You never quite know what to expect when Red Fang delivers a new album, but you can guarantee it is going to be exquisite. Arrows is another flawless release that is full of dark and ominous lyrics and soundscapes. It starts out with a strong bass line and some creepy sounds as the beginning of the sinister lyrics take hold. While this first track titled, “Take it Back” grips you, the rest of the album doesn’t loosen its’ hold all the way to “Funeral Coach”. Prepare for a crazy ride and make sure you hold on to your mind so you don’t fall down the rabbit hole.
Portland, Oregon is the homeplace of these four remarkable dudes. Bryan Giles (vocals, guitar), David Sullivan (guitar), Aaron Beam (bass, vocals, guitar, keyboards), and John Sherman (drums), have developed a strong fan base with their impressive musical abilities and exceptionally hilarious music videos. You never know if you are going to come across a beer guzzling zombie apocalypse, ninja sword adventures, LARPers chased by beer can infused armor, and anything in between. Not only do they have the talent of grasping your soul with their musicianship, but they grab your attention with their light hearted personalities.
Bryan Giles kindly took a significant amount of time to chat with Metal Nation.
“I had a debacle this morning, full on fire drill. I hadn’t had enough coffee and I started panicking thinking, ‘Where is the zoom link!’ for this interview, (It was a phone call interview). *laughs* Red Fang has this mantra or motto, ‘When in doubt, freak out.’ That was this morning.”
I have anxiety, so I can relate to that mantra.
“It is a terrible philosophy, *laughs* but I think we say it so we don’t freak out, but I don’t think it’s working, I think it actually just makes us freak out.”
Do you do some of your interviews through Zoom then? Every time I go through this PR it is phone calls, and it always trips me out because I feel I am imposing on someone, even though I know it is booked.
“I don’t have to worry about washing my wig when I am on the phone, so I prefer it. Also, it is not like you can sell my phone number or anything, that is not a thing.”
I like doing this too much anyway, plus I am much too anxious of a person to do that. *laughs* I am also a therapist, so keeping people’s secrets is kind of what I do.
“What kind of therapist?”
A mental health therapist, which is kind of funny since I have high levels of anxiety, but that is one of the reasons I got into it.
“I would imagine that super well-adjusted people don’t decide to work on other people’s problems. I mean, it is possible, but I would wonder how many bodies those people would have in their basement. *laughs*”
*laughs* Well it isn’t a money-making field, so it is either trying set the high score on dead bodies or having mental health issues themselves. *laughs*
“I applaud you for doing something for other people.”
Thank you. Music is the same way, it is a form of therapy, so I can confidently say the same to you.
“Thank you. I definitely tell myself that story when I am feeling down. ‘No no! You are making people happy.’”
Not only that, but Red Fang’s videos are a comedic break, which is interesting since the lyrics are the polar opposite of comedy, but they are a breath of fresh air. They are amazing.
“I think that is what they are for us too. If we had to really dwell on the shit we are screaming about I would need to talk to you for your other business. I love doing those videos, Whitey comes up with good ideas and we think, ‘Yeah let’s be goofballs for a couple of days.’”
I don’t know how you guys do it all with a straight face, I would be laughing the entire time.
“I don’t know. That is about the extent of my acting, is flat face.”
I thought it was really interesting because once I started dig into the lyrical content I thought, these are not light-hearted lyrics so how funny that they are able to turn something fairly serious into comedy. The beauty of balance
“I think so.”
Speaking of lyrical content, I am a little surprised that “Why” was written pre-pandemic because it fits with these times very well.
“I did not write those lyrics, but it is about drug addiction and despair, so yay! *laughs* It is the hit of the summer. *laughs*
Despair is something many of us can relate to *laughs*. I actually picture driving in the rain while listening to it.
“I like it.”
Arrows is very dark and sinister when compared to your other albums I feel. I really dig it and the direction. I assume it just came naturally and wasn’t necessarily planned, especially since it was written before the world went to shit.
“There is one thing you can be sure of, we don’t plan things. Not artistically anyway, we just do it. I agree. I was doing a blurb for this release, and I referred to the record as dark and everyone universally said, ‘Scrub the dark comment!’ What are people going to say, ‘Oh it is not cheerful enough so I am not going to buy that record.’ Get outta here. I said, ‘Fine! Scrub the dark comment.’ But between you and me, and whoever reads this, I think it is a dark record.”
I am surprised they told you to do that. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, especially this day and age. There is kind of a comfort there. It is very raw. At the very beginning, it is really sinister and I thought, well this is an interesting beginning, but then it sticks to that theme throughout. I was surprised, but I have listened to it a lot and I really enjoy it.
“Thank you very much. We aim to please ourselves first off, but if someone else is also pleased, that’s great.”
Are you nervous about how Red Fang fans will take to it?
“No honestly, I’m not. Because if our fans have stuck with us this far, they are going to stick with us. It is not like we are doing some barbershop quartet thing, it is definitely on the continuum of Red Fang records.”
*Laughs* Just a little doomier, which you have done in the past. “Dr. Owl” I feel is doomy and a journey all in itself.
“Cool. I like that song a lot. We worked on it for a pretty long period of time and did some really odd things with it and I thought, ‘I don’t know, this is a weird project we are doing’, but once it sort of made sense listening to it without having to play guitar or worry about what note comes next, I think it works great and I really enjoy the ending. We are working it up now to perform live, and because the bass is doing something pretty independent rhythmically from the guitar parts, so it sort of has this push and pull thing happening and working into a live performance we thought, how do we do that? Replicate it exactly? And what we landed on was, ‘NO! We are just gonna kind of get there and do what we feel is natural until we think we are done, and then we will end the song.’ I look forward to that. I mean, we are not a jazz band or anything, there is an improvised element in the set, which in the past we did a lot more and I miss it. I think it is great for your creative bone.”
Definitely. I am excited to see it live. You have many different soundscapes in the album, so I am sure it will sound different live. Your pre-orders sold really quick!
“It did really well. There was some anxiety about putting a record out without immediately getting on the road and touring hard to support it. The record was initially supposed to be released in May of last year and we put it off because we had to cancel all touring. We thought it was a death sentence to put out a record without a tour schedule. Fast forward over a year later, and we decided to put the record out anyway with no tour schedule. We will be touring the US in October, so there will be a tour, but it’s not hot on the hells of the release, but it makes sense because we are turning a corner with all this craziness and I think people are hungry for music. We were talking with Relapse and they said they are having a really good year with record sales. I think a lot of people that had expendable income were going out and painting the town, but they couldn’t do that anymore, so instead people are nesting and making their home experience better and collecting music again. I think we are part of that wave and that’s a really good thing for us. We have been in hibernation so long, kicking the rust off it was like, ‘Do we still matter? What’s happening?’ It seems as though people haven’t forgotten us.”
Definitely not. Five years is not a terrible amount of time to release another album.
“Well, we are not Tool, but we are halfway there. *laughs*”
Your fans are about as hardcore as Tool fans though *laughs*.
“We just need the same number of fans they do and we will be all set. *laughs*”
That’s the goal right.
“I want people that are really into it. I am happy anybody wants to experience music with us but I like that the majority of our fans are hardcore fans that can drill me about unreleased B sides or something, or C sides. That’s cool because that means that they are sharing the ride and in whatever this is with us.”
Going back to talking about the record sales, music is very therapeutic, the cheaper form of therapy. We all need music during this time, so I am glad you guys have released it, even though you can’t piggy-back tour off of it. Vinyl has also given us a change to remember to listen to an album in its entirety and slow down and enjoy the ride. In the digital age, we switch from song to song and don’t slow down. We live in this chaotic world where I think we have forgotten to do that, so I feel the return of vinyl is helping us center ourselves. If we all slowed down more, I think we would all feel much more peace.
“I think that is a good point. When I think about playing music on whatever format, I will catch myself wanting to stop three quarters of the way through a song and start another song and I’m like, ‘You’re not going to do that! At the least you are going to listen to this whole fucking song.’ But we have sort of been trained by the internet to be these ADD half chewed content people. The long format is cool because you get in their and it is a little world you have for forty some minutes. It is not like watching Ghandi or something, you got time people, just do it *laughs*.”
Stop and smell the Red Fang metaphorical roses.
“Yeah, whatever the smell might be *laughs*.”
That is one good thing about staying home through all this, you don’t have all the smells.
What have you been doing with your downtime?
“I buckled down and learned the rudiments of home recording and have been doing projects with people from other towns and sharing projects. That’s been really fun and very creatively liberating. I am not complaining about being in Red Fang, but we sort of have a system and we have checks and balances with each other as far as, ‘Well I don’t know if that works.’ Or ‘That doesn’t belong’, or that sort of thing. With these other projects I can say, ‘No! I am putting in whale sounds, and that’s that.’ *laughs* And I can and I do and it’s great.”
Going full Gojira *laughs*.
I think that is great. Bands are like a marriage, there is a lot of middle ground that you all have to agree on, so I am sure it is nice to have some creative freedom outside of that that doesn’t necessarily have to fit in with the relationship.
“I really do think it is helping me explore ideas that were maybe just crawling around in the back of my brain and actually recording them and making them a reality is going to help me bring new ideas to the band for our next record. So, I would like to think this old dog has got some new tricks.”
Have you been watching any TV shows or reading?
“I wish I read more. I have the hardest time starting a book, no matter how good the book is, just getting into it is so hard for me. I am a real start stop kind of person. Once I break that threshold, I love it! It is one of my favorite things is to be engrossed in a good book.”
Do you have a favorite?
“No not really. We have little free libraries in our neighborhood, so I just started shopping locally *laughs*, but I got on a Stephen King kick, I read ‘The Outsider’ and that was a really fun read. Then I read ‘Doctor Sleep’…
That is my favorite of his.
“It was really cool to revisit the Overlook Hotel after all these years and I was like, ‘Yep, still terrifying.’ *laughs*”
I grew up watching Stephen King movies but had never read “The Shining”. When “Doctor Sleep” came out, I decided to read “The Shining” first before I read that and I was glad I did because it was so different.
“It is a drastically different ending.”
I am reading “The Dark Tower” series now.
“I think I read that. Actually, I am sure I did because I had read ‘Carrie’ when I was fourteen and then I just decided to read everything he wrote. Then I read pretty much every Kurt Vonnegut book I could get my hands on. ‘The Dark Tower’ series is like 8000 pages though right?”
I think there are eight books? I might be wrong, but they are not small books.
“John and I read the ‘Game of Thrones’ books. I ran into a guy that did front house for a band we toured with and we started talking sci fi and he brought up fantasy so I asked him what I should read and he told me ‘Game of Thrones’. I asked him what it was and he said, ‘Well it is going to be an HBO show and it is really gory.’ I thought I would try it so I got into that and it was a fantastic read. I didn’t mind that it was long at all. That was in touring days so I had time *laughs*.”
*Discussed more about Game of Thrones and suggested it sounded like D&D*
“Well, it is kind of a D&D story. I mean, dragons and shit.”
Now I want to read it. I would rather read it than watch it anyway.
“Yeah! And like you said, if you watch the show first, it sort of infects the part of your brain that envisions the characters in your own way. Well now I am seeing this actor’s face instead of what face I would make up. With that series, I read if more veraciously knowing it would soon be spoiled by a tv show. Well not spoiled, there was no way I wasn’t going to watch it, but I needed to have it finished before the show started so I could have that experience without any kind of influence.”
I agree. Do you guys play D&D?
“I used to. I loved it when I was a kid but I have not played it as an adult. We stayed in a house that had a stack of Dungeons and Dragons books and I got really excited and they asked, ‘Do you want them?’ We ended up touring with a bunch of D&D manuals and I was like, ‘Alright, we are doing this guys, we are starting a campaign.’ We developed our characters and everything but then never did it. But it is super fun and it is a great creative exercise. Red Fang is working on a Dungeons and Dragons module that you can play as one of us in the D&D world. I have been shanking it for about a year now, it is very slow going and we are looking for a home for it, but I think it is turning out great. I think it is about ready to be beta tested so I may be playing D&D soon. I am almost 50, time to get the twenty-sided dice out! *laughs*”
I am almost 40 and we have been playing once or twice a week during the past over a year now. We will be your guinea pigs. We are pretty into it, we even put music in the background for ambiance.
“What is your typical treasure, dungeon crawling, song?”
We actually just put on like battle music or when we were on the ocean fighting a dragon turtle we had pirate music on. It is more soundscapes and not particular songs. I do keep wanting to put a playlist together because I think it would be fun.
“Mood setting then. Man, you guys are really doing it right! That is fantastic.”
It is a nice escape. The world is so crazy, it is nice to be someone else in a different world and have a different form of stress *laughs*. I would rather be fighting dragons right now than fighting with my fellow humans.
“I know what you mean, it is an excellent escape. Back when I was a kid playing, we would play for hours and my parents would be like, ‘Go outside!”
Do you know who you as a character is going to be?
“I don’t want to give away too much *laughs* with the way this is going though, who knows when it will come out! The latest is we are going to be hockey players initially, then we get sucked into an alternate reality where we end up in the D&D realm with quirks and that sort of thing. My character is a product of an undead spirit impregnating a watcher woman who has been burned at the stake and I am kind of out for revenge and I use her spine that I retrieved from her ashes. I wreak revenge on the world.”
Like as a weapon? Like a Ghost Rider whip?
“Yeah. With your mom’s spine. *laughs* They let me do whatever, so that’s what I did. *laughs*”
That’s amazing. Is it a magical weapon?
“It is a magical weapon yes. It immolates people. Hopefully it comes out. I am really excited. We have an artist attached to it who has been sending some work and that is looking really cool and unique. I don’t want to put all the eggs in one basket or anything, but I am real excited about that project.”
I love it. So, I am putting an article about musicians and self-care. Since I do many interviews, I have been asking the people I interview about their self-care that may help others. What is your self-care tips and tricks?
“I think the most important part is to try to create balance. When you can, go elsewhere, like you said, D&D or reading a book or something. You need to allow yourself to just be a passive participant on Earth every once in a while. You can’t control everything and there is a lot of pressure and important decisions all the time and we will make those decisions or they will be made for us. If you take that to bed with you and you are fucking up your sleep schedule and you never allow yourself to have the simple joy of being a bump on a log, *sarcastically* six tips for highly successful people! One of those is, don’t be successful all the time or just succeed in chilling out. But it is hard to do. You get busy and that is the first thing you cut is your childish sense of fun. You gotta keep that in life. That is not mind-blowing, but it is true.”
I think it is good to have those reminders because it is easy to get caught up in everyday stress and sometimes we need a reminder of needing to find balance.
“Yeah, we are on this Earth to bring each other happiness and with careers and stuff we forget it is fun to be a human being.”
I like that, and it goes back to slowing down and enjoying the things we take for granted.
“For sure. I find myself getting so tuned up about something and I have to sometimes take a breath mentally and say, ‘Why are you so tuned up about this? And how much is this really going to affect you say a month from now? You are all tweaking out about some perceived slight or whatever it is. You are stewing on something and tuned up over it and really, in the grand scheme of things, where are we putting this?’ If you can kind of look at it like, ‘Alright, this is not that big of a deal.’ Make a decision on how you want to go forward and deal with it and then just let it go. I have spent days while walking my dog going over and over about dealing with some kind of bureaucracy and will think, ‘Fuck them!’ Then I think, what am I doing? This is not helping anybody.”
This is not a relaxing walk with your dog.
“I am going to do what my dog does and smell other dogs pee and be happy with it.”
With everything shutting down this past year, musicians have been hurt financially with Covid and quarantine, what is the best way people can get money in your pocket?
“I think soft goods usually have a higher profit margin. I hate to monetize it, but it is true. Our cut of t shirts and koozies are way higher because that is just us, we cut out the middle-man. If you want to support the band, come see us. That is more than I can ask, but if you do want to put money in our pockets, buy a t shirt, get a t shirt for your baby, something like that. *laughs* The shirts that are on Indie Merch are predominantly our designs, and do try to only go to Indie Merch and Relapse Records because occasionally I will do a sweep of the internet to see what Red Fang stuff is out there and there is quite a bit that isn’t us. If you think a Red Fang throw pillow is a great idea, sure, but we are not making a dime. I put together an email maybe twice a year where I have to get cease and desist going. If the idea or the design is good, we will just steal it from them *laughs*. You guys are stealing our name, we are stealing your idea and there is not a damn thing you can do about it. We have done that with one or two bootlegs where we do like the color-scape so we will make them *laughs*. Send a cease and desist to them, they are not going to make them anymore, but we will.”
It is only fair.
“Absolutely! It is not like they are going to be sending us a check. They are going to move on and rob some other band. It is weird, we played a show in Italy with Mastodon and the club didn’t or somebody didn’t get the permits to sell our merch at the show. So the local merch seller that was selling stuff for us, had to hide our merch until the end of the show. Then right at the end of the show, they pulled out and sold it real quick because the fines were really high if they got caught selling our merch at the venue. However, right outside was like a flea market that had just knock off shirts, majority were Mastodon knock offs but they were really well produced, and they had all their permits. So, in actuality, the bootleggers were doing it legally and we were doing it illegally. That’s just fucked.”
“My mom has even bought knock off stuff and I’m like, ‘Mom! You don’t buy that!’ She is like, ‘I’m supporting your band!’ ‘Well, you’re not. I love that you care, but you are not supporting us.”
Just give me a twenty dollar bill.
“Exactly, just put a crisp five in a card *laughs*”
*Went on to discuss his dog, more D&D, and touring with Mastodon*
This was one of my favorite interviews. Bryan was very real and easy to talk to, which is no surprise as it is clear these four guys just like to have fun while they kick out banger album after banger album. Arrows is full of monumental tracks and will keep you in their threshold of darkness, yet you will feel peaceful. The hard working quad are one of the best live bands to see, so I encourage you to catch them on the road. I also invite you to buy Arrows and a T shirt or two to support Red Fang. As I have mentioned before, we need music now more than every, so we must take care of these musicians who have taken such great care of us over the years.