Back when I reviewed Tosta Mista, the second full-length from Canadian act Hooded Fang in November 2011 it passed by without much fuss at all, despite being a fine wee album of surf pop and garage rock tunes. However, since the proper UK release of the record through Full Time Hobby, interest in the band has finally, and deservedly, reached suitable proportions. So much so that this month sees their second visit of the year to these shores – playing larger venues than their trip in February – in support of the significantly less talented indie darlings Howler. There’s just no justice sometimes, is there?
Made up of Daniel Lee (vocals, guitar), April Aliermo (bass), Lane Halley (guitar) and D. Alex Meeks (drums), Tosta Mista is an incredibly short album at just 22 minutes long, but it packs in a heck of a lot in that period and brings buckets of fun into the bargain. On their first trip to London, we caught up with Daniel and April to find out a bit more about the band, their new album… and cheese toasties.
I start by asking about the title of the album, Tosta Mista, a Portuguese, ahem, “delicacy” and wonder how the band copes on tour when it comes to eating. “It’s not really a delicacy,” says Daniel, “more like a grilled cheese sandwich. The salted beef bagels over by Brick Lane are our new love. We’ll try anything as far as food goes.” The band is over for their second visit of 2012, and it seems that Hooded Fang are enjoying British life, as Daniel explains. “London is nice. The people were chill, food was good, shows were good, and our label there, Full Time Hobby, has some of the best people around.”
This album is a lot different to the more straight-ahead indie sounds of Album, so what’s with the change of direction to surf and garage rock? The answer, it seems, is very simple: “We did something different. It’s more in the vein of some of our other projects, and more fun to play live definitely.” He also insists that Hooded Fang are always open to new ideas. “We’re also not stuck on the idea that a band has to produce the same kind of sound all the time. We have all kinds of interests so why would we limit ourselves to indie pop just because the record did well? We put out punk songs, electronic songs and hip hop beats too. Hooded Fang is just one name we’re putting music out under, but we’re still the same people behind all the artwork, so there’s not any major changes. We’re constantly pouncing on whatever we’re interested in at the moment. What doesn’t change though is the quality we strive to produce.”
Given that Tosta Mista sounds like such an authentic recreation of that sound, are the band fans of surf and garage music, new and old? “We like all kinds of music,” says Daniel. “Hip hop to weirdo shit. The California scene has tons of good bands right now: Pangea, Thee Oh Sees, the whole Burger Records scene, and when we were recording we basically listened to a lot of Joe Meek!”
Break-ups are always hard to take, but when you’re in a band it must be all the more difficult when there’s no escape from each other, especially on the road, and that’s the position Daniel and fellow vocalist and bass player April found themselves in when making the record. It must have made for some tense situations, but Daniel reveals how they made it through. “We still love each other,” he says. “We’re always somehow working on multiple projects together. We just don’t have sex anymore or live together. Life and art are bigger than sex. We love the big art project called life.” When it comes to song writing, how do Daniel and April handle the duties? Is there an equal split, or does someone always get the final say? April takes over here: “We just collaborate on shit. We’ve got really amazing creative chemistry and can make music for days. It ends up being what it ends up being. That being said, Daniel handles most of the production duties!”
It seems whatever the situation is between Daniel and April, it’s created some great music; music that’s been recognised in the form of the Polaris Prize, the Canadian equivalent of the Mercury. I want to know if that gives Daniel confidence, or has he always been certain of Hooded Fang’s path? “Like I said before, it’s hard to stay true to one sound, but it was cool that we got nominated for the Polaris, but it doesn’t really affect our sound or intentions.” It still does, however, mean to Daniel that success is not out of reach for a buzz band like his: “It was definitely a great reminder that certain levels of acknowledgement are not too far-fetched. Work hard. Do what you love. Make it good. Don’t be a jerk.” There you go; Hooded Fangs rules to live by and hard to argue with.
One part of the Hooded Fang oeuvre that can’t go unnoticed is the bright and striking artwork, be it the record covers or the rather fun looking videos. From Dougie Kerr’s artwork for Album to the Mexican wrestler masks of Tosta Mista, I ask if the music and art go hand in hand for the band – bright songs, bright music? “Elicser did the painted masks. He is a local legend in graffiti,” April reveals, “and the front font was done by Dougie Kerr. The rest was designed by Airick Woodhead, with Daniel doing some final layout work. We’re fans of collaborating and artist explosions.” Who takes care of the videos, is this where band control comes in, noting that ‘Vacationation’ was made by a friend of the band? “Vacationation was done by our friend Patrick Kyle, who is a local comic book artist. He is dope. We always work with friends.”
Given the renewed buzz about Hooded Fang which included a marvellous session on 6 Music for the always-reliable Marc Riley and plenty of airplay from Lauren Laverne and Radcliffe and Maconie, what does a busy 2012 have in store for the band? April and Dan reveal that plans are already afoot for new music: “We’ve got a new album in the works that will sound decidedly different from Tosta Mista, but just as dope.” But it’s not the only thing they’ve got planned: that key word “collaboration” crops up again. “We always have a bunch of side projects in the works as well, and we started our own Canadian label, Daps Records to showcase ours and our friends music, like Odonis Odonis, Phèdre, Beta Frontiers, Cartoons, Hellaluya, Times Neue Roman, L Con, Tonkapuma and Hut.” How Hooded Fang are going to fit it all in I don’t know, but for a band that loves to make music amongst themselves or with friends it’s clear their art is extremely important to them. Like they say themselves, life and art are bigger than most things and when you can combine them as well as this, then why not live it to the full while you can.
Tosta Mista is available now.