After emerging in San Francisco as a duo with a punky high-energy EP in 2013, Happy Fangs is ready to unleash a heavier sound with their debut full length this month featuring a third amigo, Jess Gowrie on drums, joining vocalist Rebecca Bortman and guitarist Michael Cobra.
The band’s intentions are clear with the new release as Bortman, known on record as Rebecca Gone Bad, channels riot grrrl energy in the spirit of Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney with a dab of Chrissy Hynde on the first track “Raw Nights”: “Excuse me sir, do you have a minute to talk about rock ’n’ roll?”
Capricorn is due January 27 with a release party at Rickshaw Stop on January 31. We caught up with Rebecca and Jess to discuss the project.
What was the process of recording this new album?
Rebecca: Happy Fangs faces a few extra-special songwriting challenges—we live in two different cities. Our best songs come from jams when we are all together. Luckily, we’ve learned to love the two-hour drive between San Francisco and Sacramento. If you’ve made that drive, you know what we mean when we say: Yolo (Fruit Stand)!
Jess: Given all this, it took us about five months to write the entire album. We recorded in Sacramento at the Dock Studios over a period of two weekends.
Are there any underlying themes you wanted to explore before going in to record this record?
R: This album is about being on the cusp. Whether you are on the edge of a mountaintop or a monolithic crater, the best way to find out is to yell into it and assess the echo.
J: Making this album was personal growth. Working with two other people who are like-minded, but also very different, pushed our musical norms and I think we all have become better musicians for it.
How do you think being a band in the Bay Area is different than being a band anywhere else? How have the changes the city has been going through affected you as a band?
R: I love that I live in a city where the hometown crowd is so exuberant. Mr. Cobra and I [the San Francisco members of the band] recently learned at our first Sacramento show that Sac audience show their support with stoic stares and intense nodding (laughs), but I don’t think it’s about being “too cool.” Our giddiest crowds have been in the suave cities of New York and Toronto.
J: There’s definitely still excitement for bands in SF. People still enjoy going to shows and supporting the scene.
Do you think it will be more challenging to break through beyond the Bay Area with your new heavier sound?
R: As Mr. Cobra says, making this album was about finding out what our voice is as a group—finding a language only the three of us could speak and making sure each personality was able to shine. As I say: Heavy souls. Heavy sounds.
J: From the first EP to the new album, we have definitely gotten heavier, which might surprise a few people at first, but we have gotten some great responses to our new transformation. It actually opens up more doors as far as bands we can play with and other opportunities that we might not have had before.
Do you plan to tour in 2015? What are your goals for the new year?
R: I just found out that 2015 is the Chinese Zodiac Year of the Goat and our album is of course in goat-alignment with the name Capricorn. I think all this could only mean one thing: we will work really hard in 2015, making goats and fans of good music everywhere proud!
J: We are definitely touring in 2015! We are in the process of booking a West Coast tour for March and just doing all we can to get the record out there and heard.
What else do you want people to know about Capricorn?
R: The ultimate Happy Fangs experience is seeing us live. That means you have a few short days from the album’s online release of Jan. 27 until our release show on Saturday, Jan. 31 at The Rickshaw Stop to memorize all the lyrics and scream the words back in my face at the show. See you up front!
J: This album was five months in the making and a result of a lot of late night drives and hours of jamming. Capricorn was written by three Capricorns who are like-minded, but very different musicians. I believe the record reflects that. Most of all its the most important accomplishment we set out to make so far and are very excited to finally share it with everyone in 2015.
Happy Fangs celebrate the release of Capricorn at Rickshaw Stop on Jan. 31.