The Funny Guys of Red Fang: Dudes with Guitars

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Photos by Joshua Pelta-Heller

It’s a rare occurrence finding a metal band that isn’t trying to seem, you know, “metal.” I’m talking all black, leather, spikes, the works. They’re standing on stage with their long, stringy hair, trying to convince you they’re serious as hell.

Red Fang tries to bring something different to the table: a sense of humor and a don’t-give-much-of-a-shit attitude.

“I think the humorous aspect works for us because none of us are tough guys and nothing feels dumber than standing there in leather and spikes and gauntlets,” lead guitarist and vocalist for Red Fang Bryan Giles said. “There are some bands I like that go in that direction and that’s okay, but, I mean, come on, you’re not a warrior in space with your spikes and what not; you’re a dude playing a guitar.”

The guys played Saturday, Nov. 10, at Underground Arts with their friends Black Tusk. It was definitely a night of heavy music, crowd surfing, drunk people, and head banging. Even some heavy making out. People were really feeling it.

Personally, I’m not a huge metal fan. Red Fang’s music is a little different to me, though — it’s heavy and loud but it’s not screamy, scary, or shocking. As far as a comparison goes, they’re comparable to Big Business but just a bit different. Plus, Red Fang is really freaking funny.

Fans of Red Fang are well acquainted with their hilarious music videos (YouTube party!) — in fact, they were probably introduced to Red Fang through catching one of their videos on Facebook or Reddit. For their song “Wires,” the guys receive a check from their record label for $5,000. The rest of the video is dedicated to them spending all of that money on a cheap car, gallons and gallons of milk, beer, junk food, and more beer. By the end, the guys end up on a run way driving as fast as they can into stacks of milk jugs, a china cabinet, a pyramid of champagne glasses, and other various objects. Joyous explosions ensue. It’s pretty fantastic.

The band attributes a lot of their popularity to the viral spread of their videos.

“Yeah, the videos definitely helped spread the music around. We can’t take credit for the music videos except for drinking beer on cue and being in them,” Giles said. “They’re the ideas of Whitey McConnaughy. He’s just this really great, energetic guy; the videos are kind of like passion projects for him; we can’t really afford to make those type of videos so we’re really lucky we’re his monkeys for his projects.”

“He’s got such a great sense of humor and has a good idea of what our characters should be. And, you know, they’re loosely based on our own personalities.”

You would think that the guys thought this out as smart way to market themselves. When there’s people like myself and most of my friends who spend a fair amount of time every day watching some crazy videos on the Internet, you better believe I hit the “share” button and make sure everyone I know sees something I find amusing.

“It wasn’t a conscious thing, really, that we were going to make funny videos, we just like the ideas that Whitey comes up with. None of us want to project a rock star image, it’s better to be a dork, you know, I can rock that through and through. It’s like, ‘you’re not really a dork,’ and I’m like, ‘Oh yes I am, you wanna talk about Game of Thrones? I’ll do it all day long,’” Giles said.

“In the ’80s (the dark scary look) worked because it was shock rock, you know, Elvis did it, too. It was all about making parents go, ‘What’s all this noise about?’ Bands like Kiss, you know, it was kind of scary or whatever. I think it’s just too late for that; today’s parents have all seen that before. If you’re an old school metal band like Judas Priest you can still pull that off, but if you’re part of this generation you just can’t do that anymore.
“We all know at the end of the day you’re just dudes who sit on your couch and play guitar. These guys who try to pull off this whole boots and smoke image, I know you’re just dude with a guitar.”

Red Fang definitely likes to keep things laid back, but they don’t compromise sound.

“We played in a band for about three years before called Party Time. We were all in separate bands before that dealt with crazy time signatures before and when we formed Party Time it was hard for us to let go of that, so eventually we were just like, ‘let’s stop it with the crazy time signatures and just play some regular music.’ We were tired of playing music only musicians can enjoy. We’re not really into showing off, it’s just fun to be a part of a song.”

“I to look at it from, what made me want to pick up a guitar in the first place; when I think about the songs that still stick with me, you know, they’re all pop songs. They still shred on the guitar, but they’re still playing pop songs.”

Giles has been playing in bands and going on tour for about 24 years. Giles met up with the rest of Red Fang — Aaron Beam (bass/vocals), David Sullivan (guitar), and John Sherman (drums) — in San Francisco. The guys reconnected in Portland, where they’re based now, and started playing some music together.

“We’re pretty unique in that we play different types of songs you may not hear a lot of metal bands play, but I don’t think we’re really trying to do anything different. We’re just playing hard rock music, music we like to play,” he said.

On the Internet, many refer to the guys as a “stoner rock” band.

“I don’t object to (stoner rock label); I don’t care if you say we’re peas and carrots, as long as you like it and you’re in the club rocking. I don’t think we’re stoner rock, but when someone describes us as stoner rock I’m not like letter to the editor or anything. When I think of stoner rock, I’ve always thought that it’s locking in on one blues-based groove and just driving it. You play some different variations on it so if you smoke some weed, you can listen to the different textures of a song where it becomes an exploration.Our songs are more like BAM; our longest song is six minutes long, I think.”

Their last album, Murder the Mountains, was released in 2011. They’ve been in the studio recently and plan to have something out next year.

“After the tour and the holidays are over, we’ll be able to get in there and focus a bit more,” he said.

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