Toronto’s cutting edge indie-pop collective Hooded Fang is riding the new wave with their 60’s surf-inspired album, Tosta Mista. Formed in 2007, the band has become as well know for their shifting array of instrumentation, as for their interest in alternative spaces when it comes to live performances.
After being nominated for the Polaris prize with their previous release, Album, the band has decided to ditch their indie orchestral vibe in favour of a lo-fi Southern California sound. With SoCal sensibility recent surge in popularity, infiltrating the fashion world via West Coast brands like Warriors of Radness, it’s no surprise that it has also taken over our speakers. Californian bands including The Morning Benders and Foster the People have reinvigorated the ‘60’s fun-loving tempos, and Hooded Fang’s new album tops this wave, with no signs of breaking yet.
The band took their retro style to the streets recently, hosting their album release party at The Academy of Lions, a trendy downtown gym that is anything but a traditional concert venue. Held outdoors in the gym’s courtyard, neon spray-painted sculptures amped up the already urban style, while swirling glass projections painted a colourful graffiti-like backdrop. Complete with live action versions of the masked wrestlers who adorn their album cover, the event oozed a funky street style more typical of Venice Beach than downtown Toronto.
I caught up with songwriter/lead vocalist Daniel Lee and bass player April Aliermo before the festivities kicked off to discuss their new sound, touring, and love for their hometown of T.O.
Pretty unique venue you chose for your show tonight; was it inspired by your album art?
April: Maybe the stars somehow aligned it that way, unbeknownst to us. Me and Daniel throw parties and we are really interested in alternative spaces around Toronto, and when we decided to team up with Johnny Dovercourt and Wavelength they were helping us find different alternative cool spaces in this city, and Johnny thought of this one. So, Academy of Lions, we were all over that. This is actually the neighborhood where we did a lot of our work in the last few years and our album is named after a sandwich from this neighborhood.
Dan: And I live right down the street so it’s great (laughing).
On the subject of the new album, your last release was extremely well received, why did you change your sound so drastically for Tosta Mista and where does the ’60’s beach sound stem from?
Dan: We decided to move on and explore different feels. We love playing fast loud music, so the change is just a representation of what we’re into at the moment. We also didn’t want to get pigeon holed as a one-sound band forever, so this was a logical step in our progression. The next album will sound entirely different again!
As you progress, I imagine your influences change too. What are you listening to at the moment? What are some of your favorite releases of 2011?
Dan: A lot of Toronto stuff like Timber Timbre, he’s awesome. Doldrums, Odonus Odonus, Moon King…
April: (cuts him off…) Times new Roman, and Pangea our friends out in California, Shawn Savage from Montreal, Fred Squire from out East. I’ve been listening to a lot of Black Lips and the new record Arabia Mountain. It’s playing in our van big blue right now, at the gym.
Dan: A lot of old stuff too, Joe Meek, and stuff like that…
April: Yeah, I started getting into Velvet Underground and Patty Smith recently.
Let’s talk about touring, your band has a lot of members; is it fun being on the road with such a big group?
April: You kind of become like family. They are like your siblings that you get along with a lot sometimes and other times you want to kind of kill each other. Its’ kind of like that. But I think everyone is good at finding each other’s wavelengths and people are good at taking space when they need it. Getting along really well, you become life a family. Love and hate each other at the same time.
I heard you’re touring with Cuff the Duke?
Dan: We haven’t started the tour, it’s happening soon. Should be fun, we’ve known those guys for a long time. They have helped us out a lot and they are friends, so, it will be a good hang.
April: We are leaving on Oct. 19 for Sault St Marie and going all the way out west. It will be interesting for me because Lorna unfortunately cannot come on this tour, she’s busy with school, so it will be me and ten men. I don’t know, I think I’m going to start taking notes and conduct some kind of social experiment. But don’t tell…
On that note, what is your favorite area to play in Canada, which do you find to be the most inspiring city?
Dan: ….in our friends garage.
April: And houses. I mean most of where we go we have just been making friends along the way. I think that’s one of the best parts of touring, just checking out the city, playing for a new crowd, meeting new people…
Dan: …seeing old friends.
April: Yeah, its exciting to go back out west, reconnecting with the friends we made along the way, but I mean in the end I think our hearts always here, in our friend’s houses and garages.
So when you are playing in your friends garages, do you guys improvise and play around or stick with more written material?
Dan: Well, we never really practice that much, but we are starting to now so, well se where it goes. Hopefully we will be able to just experiment more.
April: Ya, sometimes we do and its like, this is so weird. It sounds like some sort of weird experimental band I would never listen to.
April: Sometimes, well, yeah… And other times its’ like yeah, rock n’ roll!
How do you feel about the Canadian music scene? How does your group fit in?
Dan: We like the Canadian music scene because its small and it’s a nice community, but I mean really we want to play in lots of different regions. I mean we are just going to do whatever we can do, and keep playing in as many places as we can. But it’s been great for us, the Canadian music scene, we have made a lot of good friends and there are a lot of good people here. It’s a pretty conducive place to do what you want to do.
April: It’s a really nice community where everyone is happy to collaborate with each other and support each other’s shows, really appreciate each other. I think that there could be more unity between different genres. There is all kinds of really good Canadian music out there. Not just rock and roll or indie, but there is a good punk scene, and hip-hop and electronic. They are just smaller and maybe there could be more of a dialogue between each of those genres. Which happens a bit in the smaller scenes but I don’t know. It was really exciting to get nominated for Polaris, but I went to the gala and it was like one kind of band that was there. All great, beautiful bands that I was really excited for and happy to see and really appreciate. I know that in the past there have been nominations but not very many other kinds of music, no punk, no hip hop. There was a tweet from someone after the gala and they said “hey punk bands, if you want to get a Polaris prize here are some tips: slow down your music and add some violin.” Because there is a punk scene, it just needs to….
Dan: Oh, it’s great, there is an awesome punk scene in Toronto.
April: That’s what I’m saying, it just needs to be recognized by the broader community. Like punk and hip-hop and electronic and all the other kinds beyond indie and rock.
Dan: We are music fans first and foremost. When we put together bills we kind of figure that a good artist no matter what genre they are from is a good artist and they are going to be powerful to watch. And if you are a music fan and you respect music and arts then you can have someone from any genre and if they suck then you aren’t going to see that. But if they transcend all that, then that’s the point, right? It’s about expression and really doing it up good.