INTERVIEW: Happy Fangs

Happy Fangs photo

Anyone that’s been likened to Bikini Kills lights up our radar. The Bay Area-based scuzz rockers Happy Fangs consists of Rebecca Bortman, Michael Cobra (Mr.Cobra), and Jess Gowrie. A name of dichotomy, Happy Fangs recently released their debut LP, Capricorn to critical acclaim. It’s the sort of music that will have your body thrashing before your brain knows what’s going on, lighting the way with the bridges you burn. We spoke with Happy Fang about Tina Turner, lack of sleep, and penning songs inspired by Jeff Goldblum’s lazer bears.

Audiofemme: So how did you guys meet and form a band?

Happy Fangs (All): Rebecca & Mr. Cobra met while playing in San Francisco bands that had one thing in common—Room 13, a practice space in The Tenderloin in San Francisco. We started out as a two piece with a drum machine but soon realized we wanted a live drummer to help kick up the energy. We searched so far, we ended up all the way out in Sacramento where we found Jess Gowrie, the best drummer in the world.

AF: Where does the name Happy Fangs derive from?

HF: When you have a bandmate with the legal last name of Cobra, you’ve gotta have a ferocious band name. When you have a bandmate as giddy as Rebecca, sometimes the band names itself. Jess joined after the band was named but she is truly the perfect third fang.

AF: Where is your favorite hometown venue to perform in?

HF: We just played we just play Great American Music Hall as the hometown show on this tour. Imagine playing in a Great-Gatsby-style 1920s venue with all the grandeur, gold, and velvet that you’d expect! Mr. Cobra was warming up on guitar before our set only to look over to see a picture of Robert Plant warming up on his guitar in the same spot. It’s so awesome to play at a venue that’s had so many amazing musicians grace the stage!

AF: How does the city of San Francisco influence your sound?

HF: We are actually a duel city band. Jess lives in Sacramento. That being said I think the urban environments that all three of us choose to live in contributes greatly to the pace and drive of our music.

AF: You’re currently on tour – What do you miss most from home while traveling?

HF: Sleep! What is that again?

AF: Can we expect to catch you on the East Coast anytime soon?

HF: Plans are in the works!

AF: Who were your musical icons?

Rebecca: Tina Turner has influenced me before I only understood that singing was different than talking. Her moves & her glamour & that incredible stage presence!

Mr. Cobra: Mine are an amalgamation of King Buzzo, Pepper Keenan, and Ian MacKay.

Jess: I’ve been called many names: Phyllis Collins, Joanna Bonham, Donna Henley. Singing drummers aren’t easy to find!

AF: If you could have anyone join you on stage – who would it be?

HF: David Bowie, Beth Gibbons from Portishead, and Jesse Keeler of Death from Above 1979 could join us on stage anytime.

AF: You’ve been called the next coming of Bikini Kill, are you fans, and how does the comparison make you feel?

HF: We’ve started covering Rebel Girl at our live shows and I’m not going to lie to you: all the girls are upfront! Come see us live and see for yourself!

AF: How would you as a group describe your sound?

HF: Hard on the outside, soft in the center, BYOearplugs.

AF: The visuals of your performances have often been noticed – can you tell me a little bit about that?

HF: We take the duality of our name to heart. You will never find color on stage with us. Everything on stage is black-and-white. If you take a picture of us at one of our shows there is no mistaking that it’s Happy Fangs. You will always find us warpainted at the start of our set and most of it sweat off by the end.

AF: What was the inspiration behind the first album?

HF: We are all three continually inspired by each other. We are also all three Capricorn seagoats–stubborn and persistent. We were gung ho on finishing this album and releasing it to the world as soon as possible, and January 27 was that perfect time at right after the Capricorn cycle!

AF: I read that you create a new song based on the audience’s suggestions at each performance. What’s the wildest suggestion you’ve gotten?

HF: Jeff Goldblum’s lazer bears!

Thanks, Happy Fangs! Steam Capricorn below.

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