"The goal has always been to create something that all of us can enjoy to the fullest potential"
Red Fang have recently released their new album 'Arrows' via Relapse Records.
Using the record as a chance to indulge in the things that they enjoyed when they first started playing together, the band deliver a dense collection of down-tuned, loose and, more than anything, fun songs to lose your inhibitions to. Sludgy, catchy and brimming with jolts of wit and wisdom, it's the sound of four musicians channelling all of the things that made them fall in love with heavy music in the first place into something wonderful.
We jumped on the phone with vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Aaron Beam to find out how the record came to be and what it represents for him within the band's story...
What do you feel as though the aim of this record was at the beginning of its creation?
“The goal has always been to create something that all of us can enjoy to the fullest potential. Then when it comes to recording, we hope to capture as much of that joy that we’re feeling playing on to the actual record. The thing is that there have been things that have got in the way of our brains for a few records. ‘Murder The Mountains’ was the last record where it felt to the four of us like it didn’t matter what we were doing because nobody paid attention. All four of us had played music for so long before anybody started to pay attention that what we were used to was writing things for the other two or three people in this band and me and the five or six friends who might like what I’m doing.
“Once it got to the point that we were with Relapse Records, we were getting a little bit more attention and communication coming down the line. Just that notion of somebody caring about the fact that we were writing songs started to taint our approach to the band.”
So, where did this cycle begin? What was the moment that this mindset started to take hold?
“The writing and the thinking about a next record usually start immediately after the last song on the previous record is finished. Because of all of the touring that we do, it’s much more of a long and laborious process than if we weren’t on the road. That’s included in the breaks we get between tours, too. Though the actual moment that we realised this was going to be different was when we finished it. As I said, it’s always the goal to make something we enjoy, but being able to do it is another thing altogether. We haven’t been able to do it until we got this record down.
“I did notice that during rehearsals that we were getting a little bit less precious about the actual writing. We would see if two bits worked together, and then when it came time to record that thing we did for five minutes, two months may be worth getting down because why not? Maybe part of that came down to us deciding to do the record again in Portland with Chris Funk. That was us going back to the easy-going nature of things. I could ride my bike to the studio, for example. That intentionally put less pressure on us. When we booked studio time previously, we would be giving ourselves a deadline. Or when we worked with Ross Robinson [On ‘Only Ghosts’], we moved down to LA and lived in the studio at his house until it was done. But with this record, we could take a day off if we wanted. That decision meant we could not worry about the timeline."
There’s a point in a band’s life where you’re not expecting to reach a particular place. But as you grow and grow, some things change about how you have to approach the band to make up for the new array of things you have to deal with…
“Once you make that shift into what you do for a living, there are parts of what you do that almost start to feel like a job. Those are the bits you have to avoid at all costs if you’re trying to be creative. Nobody thought that their job would entail counting t-shirts in a mud pit on-site at a festival, but you have to slog through those things and get them done. But it is also easier because you know that the whole point of it is to support your ability to do the thing you love for a living. But you can’t let that start to overpower the creative side. That’s a terrible place to be.”
One thing that stands out from this record compared to where you’ve been the past few years is the sonic palette you’re presenting. Was that an intentional thing from the beginning of something that developed over time?
“We spoke to Chris quite a bit about how we could make the sound of this album a bit more shitty if that’s a fair word. This isn’t a high fidelity recording, but that’s the point. It’s on purpose. I know that some people will wonder why it sounds so bad, but there is something about the very first recording we made that has a pretty awesome energy to it. It’s hard to capture that energy again within modern equipment. We were trying not to be scared of having the recording sound be different from one song to the next either. In the same way that your playing style may change between songs, why wouldn’t the recording sound different? A lot of my favourite record, by The Kinks and The Beach Boys, has songs that will change in the middle from one studio to another. They wanted the sound to be so different that they moved to somewhere completely new. So that’s something we talked about pretty early on and said we weren’t going to be that worried about. The main thing was that it had this lower-fi thing, the opposite of having this polished major label sound.”
How has it been reflecting on the band, and where it has taken you over this period where the album has been finished, but you haven’t been able to release it?
“I feel like I have been reflecting on this band and what it means to me in my life for the past six or seven years. Especially during this last year, though, there have been moments where I have thought to myself, ‘Do I really want to keep touring ass we have been?’ Now that I’m getting close to 50, I’ve been thinking about those things a lot more. In the fall last year, I was having a pretty tough time, and my wife forced me to reflect on my life and where I had been, and it had been near enough 40 years that I have done at least performance of some sort in front of an audience. This year had been the longest time in 40 years that I had not performed since I was eight.
“It was not long after that moment that Red Fang practised for the first time since the pandemic hit. The first time we got together, we just played a bunch of old songs, and it was just so incredibly fun that it gave me a new perspective on what it was about this band that has kept all of us interested and still motivated to do so it. I know those songs so well enough that I don’t have to think whilst I’m playing them, so I could just listen and appreciate what fucking awesome songs they were. So looking back on everything has reinvigorated my excitement once more, not that I wasn’t excited before, but it’s just from a different angle now.”
What would you say within the writing of this record is a moment that encapsulates that feeling of freedom that you were trying to capture in making this album the way you did?
“For me, it was ‘Arrows’. The title track and the first track we shared from the record. It’s a song that had a similar progress report to what it sounded like in my head. I didn’t know exactly what the riffs were, but I tried to lay it out in my head in the way that you hear it now. It’s turned out pretty close too. I knew what mood I was trying to achieve, but it also took about a year and a half to nail it down. The important thing is that I took that blurry vision, which was more of a mood than a collection of notes and riffs, and made it so. It felt like I had achieved the potential that I felt that it had, and that will continue to stick the most for me as we move forwards.”