Hooded Fang are from Toronto, Canada. They have a number of releases under their belt, their most recent being ‘Dynasty House’ (May 2017). They also play leading roles in the day to day running of independent record label Daps Records, which all of Hooded Fang’s records are released through. Daniel Lee from the band was kind enough to answer some questions for us…
TSOFD: Having followed you since your eponymous release ‘Hooded Fang’ and also the Hooded Fang EP, I couldn’t help but notice these aforementioned two aren’t available on your Bandcamp page any longer. I’ve loved all of your output and bought all of your digital releases that I’m aware of but there is quite an evolution in sound since those two early ones – by removing them are you trying to present a more cohesive sounding catalogue because you’ve settled on a particular sound or vibe or am I reading too much into this?
DL: Hi, thanks for the in-depth questions! One of the more fun aspects of art to us is the cycle of research/innovation/creation/destruction. It’s quite obvious that we haven’t stayed the same band, musically or aesthetically, and I would say that the distance between those first two records and the last two is vast, hence our decision to take them off the page. The first EP was our first foray into rock/pop music…prior to that April and I mostly listened to hip hop or RnB, or on my end electronic music like jungle or techno. We definitely got caught up in this weird indie explosion, and decided to try it out, initially setting out to attempt to make really good pop records. As our listening tastes expanded, so did the music that we put on record. It should be noted that there were many other stepping stones in between the Hooded Fang records….other projects that we’ve done such as Phedre, Hut, Tonkapuma, and Lee Paradise all bridge the sonic gap. This being said, I am finally starting to come around and be able to respect and accept those first records again. I wouldn’t listen to them, but I no longer wish that they didn’t exist haha!
TSOFD: Having experienced very vibrant music scenes in the West, Hangzhou has proven very much a change of pace for me, for the slower. That said, things have been picking up over the years I’ve been here and it’s definitely progressing nicely with some solid venues appearing and, in particular, a burgeoning electronic scene. How is Toronto in this regard – what’s changed since you started playing music and going to live music events and what’s stayed the same? Would you recommend Toronto to touring musicians and music lovers?
DL: Toronto has a vibrant music scene, encompassing many genres. On any given night you can find a variety of styles of music being performed, from experimental to techno to classical, jazz, punk, Ethiopian, what have you. It can be great for touring musicians, and it can also be tough….there is so much music here already, unless the show is promoted well, it can be hard to bring people out to an unknown band unless there are solid locals on the act as well. I would say that in the current moment, it seems like people just want to dance. DJs are more inclined to give people a good time than a band (where most people just stand around and watch), which I completely understand. There is, however, a vibrant all-ages punk scene here that has a lot of life to it.
TSOFD: What are your views on the shape of the music industry presently? As I mentioned, I’ve purchased all of your music on Bandcamp and, to me, Bandcamp seems a really good model in terms of artists having control over their page and how their music is packaged and sold, whilst also being good for fans in the sense they can display their music collection online, potentially almost like a modern day equivalent to people having their physical collection easily visible in their homes. However, this is hardly the reality in terms of how people consume music these days with many now increasingly streaming, which offers negligible rates in terms of recompense for those who have created the music whilst at the same time big companies, conversely, seem to be doing well out of it. You’re not just musicians, you’re most likely music consumers too so how do you reconcile these two things – is streaming something you are concerned about or do you just accept it as something that has pros and cons?
DL: I honestly don’t know. We are not highly connected in the “music industry”; we run our own little label, and release our own music. In that sense, the internet is a good thing. Most of our physical records are sold at concerts and on the road. The streaming sites….I honestly don’t know. We are on them, but ….well, that’s just the way that it is right now. I’m fine with people downloading a record for free as long as they give back to other musicians in some fashion, or even to charity.
TSOFD: ‘Tosta Mista’ seemed to mark a turning or even a new starting point for your group, heralding a more garage rock type of sound. With ‘Gravez’ this trend continued with the tempo arguably upped and the overall sound starting to shift. With ‘Venus on Edge’ and ‘Dynasty House’ I’d assert you’ve now truly created something with, genuinely, a really unique sound which is actually very hard to do with rock and roll. Is this a fair summation? I’m fascinated to know what occurs during the writing/recording process – are there specific influences and textures you consciously strive to absorb into your music to make it sound at times so otherworldly, or is it simply a case of jamming and seeing what feels right?
DL: Thanks! Well, it’s a learning process. Music is enjoyable to create, there’s many different wonderful and inspiring sounds in the world, it’s more interesting to us to try them out rather than do the same thing every time. I would agree that on the last two records things gelled into our own personality, more so than on the records prior. Who knows why? Just taking in more sounds and trying out different ideas. The fact that there is an unending library of music in the world (that keeps growing every second, whether recorded or live) is, to me, one of the most beautiful thoughts. People just keep adding to the great canon of music. That’s amazing, and there is never a lack of material to provide inspiration, or medicine for any mood.
TSOFD: Have you ever played in China/is playing in China something you could see happening in the future?
DL: April and I have another group called Phedre. We didn’t get to go to China, but we did spend time playing in Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines. The experience was eye-opening, and we met many wonderful people who showed us the music scenes out there, and the FOOD. We would love to play in China, if it were ever possible. The Chinese bands that we’ve heard were very good. I honestly just don’t know how to look a lot of them up because they are written in different characters. Would love some suggestions if you have any?
TSOFD: Well I’d have to state we’re kind of newbies too, to some degree. We’ve published a piece and a playlist regarding acts that merit mentioning for those interested in China’s modern music scene including Western artists that have settled here and of course well known Chinese artists, which, happily, were printed in magazines in Ningbo and Hangzhou around the same time. We’ve also written different pieces introducing individual Chinese bands like this one for example. These might well seem like very obvious choices to those well versed in the Chinese music scene. But they’re hopefully an effective introduction that might inspire people to want to find out more. We feature artists as and when we manage to make contact with them but obviously there’s certain language barriers that prevent us progressing quickly in this area presently. It’s also easy to get stuck in your comfort zone when the ‘net means a whole world of music is at your fingertips without having to leave your home. The person who is probably my favourite Chinese artist right now is 祁紫檀 (Qí Zǐtán). She was spellbinding live when I saw her and it was mostly just her and a guitar or piano. Then there’s arguably more well known bands such as Carsick Cars and Hedgehog that have been doing the rounds for a while now and, a bit more recently, Nova Heart, who have managed to get quite a bit of attention outside as well as inside China.
TSOFD: Whilst Canada currently has China beat in terms of rock/pop artists of global significance – I’m going to be bold here and say China has better food. I always thought a hooded fang maybe had something to do with a cobra or something but I just read you were named after a sandwich sold in the Portugese quarter of Toronto? Is this really true or is it just a case of see what we can get away with writing on Wikipedia? If it is true, please tell us more about this most crucial of sandwiches, sandwiches being something in fact China doesn’t do too well truth be told, much to my continual disappointment.
DL: Hooded Fang is named after a children’s book, but Tosta Mista is a Portugeuse grilled cheese sandwich. We were living in Little Portugal in Toronto at that time.
TSOFD: Ah that makes more sense – sounds more appetizing! We’re currently eagerly anticipating the new John Carroll release ‘Aviation’ here in Hangzhou. I’ve listed some well known Canadian acts – are there any bands/artists/labels we may not have heard that you’d urge us to check out/want to give a shout out to?
TSOFD: Thanks! Can you tell us what inspired the title of the latest record ‘Dynasty House’? It almost sounds like a Chinese restaurant 🙂
DL: It is a Chinese Restaurant 🙂 And all of the lyrics are about our family histories.
TSOFD: Finally, what’s next on the agenda for Hooded Fang – can we expect any more releases this year/next year – are there any other projects you want to tell us about?
DL: We’re working on more stuff….might revisit some more ‘pop’ themes. Recording this summer, playing a few shows here and there.
TSOFD: Thanks for your time – really appreciate it.
DL: Thanks so much. Would love to hear about your favourite dishes over there. We found the food in Taiwan to be some of the best we’ve ever had in our lives. Really hope that we get to visit China someday (my dad is of Hakka background).
TSOFD: Ha – well of course there’s so many options here everyone has their own notion of what’s best. Personally speaking, I’d say Sichuan hot pot is one of my favorites but seeing as we mentioned sandwiches I’d probably be doing China a disservice if I didn’t mention the mighty ròujīamó (肉夹馍), which sounds a bit like Roger Moore to Western ears. Hangzhou cuisine is amazing when done well but it’s all about a balance of simple, fresh ingredients rather than being overly spicy and I must admit I do like a bit of chili in there if possible, meaning Tonglu food is sometimes a preferable option as it’s like Hangzhou food but with a bit more of a kick. Hope that’s enough to go on!