah, it just means you can do things faster when you have more control of your voice, so if you don’t like the way something turned out, you can go back and try to fix it and you know you can do things a different way, where with the other one, it was kind of like, “Well, that’s the way I sound when I sing, so that’s the take.” Now, having gotten as much practice on the road as I have, I feel like I can spend a little more time fine-tuning stuff. If I don’t like the way a certain syllable sounds, I can actually go back and fix it.

How did you wind up bringing Mike Scheidt in for “Dawn Rising?”

I’m pretty sure John was the one who mentioned it first. When we wrote that song, we were already thinking about YOB. We were just in a YOB mood when we started jamming on that main riff, and neither Bryan nor I could come up with any vocal parts that we liked, and we’re friends with Mike already, so it just seemed obvious to try to get him on there. We were really down to the wire on vocals, because we had almost nothing worked out.

After we were finished with basic tracks, we still had almost none of the songs worked out vocally, so there was kind of a time thing and also just that we weren’t satisfied with anything that we were coming up with on our own, so we called him up and he was excited to do it. I’m really, really happy with how that one turned out.

You’ve done all this work on the road, every video you guys put out gets a lot of attention, and Red Fang has come up a lot over the last couple years as a result of this work. How at this point do you define success for the band? What would make this album successful in your mind?

I don’t know. I don’t really have any kind of specific definition for what success would be. I guess that we’re all happy with it, and that’s kind of the most important thing. If I can listen to it in six months and not be disgusted, that’s pretty successful, but of course when we’re out on the road and playing shows, you always feel a little better when there’s as many people at the show as last time, or people are as excited as they were the time before. We so far haven’t really encountered so much of attendance or enthusiasm dropping off, but I’ll get back to you when it does happen.

For me, that’s the goal, to maintain where we are, if not… I know that other people of course have aspirations to get bigger and bigger, and that would be fine, but really for me right now, as long as we can maintain the lifestyle that we have, that’s a success, but if we can’t, so be it. None of us are gonna be crying into our beers if we have to go back to our dayjobs.

And obviously you’re starting the tour cycle over again. Do you know how long this cycle’s going to be?

Oh yeah. We’ve already got the first leg of our fall tour booked. It’s going to be West Coast. Then we’re going to come out and do East Coast and the middle part of the country a little later on, probably November or something, then we’re going to go back to Europe and do two different legs over there in probably late January, early February, then March.

It’s not all solid yet, but that’s the general plan. We’d like to get up to Canada, then hopefully get back to Australia at some point, and we’d really love to do just a week in South America, then probably come back and do the US and Europe again. It’ll be busy in 2014 for sure.

Whales And Leeches is available now on Relapse Records. Red Fang will be at Underground Arts in Philly on Dec. 9 and Bowery Ballroom in Manhattan on Dec. 11. Music at