Interview: Hooded Fang
One of the most talked-about bands of recent times blew through town lately, so Songwriting grabbed them for a chat
t’s not every day that we get to meet one of the most hyped bands around, but that’s exactly what happened when we met Toronto indie-rockers Hooded Fang. Taking their status as the most blogged band on The Hype Machine (one of The Guardian’s ‘100 essential websites’) as a springboard, the band released their outstanding self-title debut album in 2010.
They followed this with the similarly excellent Tosta Mista in 2011, a year which also saw them receive a Polaris Prize nomination. The Polaris Music Prize honours the best Canadian album, with the winner being picked solely on artistic merit. Past winners include such luminaries as Patrick Watson, Caribou and Arcade Fire. With this in mind, Songwriting was privileged to be speaking to a band who might just be about to graduate from being one of the most hyped around to one of the best around.
We caught them at the end of a seemingly endless tour, supporting Howler at Bristol’s Fleece & Firkin. Well, the end of their UK dates… there were still plenty of dates left outside of the UK for the band to play. I met singer/guitarist and principal songwriter Daniel Lee outside the venue. He’d wandered over from the bands tour van, nicknamed ‘Big Blue’, and paused to smoke a cigarette. We spoke briefly about the lack of distance involved in touring England – two hours’ drive between venues here, as opposed to 12 in Canada. For someone who considers a four-hour journey as bordering on hellish, it was touching to hear the lengths to which songwriters will go in support of their craft.
“THE INEVITABILITY OF DEATH… IT’S A BEAUTIFUL THING.”
Daniel finished his cigarette and disappeared. Moments later he returned, with bassist April Aliermo and drummer D. Alex Meeks in tow. We made our way to the adjacent courtyard and sat down.
So guys, how do you go about the process of writing songs?
Daniel: Well, it depends really. I’ll start off with an idea and then present it to the guys. It could come on either paper or computer. Then it will evolve from there, but it won’t usually stray too far from the original idea.
Who are your favourite songwriters, past and current?
D. Alex: I like Bill Callahan, for sure. Will Oldham. I think Lee Hazlewood, for the past, he’s pretty good and also Smokey Robinson. For the present, Ryan Driver, he’s a Toronto guy who’s got an album out on Fire Records soon that not a lot of people know about… there’s just so much stuff out there now that’s good. The Toronto scene is incredibly fertile, really, really good. Actually, you know who’s a really good songwriter? Sean Nicholas Savage.
Daniel: Oh yeah, put him down, he’s sick. Let’s just name every good artist that there’s ever been! I really like Destroyer [who just happens also to be performing at the Fleece on November 14], he’s really good. There’s a guy called Young Gum, who’s from Toronto, great songwriter and a really good producer. Bob Marley, Janet Jackson…
Is this your first time in Bristol?
D. Alex: It is it’s my first time. This is the first hour, you’re here witnessing it. See what it’s like after we leave and witness the transformation! We have to fly to Frankfurt tomorrow at 7am. So we’re not sure exactly how long we’ll be here.
April: The first time I heard of Bristol, actually, was through this super Hooded Fang fan that got in contact with us like two years ago – well, over two years ago – and now we’re here. It was this sweet old man who was always writing on behalf of his son.
You just played Great Escape. Did you catch any good bands while you were there?
Daniel: We only saw a couple of bands and we already know them already. We saw Odonis Odonis, they were particularly good at Great Escape. They’re friends of ours from Toronto. And we saw Double Germs, who we also know from Toronto, they were really good. We also saw Grimes [the newest icon of electronic songwriting] … she’s really good.
April: It’s kinda silly actually, that we didn’t see good bands at the Great Escape that much… we just saw people that we already knew.
D. Alex: I saw a bunch of other bands. I went to see Wing Merchants For The Sullen in a church. It was… they took a really long time setting up and then they were kinda cross about it, but they were injecting their anger into their beautiful music.
What inspires you?
“EAT SOUP. DRINK SOME RYE AND GINGER. STARE INTO SPACE…”
April: Magic and nature.
D. Alex: The inevitability of death… it’s pretty inspiring though, it’s a beautiful thing. Put magic and nature above those. I think magic is the same thing though and so is nature for that matter.
April: Senior citizens, who do whatever they want.
Daniel: I’m really interested in the ridiculousness of humanity. How people can be really stupid.
D. Alex: Did you get these guys stoned before I came out?
We at Songwriting would never dream of getting anybody stoned! I then asked the band members if they would each like to contribute a comment on songwriting. These were their thoughts.
Daniel: Make it up as you go along.
Alice: Eat soup. Drink some rye and ginger. Stare into space. Do what you gotta do.
D. Alex: Glossolalia is a culture.
So that, for all you songwriters out there, is Hooded Fang’s guide to the art of making music… and for those just wondering what glossolalia is, it’s the practice of speaking in tongues.
oving on to a local Japanese restaurant, we discussed the shared, transatlantic experience of returning home from school just in time for The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air to begin. April and Daniel spoke of missing their homeland and looking forward to returning to it. The conversation then turned to our childhood memories of music.
What’s your earliest memory of music?
April: American rock music. I remember it being played all the time. I remember Michael Jackson as well. There’s a recording of me singing along to Michael Jackson’s Beat It when I was a kid.
Daniel: I remember when I was seven that me and one of my friends really loved Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The USA.
I told them that my earliest memory of music was of being obsessed with Bryan Adams’ early ’90s global smash (Everything I Do) I Do It For You. Their nods were polite and sympathetic. With that selection of songwriters it’s of no surprise that the members of Hooded Fang are the ones writing songs and I’m the one who isn’t!
Words: Damien Girling