The sound of Golden Fang is to some extent the DNA of the wild inner west of Sydney: raw, visceral and teetering on the brink of collapse. There’s constant movement, deeply ingrained cynicism, a little bit of theatre and a lot of self-deprecatory humour.
And that neatly sums up and indeed encapsulates Golden Fang’s new album, ‘Here. Now Here.’, out today. We’ve already premiered the single “Don’t Bring Your God to Town’ – describing it as a cool, rumbling track imbued with swagger and attitude and a wall of tasty guitars. And this is the golden thread across the album: ten tracks that reveal a band that are an intensely serious and swaggering crew that are not afraid to inject a little battle hardened humour into the raucous mix.
‘Clouds Go Round’ blasts off the album with classical pop chimes – jangling guitars and singer Carl Redfern’s vocals that evokes that hardened whiskey-swilling character at the local pub with a cigarette hanging from his mouth with an inch long ash precariously hanging off the end, and a tale or two to tell. OK, there’s no smoking allowed indoors but you get the image. And yet despite this hardened image, there is a tenderness and a softness at the heart of the song.
Golden Fang’s inherent pop sensibility drives on through out the album – ‘Bad Actor’ with the gorgeous backing vocals from Donna Amini and a wild unhinged guitar.
And the delightful thing about Golden Fang is that they are not poe-faced, angst-ridden artists starving in the inner west garrets. Witness ‘Cowboy for Love’ and its over the top celebration of the titled character. There is a glint in the eye and a smirk on the collective face of this band even through the gloom.
It’s hard to completely define Golden Fang – there are touches of bands like Interpol and Editors in the vocals, there are elements of Hoodoo Gurus and the line of uniquely Australian bands like The Birthday Party, The Scientists, The Johnnys, and other bands like Wall of Voodoo. Cowboy punk is too specific – tracks like ‘Savage Beauty’ are far more complex than that.
I caught up with singer/guitarist Carl Redfern to find out more.
First of all, congratulations on Here. Now Here.
Thanks! Even though we’re all a bit disappointed about being unable to celebrate the album in a pub with some friends, punters and random passers-by. We’re still really proud of it and excited to finally see it out.
How are you coping with the pandemic – are you being more creative or, like me, devolving into to alcohol and inertia?
A bit of both I’d say, Covid has actually been a lot like my normal life except with more hand-washing and no gigs.
I always try keep myself busy with work and music. At the moment we’ve tried to be as productive as we can and are well into writing our next album with a pile of new songs we’re working on. I’ve always felt you need to keep writing, producing and looking forward with your music.
How long have you guys been together and how did you meet?
Teo and I have been friends since we were just out of school, it took us a while but we eventually got around to starting a band. We knew we had good material and a compatible philosophy about making music but it took us a couple of years to not be terrible. The key moments for us, was getting Mark Hetherington to join the band in 2016 which was when we really kicked into gear.
Mark (drums 2016-19) and Justin (bass) both played with my good mate Jo Meares’ band (see my review of Jo Meares) … from which I shameless poached them. I knew they were going to be great people to collaborate with and also just to be around… which is sometimes as important as musicianship to a project like a band.
What’s so special about the inner west of Sydney? How important are your surroundings to your sound?
Really important to me, I’m always setting the songs in places I know and relate to, or they feature people from my small world in the songs. It helps them to feel real to me. In some songs we’re hitting the listener over the head with references to our little corner of Sydney but even when it’s not immediately apparent, there’s always a link embedded. It’s a bit abstract but we do try to keep the sound and songwriting dynamics of the band as raw or as simple as we can. I feel there’s an honesty to the tone of the band that may well be affected by us spending our time doing this in crumbling Marrickville warehouses and pubs.
With song’s like ‘Jonny yer Moneys No Good’ I am reminded of a sort of cowboy punk vibe a la the legendary Sydney band The Johnny’s – is this a definable inner west sound?
I love the Johnny’s! Highlights of A Dangerous life is a special album for me. I took for inspiration / totally pillaged their version of “The Day Marty Robbins Died” for our song “The Day Doc Neeson Died” (from the album Lucky Money Sunshine). I don’t know if the inner west can claim the sound, but Sydney certainly has a long history of producing superb death-country, pub punk rock bands like The Johnny’s who’ve often ended up finding a home and audience in the inner west. That song in particular is a dedication to our friend Jonny Turcinskis (of every punk band in Sydney) who filled in on bass for us for a gig then played a dozen and was cajoled into recording an album with us (Lucky Money Sunshine).
Like a lot of cities around the world, inner city suburbs like the inner west of Sydney and Marrickville are becoming gentrified, expensive and less edgy. Are you the solution?
Ha, I don’t think so – it sometimes takes us 400 text messages to organise a jam. The people doing the hard yards are the good people running venues like Mosh Pit, Red Rattler, Marrickville Bowling Club and Gasoline Pony or rehearsal spaces like Zen and Soundworks. Who, despite all the challenges they face at the moment, are still keeping on keeping on.
In describing this album, I would – and indeed did – use words like visceral, raw and unadulterated. Is that how you feel?
Yes and thanks, we’d put a lot of heart into this and wanted the album to feel like it had some intent and emotional grit as well as a sound that was true to how we rehearse and play. We kept the production simple, used limited effects, solid guitar tones and a dynamic live-sounding rhythm section. This is where working with Jay (Whalley, producer) is great, he really gets how to capture the sound of a band. He doesn’t let you (or at least he doesn’t let us) labour over things and spoil the feel but has such a great ear that in the mass and noise of a rock band he so good at picking up key details that need looking at.
Have the last couple of years influenced your work and lyrics – politics, environment, disease and pestilence?
I wrote a bunch of songs in a burst which I call my post-election blues numbers, which are pretty bleak in their outlook… Ain’t Life Cruel on the new album being one.
Usually I’ll sit on songs for quite while, sometimes years before I bring them into the band. If they still feel relevant it’s likely our next albums will see a few of those songs filter in.
Is there any hope? I do note an intrusion of humour if not in the song titles but also in songs like seemingly tongue-in-cheek ‘Cowboy for Love’.
No matter how undeniably hopeless things may seem having a sense of humour certainly helps and keeps a bit of perspective. I think it’s also a good dynamic to have in songs and an album … Cowboy for Love is a tongue firmly in cheek ode to good friend of the band Jo Meares… who has forgiven us.
What are your major musical influences?
The major influence on my music has always been seeing local artists in more intimate settings. Bands like Front End Loader, Whopping Big Naughty, Jo Meares and Crow’s music has meant a lot to me over a long time. Also, local heroes like Ed Keupper, New Christs, The Drones, Celibrate Rifles, Cruel Sea and The Church have all at various times all made a big imprint on me.
What’s your favourite venue to play in Sydney? Do you think live music is dead for now?
Tough, has to be an equal split between the Mosh Pit in Newtown and the Marrickville Bowling Club. I love both those places!
Also Gasoline Pony in Marrickville which I’ve played at acoustically a few times is excellent… Hopefully they’ll all survive this COVID disaster.
‘Tonight We’re Gonna Party Like It’s Dunedin 1989’. Dunedin 1989 – surely an oblique reference for Flying Nun bands like The Chills and The Bats? What is the song about?
It is indeed! The song has had a very odd trajectory and is a little hard to explain though is essentially about someone lost to looking backwards and trying to self medicate their way out of a fog of anxiety. It did start its life, and at heart still is, an honorific offering to the Dunedin sound. It just ended up taking a dark turn somewhere along the way… Which is actually probably quite appropriate.
What are some other local bands/musicians you think we should check out?
At the moment my favourite Sydney artist is Donna Amini, who was kind enough to lend us her immense talent for a couple of tracks for this album.
I really love Roadhouses, their self titled debut from last year is stellar.
The MoMos apparently have a new album coming out soon which I’m pretty excited to hear.
Produced by Jay Whalley (of legendary punk band Frenzal Rhomb) and mixed by living icon Russ T Rock (aka Russell Pilling), ‘Here. Now Here.’ is out now and available through the band’s site below – if you buy it after 5pm today -and you really should – all Bandcamp fees are waived for 24 hours.