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Interview: Happy Fangs talk San Francisco, Pussy Riot, and their newest addition

Happy Fangs have a spectacular surprise in store for fans at their upcoming Noise Pop show on February 28.
Happy Fangs have a spectacular surprise in store for fans at their upcoming Noise Pop show on February 28.
http://happyfangsmusic.com

Happy Fangs, the San Francisco-based duo consisting of Rebecca Gone Bad from My First Earthquake and King Loses Crown's Mike Cobra, seem to have a lot of fun with their contrasting wardrobe, war paint, and pension for mischief. Case in point? They've been known to play Christmas music during a Hanukkah celebration and, lest you think that's their holiday of choice, have a hit song called "All I Want for Christmas is Halloween."

And yet, at the heart of their quirky, unconventional ways lies a belief system and work ethic that would make their punk predecessors, including Bikini Kill, proud. Read on to find out what they think of the current state of life in San Francisco, who is truly punk (hint: it's not someone like Miley), and why you definitely need to attend their upcoming Noise Pop show on February 28.

You’re opening for Cold Cave at Noise Pop; what other shows are you excited for that week?

Michael: I shouldn’t say this but there are so many amazing performances happening the same night we’re playing (Friday, February 28). The typical problem that occurs, when you perform at any festival, is overlapping with other bands you want to see. We’re playing the same night as Bob Mould. His show is sold out, anyway, but that’s where I’d go if I wasn't busy.

There’s also a happy hour happening the night before at Bender’s with some people from the studio where we’ve recorded in the past.

Do you plan on playing any other major shows or festivals soon, particularly South by Southwest (SXSW)?

Rebecca: We’ve gotten a lot of offers to play parties and showcases at SXSW. However, we’re more focused on putting our time, budget, and energy into recording our next full-length album, due this fall. One year between albums is a good cadence for us.

You’re known for skewing on the controversial side of things, especially where your lyrics are concerned. What are your influences when it comes to that and your wardrobe?

Michael: I come from a metal background, so I bring a harder edge to our sound. Honestly, my influences are vast and wide. It’s difficult to identify something specific.

Rebecca: Did you see Stephen Colbert’s interview with Pussy Riot? If not, you have to watch it. They’re real punk rock. They don’t have blue hair or a shaved head because they don’t need those things. They’re really feminine and polished young ladies; their story of rebellion against an oppressive government is compelling and represents punk in its purest form.

We tend to forget how lucky we are to live in a country where freedom of expression is allowed. Pussy Riot risked a lot and suffered persecution (in their home country, Russia) to stand up for what they believe in and that attitude is what really inspires our music.

Michael: I’d add that Kathleen Hanna has made such a huge contribution to feminism with the Riot Grrrl movement she forged alongside Bikini Kill. I definitely credit her for impacting our sound. As far as our outfits and personal style, we’re heavily inspired by the contrasting elements that defined noir art scene from the ‘60s.

Rebecca, my friend Meghan wants to know how you like living in the Castro?

Rebecca: It’s the most vibrant, creative neighborhood I’ve ever lived in. I have a full-time design job and work in an office with a lot of engineers. They don’t care about my style. I could show up to work wearing war paint and no one would even notice. But in the Castro, I’m always getting complimented on my outfits, wherever I go. People really respond to how I present myself. So, yes, I love it here and I’m glad it's my home.

On the topic of San Francisco, can you express your opinion on what’s been happening lately with rent increases, gentrification, class wars, and such?

Rebecca: I decided to move here from Pennsylvania and don’t have a single regret. This city continues to amaze me and I feel lucky to live here. The way I view it, I’m a guest in this city and act accordingly which is something not everyone does. This is what causes tension. I’ve seen friends come and go, some have had no other choice except to move away, and even wonder why I’m still here, but I’ve made it work and wouldn’t live anywhere else.

Michael: People tend to complain about gentrification but I think they’re missing the point entirely. The backlash against tech workers, in particular, is completely misguided. There have been waves of prosperity impacting San Francisco since the time Jerry Garcia first arrived. Rents will always go up and then level out, it happens.

We both have full-time jobs outside of the band. We’re realistic about what’s required to make it. If you’re willing to work hard, you can make it in San Francisco. And if you can make it here, you can pretty much make it anywhere else.

Is there anything we can look forward to when you open for Cold Cave?

Michael: In fact, there is. For the longest time, we wanted to find a woman that hits a drum as hard as Dave Grohl did in his Nirvana days. Someone, a woman specifically, that could bring the same degree of skill and intensity. Believe it or not it's difficult to find, with either gender. We got lucky and discovered Jess Gowrie from the Sacramento band I’m Dirty Too.

Rebecca: We had been entertaining the idea of expanding to a three-piece with a live drummer but weren’t going to until we found the right person. We knew immediately that Jess had to join us, and that we had to convince her quickly. She is incredible and we couldn’t think of a more perfect fit to make our debut with a live drummer (they typically use a drum machine). People think we’re noisy, anyway, but now we need a stage the size of Slim’s to contain her.

Happy Fangs will be performing with Painted Palms, Dirty Ghosts, and Cold Cave at Slim's on Friday, February 28 as part of Noise Pop. Tickets are $16.00 now, $18.00 at the door. Doors open at 7:00 PM, show at 8:00 PM.