Hooded Fang
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Hooded Fang

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | INDIE

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | INDIE
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The odd thing about Hooded Fang's sunny second album, Tosta Mista, is that it was written in the dead of winter. "I was in the Philippines in January for three weeks, and I came back and Daniel had a whole new record," exclaims multi-instrumentalist and co-songwriter April Aliermo. "A couple lyrics had to be written, we had to record some extra things, and do some mixes, but I came back and I was like, 'Whoa, you've been busy.'" - Exclaim!


With a lo-fi, vintage feel, Hooded Fang produces an energetic, light-hearted release on Tosta Mista. Time flies when you’re having fun, and Hooded Fang does its part to reinforce that simple truth. - 40 Oz. Robot


Roundletters: Listening to Tosta Mista blows Album right out of my mind. It’s sharper, wittier, faster, more refined and more aware of itself. The lyrics are snarky and memorable, filling songs with stories of love and hate. - Roundletters


Hooded Fang may have outdone themselves with their latest platter of sock-hop pop... Hooded Fang’s sophomore release is clearly grounded in Lee’s grasp of pop perfection. - The Grid


Suddenly, frontman Daniel Lee is shaping up to be one of Toronto's most formidable popsmiths. Might just make your summer. - The Star


Hooded Fang’s UK debut is one of those brilliant albums that does exactly what it says on the sleeve. - Loud and Quiet


a record that screams “FUN” across its breezy 22-minute running time. - The Line of Best Fit


a Nuggets-esque Sixties garage rock riot. - The Independent


Toronto has always held its indie sweethearts close. Broken Social Scene. Feist. Owen Pallet. And arguably Metric. There's another band that's pawing at entering the ranks: Hooded Fang. The city's hip and in-the-know music crowd (well, the ones that weren't at Broken Social's gig at Sound Academy) were at the Drake Underground Thursday night. They had presumably seen Kevin Drew and co. myriad times on their home stomping grounds, and were in the mood for the up-and-coming Toronto kids who were launching their new album, Album (how very meta, I know).

The Drake Underground was an apt location for Fang's album release - the band is still indie in the truest sense. Independent. Unsigned, they do their own promotion and social networking. For the CD release, they partly got the word out on the now-old-fashioned way with a good ol' Facebook event. I was put on guest list by the band's excitable bassist, April Aliermo. Their website is a Wordpress blog. Their music video for the irresistibly catchy "Highway Steam" was done by a friend, Craig Orrett, who also manned the projector at the show.

But back to the concert.

You can tell they have influences - The Strokes, The National, a tad of the Stars - but they are very much their own band. With boy/girl singers, trombone, trumpet, glockenspiel and even strings, Hooded Fang pulls it all together with members often changing instruments between songs. The sounds are sunny and pop-infused but carry and cling to somber, downtrodden lyrics. Take, for instance, Daniel Lee's droning "Days pass like a slow bird / I'm passing right under" that are strung together in a dance pop parade on "Green River." It was on this song, it is of note, that three white-clad space girls "danced" their way from the back of the room onto the stage for a choreographed dance number. It was all a part of the night's aesthetic, along with the stage design graffiti by Toronto's Elicser. The album's cover art, staying on the Toronto art theme, was by Dougie Kerr, one of the dude's behind Honest Ed's signs.

Speaking of that aesthetic, the night's second opener was an unusual delight. Santa Guerilla, a percussion group that sings in half-English, half-Filipino, caught the audience off guard with their brief, yet intense 25-minute set. With rapping, chanting, distorted drum beats and building melodies, the eight-piece was strange, but satisfying nonetheless.

Exhausting their full catalogue of ditties - which in its nascent stages includes only an EP and Album - Hooded Fang seemed to have found their own stride. Taking two years between that EP and the new album, the time was well-spent on honing, but not overdoing their building orchestrations. At the show, they exemplified this jumping from song to song with little reservation, but maybe a tinge of nervousness. Then again, it was their big night. But by the end of the show, they found their groove and the variety of dance-worthy songs -- "Land of Giants," "Laughing" and "Highway Steam" -- were soaked up with shimmying feet in the crowd.

On an unrelated note, yes, their name comes from those children's books by the late great Mordecai Richler. - Blog TO


It’s not often that a band generates a healthy amount of buzz and still takes the time to create a solid record instead of just recording sketches and unfinished thoughts. Honestly, I wish it happened more often. Bands need to slow down and realize a “sound” is developed by gigging and putting in the hours, not just driving home a chord progression you iron out on the couch. Sadly it’s getting to the point where that crucial element of progression is being overlooked and often hurting musicians’ output.

For Toronto septet, Hooded Fang, the two years between the release of a stellar EP and their debut, self-titled LP may seem like eons, but it was the best decision they could have made. Sure, casual fans that took interest in the pop nuggets Hooded Fang delivered may have long since forgotten the band’s potential, but having the patience required to flesh out verses and complete thoughts and emotions certainly helps the youngsters stand out from the countless other outfits sampling from the same inspiration.

You can still hear the influence of The Magnetic Fields (mostly due to Daniel’s delivery), The Strokes and Belle & Sebastien, but instead of young kids emulating successful acts, Hooded Fang meld horns, synths and baritone male vocals with ear pleasing female harmonies into their own sound, one that certainly warrants the flattering comparisons. I hesitate to call this album a maturation; the septet already sounded wise beyond their years on their debut EP, but these meticulous arrangements feel weightless and remarkably spontaneous. More importantly, in an age where sound quality is seems less of a requirement and more of an annoyance, the band leverages every ounce of fidelity their home studio has to offer.

The songs are laced with nostalgia and love, but surprisingly, the overall vibe of the record is fun. Whether it’s a whistle that would make PB&J blush (“Green River”), punchy melodies (“Highway Steam”) or simply lacing tracks with hand claps, call and response vocals or what may or may not be the sound effects from a standard sampler, Hooded Fang wants to make sure the listen never succumbs to it’s own emotional weight. They get dark; “Almost Done” is a working class anthem and “Love Song” plays like the band’s take on Timbre Timber swirling blues, but almost every shadow is brightened with vibrant horns and harmonies.

Delightful melancholy and ear pleasing misery are long standing traditions when it comes to pop songs and without question Daniel is blue, but he never assumes the role of the sad clown. Hooded Fang is more Murdoch than Morrissey, refusing to rely on the maudlin sentiments to convince young people that the world is ending every three-minutes. Daniel and April prefer to focus on the universal themes of discontent, not fitting in or feeling lost. There might not be any line quite as memorable as “making life size models of the Velvet Underground in clay” on “Younger Days”, but the alienation is painted vividly for all to see.

What really helps the record is that even with the sadness that runs through the songs, you get the feeling that the Hooded Fang believes there is someone out there for everyone and as naive as it might sound to the hardened cynics, love will conquer all. The band surges forward, letting the unique combination of textures and voices lift your spirits. Nowhere is this more clear than on the defiant gem, “Laughing”. Fuzzy bass, xylophones, synths, drums, horns and spot on harmonies make you want to dance around the room singing along, “I’ll be with you when the going gets going.” It’s nice to hear a record and think for once, maybe it’s all going to work out alright. When that message is encased in beautiful melodies, it’s enough to stop you in your tracks. - Herohill


It feels like forever since Hooded Fang’s debut EP turned them into a local band to watch, but the time they put into crafting this fully formed LP has unquestionably paid off. It takes effort to write songs that sound this effortless, and a 12-song record without a single weak link is a serious feat for a young band.

Cheerful but not twee, wistful but not gloomy, the seven-piece hit the golden mean separating good pop from bad. Though they’re a large band, the arrangements never sound crowded. Horns, accordions and xylophone complement but never overwhelm catchy guitar lines and Daniel Lee’s breezy baritone. And despite lyrics that tend toward nostalgia, infectious hooks and upbeat instrumentals keep the mood light.

Their skill shines through clearest on Highway Steam, whose trumpets, boy/girl harmonies and catchy songwriting amount to endless replayability. The closer, Love Song, proves they can do the same with a more minimalist aesthetic.

Top track: Highway Steam
- NOW Magazine


They're a young band, but it's already an iron rule: to invoke Hooded Fang is also to employ the word “chipper” in reference. I'm guilty of it, too. Guilty again today. And Hooded Fang's live show — a joyous riot that usually finds the co-ed Toronto septet cavorting energetically like a kind of DayGlo Arcade Fire — definitely verges in that direction, as does the artwork to their debut LP, Album, which screams at you cheerfully like an Honest Ed's poster precisely because the band got Ed's sign painter Dougie Kerr to paint it. For all their “ba-ba-bahs” and Glockenspiel parts, though, the songs, sung in a doleful baritone by Daniel Lee on Album tend to be a little morose, uncertain and lost, masking their true, troubled emotions with sunny melodies, crisp boy/girl harmonies and, on the lingering “Green River,” whistling. That puts Hooded Fang in the company of such fellow bright-hued pop subversives as Belle & Sebastian, the Magnetic Fields and the Jesus and Mary Chain. And Hooded Fang are increasingly worthy of that company. AlbumThese songs have a lot to offer and they give it up much slower than expected, and that's saying nothing about the three-dimensionality displayed by turns like the dour rockabilly closer, “Love Song.” Top Track: “Highway Steam.” “I know, I know that the highway steam runs through our veins at the brink of reason” is an unlikely mouthful to get stuck in your head, but it does. - Toronto Star


Generally, being sweet-natured folk given to smiles and contagious enthusiasm would be considered a definite plus, but it’s almost done a disservice to Hooded Fang. Indeed, there was the temptation not to take the Toronto septet too seriously when it burst onto the local club circuit in a vigorous shambles three years ago, carrying on a bit like an Up With People! version of the Arcade Fire: earnest, totally fun to watch and given to much frantic passing around of instruments onstage, with a noticeable weakness for high-wattage melodies and sugary harmonies that only helped further perpetuate an image of Hooded Fang in the music press as a pack of cute, rambunctious youngsters.

They were cute, rambunctious youngsters, mind you, but on the Fang’s 2008 debut EP, unfussily titled EP, it became much clearer that this was a pack of cute, rambunctious youngsters that might just have the songs to go the distance. And who were, gradually, starting to take a band initially thrown together on a lark by a haphazard crew of friends and roommates more seriously themselves.

“I think there were, like, 12 people involved in the beginning,” recalls co-vocalist, glockenspielist and occasional guitarist Lorna Wright, enjoying a couple of pre-practice cocktails with bassist April Aliermo and frontman/songwriter Daniel Lee on a barren, snow-blown Harbord Street earlier this week. “It was a really mixed sound. We hadn’t sort of discovered where we wanted to streamline or what we should focus on. It didn’t mesh at the beginning. We’d play shows and suddenly there’d be, like, a country song and then we’d all switch instruments after every song so there’d be 10-minute intervals between songs. So a year into it, we sort of decided to figure out where the sound was gonna go.”

“It was fun, but it was not efficient,” says Aliermo.

“No,” laughs Wright. “Nobody really enjoyed it except for us onstage.”

Obviously that last part wasn’t true because, very quickly, the young Hooded Fang had a burgeoning following on its hands. And thus a sense of responsibility to tighten its act up ever so slightly and “reconfigure it a bit,” as Lee puts it, set in.

Hence the two years it’s taken to get a full-length album together. That’s a dangerously long time to go silent in this day and age, where buzz for an indie-rock band often seems to bubble up and dissipate in the time it takes to type out another blog entry, but proceeding at a cautious pace and engaging in much fine-tuning onstage and in the studio has definitely worked in Hooded Fang’s favour. The group’s debut album, Album — yes, there would seem to be a titular pattern developing here — is one of the year’s true pop gems, an exceptionally well-written and subtly arranged collection of tunes far deeper and darker than their sunny exteriors let on, that has become an instant hit with critics at home and, as time wears on, abroad.

It was a self-imposed deadline that finally compelled the band to let the record go and release it earlier this fall. In addition to writing all the material (“Daniel just writes songs,” says Aliermo. “He can’t help it.”), Lee produced, mixed and engineered the entire album, so the temptation to keep tinkering with the finished product interminably was there. By his own admission, he could have kept at it forever.

“I came from producing hip hop, where you take all your samples and then you lay them out. You can add another sample or take it out and put it back there. It’s kind of the same with our records,” says Lee. “There are all these little parts and you just figure out the placement, where they’re gonna go . . . There’s always other variations.”

“Finally, I was, like: ‘Daniel, trust yourself. Let it go,’” recalls Aliermo.

Lee’s fears were misplaced, it turns out. Album is precisely the statement Hooded Fang needed to make to establish itself as a “serious” entity, chipper fun on the outside but a work that reveals many other levels beneath when one starts delving into the surprisingly tangled arrangements and the droll miserablism of Lee’s lyric sheets. He’s moving in the same blackly humorous orbit as the Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt and the National’s Matt Berninger at some points.

Much acclaim and the overall likeability of the record, physical copies of which come clothed in artwork by Honest Ed’s sign painter Dougie Kerr, have resulted in brisk enough sales for Album that Hooded Fang is now contemplating its first serious attacks on the world outside Toronto.

It might as well. Tickets for Album’s release party Thursday night at the Drake Underground vanished so fast that the band is already worrying how it’s going to fit itself, some accompanying strings, a set designed by Kerr — who, Hooded Fang predicts, will be a collaborator “for life” now — and local graffiti artist Elixir, as well as the 10-piece Filipino percussion band, Santa Guerrilla, scheduled to open the gig, along with all the friends, fans and admirers.
- Toronto Star


Toronto’s Hooded Fang are one of those sprawling, amiable jangle-pop outfits brimming over with positive energy and youthful vigour. But where the unflaggingly cheerful vibe of other such collectives can make you want to smack the twee smiles off their faces, Hooded Fang’s debut EP impresses in its ability to avoid many of the pitfalls of the genre. For one, they indulge in some nicely wry wordplay. The punchy hoedown of “Train Station,” for example, is tempered by singer Daniel Lee’s deadpan delivery of lines that wouldn’t feel out of place on the Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs: “I’ve never been to California / I’m just excited to be seein’ Montreal / My French is crap, just thought I’d warn ya’ / I never took those correspondence courses that I said I would.” The sextet also pay careful attention to sonic textures and detailing, throwing in nifty little surprises — the serpentine guitar solo on “The Pageant,” the New Orderish bass-and-synths on “Land of Giants” — that prevent their songs from sounding too samey. And though they risk seeming cartoonishly cute at times, their judiciousness when it comes to accents like boy-girl call-and-response bits and jubilant harmonies — which are tastefully spread out throughout the five tracks here — keeps things from becoming overwhelmingly sugary.

- Eye Weekly


Years ago, I wrote for a now-defunct webzine whose editorial policy was basically "we review everything". The reason, the editor liked to remind us whenever anyone questioned it, was that bands didn't emerge from the womb fully formed, and since every band everywhere had to struggle through their first few albums, the least we could do was listen and give them critical (sometimes too critical) feedback.

I mention this before writing about Hooded Fang because they seem to be the exception to this rule. Their first show ever was only back in February, but their self-titled debut EP makes them sound like they've been playing together for years. Their melodies are catchy, their vocal harmonies are extremely tight and, most impressively, they don't really sound like anyone else. "Fall Leaves", for example, has a vague Strokes feel to it, but it's so muted that it doesn't even really work as a comparison.

Moreover, the band has a pair of lead singers -- a girl who errs on the right side of sounding sweet and a guy who sounds pleasantly laidback in his delivery -- who are neither so different the contrast is jarring, nor so same-y that they could be interchangeable. There's just the right amount of contrast between them (compare "Fall Leaves", above, with "Circles and Blocks"), and it makes for a really enjoyable listening experience. If this is what Hooded Fang are achieving after about six months as a band, it's scary to think where they could be once they've been around for awhile.
- i heart music


There are certain elements that when combined, make it impossible to ignore a song. A rubber band string bass line. Hand claps. A nice female voice. Melodicas. Group shouted vocals. So when you consider that on the new Hooded Fang EP, Circles and Blocks, combines all of these things perfectly, it shouldn't be a huge shock that the song hooks you instantly.

But for me, the beauty of the song is that no note is overly complex and despite the surprising number of people in the band (7), almost every aspect of the track is sweet, innocent and light (said as a compliment). This isn't a collective of people trying to layer every sound and overwhelm the listener, while they attempt to create a false sense of importance. The well placed harmonies that finish some lines, the gentle swell of the drums and the shouted "HEY"; these are things almost every young band tries to add, but Hooded Fang seems to be wiser than their years should allow and knows when to say when.

Even with the infectious nature of that song, Hooded Fang doesn't fall victim to finding one style that works and playing it to death. They expose three or four styles (in a mere 5 songs) the with equal success, which is pretty impressive for such a new band. Fall Leaves, lets Daniel take the lead, and again the bass really shapes the song, but it's the Merritt-esque vocals that draw me in. On the punkish (think Egghead, not Ramones) closer, Train Station, I absolutely love the honesty of the verse when Nick admits, "I've never been to California. I'm just excited to be seeing in Montreal. My French is crap just thought I'd warn ya, I never took those correspondent classes I said I would" and the doo doo doos that make up most of the song.

I love they way they constantly rotate instruments and vocalists. It's like Hooded Fang is a musical Barbapapa, shifting shape to provide us with hours of fun. Whether it's the nice boy girl traded vocals and slight new wave textures that creep in on Land of Giants or the horns that come out of nowhere (but fit perfectly) in Fall Leaves, the band has a great understanding of finishing a song without distracting from it. Normally, the sock hop swoon of the aptly named Pageant would be pretty standard fare, but they add a classic rock guitar solo, whistles, beautiful vocals and gradually add energy to the track.

Again, I know these things could be said about countless bands and don't seem that big of a deal, but when you have to stomach terrible pop record after terrible pop record, hearing a band get it right is something that makes you sit up and take notice.
- Herohill


NOW RATING NNNN (out of 5)

DISC REVIEW

Hooded Fang EP

CARLA GILLIS

Hooded Fang’s debut EP sounds so effortless, you’d never guess that the seven members had been together for less than a year when it was recorded. Executed with unfussy (and sometimes endearingly out-of-tune) production, the five-song EP is a perfect amalgamation of well-chosen indie rock influences: a pinch of Magnetic Fields on Fall Leaves, a dollop of Strokes and Stars on Land Of Giants, a side of Lambchop on Pageant.

Which isn’t to say the Toronto band sounds like everyone else. Quite the opposite. For one, there aren’t many bands aiming for “sunny” these days, and pulling it off free of twee. They also enlist different boy/girl singers and trade instruments on almost every track, incorporate unexpected trombone and trumpet and take themselves lightly in the lyrics department. An all-round victory.

Top track: Land Of Giants

Hooded Fang joins Bishop Allen at the El Mocambo Saturday (January 17).




NOW | January 14-21, 2009 | VOL 28 NO 20 - Now Magazine


Discography

June 2008: E.P. (Independent)

October 2010: Album (Daps Records)
* 2011 Polaris Music Prize long-list nomination
* Reached #6 on earshot! (independent/college radio) album charts
* Single Promise Land reached #1 on the CBC3 Top 30

July 2011: Tosta Mista (Full Time Hobby, Daps Records)
* Reached #4 on the earshot! album charts
* Single Tosta Mista reached #1 on the CBC3 Top 30

Photos

Bio

Hooded Fang’s second album, Tosta Mista, marks another big step forward for a band that has already gained considerable momentum in the past year. Their first full-length, the critically-acclaimed Album, was released just nine months ago and support has reached every corner of Canada. From a cross-country tour with The Rural Alberta Advantage to being the most blogged up-and-coming band on The Hype Machine to a 2011 Polaris Prize nomination, Hooded Fang are headed for big things in 2011.

The band has oft been described as a “fuzzy” indie-pop ensemble, comparable to the 2000’s-era bands that helped define the “Toronto sound” in the wake of Broken Social Scene. But on Tosta Mista, Hooded Fang trades in one kind of fuzz for another: while songwriter Daniel Lee’s keen sense of melody remains, Album’s smooth harmonies and orchestrations have been swept away in a tide of scrappy, surf-influenced guitar work, ‘verbed out vocals and fully danceable 60’s drum breaks, conjuring up images of sweaty patio parties and hot summer nights. Tosta Mista is the perfect compliment to Album’s wintry Canadiana; taking aim at the United States with a sound that could have easily come from sun-drenched Southern California.

After the success of the self-released Album, Hooded Fang are taking the next logical step and releasing Tosta Mista on their newly minted Daps Records imprint. The label will see 2011-releases from Doldrums, Odonis Odonis, Moon King, Hut and Phedre; in keeping with the strong sense of community and collaboration that lies at the core of Hooded Fang.

*****

"It takes effort to write songs that sound this effortless, and a 12-song record without a single weak link is a serious feat for a young band." - Richard Trapunski, NOW (Album; 4 out of 5 stars)

"Suddenly, frontman Daniel Lee is shaping up to be one of Toronto's most formidable popsmiths." - Ben Rayner, The Star (Tosta Mista: 3.5 out of 4 stars)

"Hooded Fang’s UK debut is one of those brilliant albums that does exactly what is says on the sleeve… the sound is evocative of summer sunshine and parties on the beach – clean, bright indie pop mixed with ‘60s garage and a whiff of Tiki kitsch." - Polly Rappaport, Loud & Quiet (Tosta Mista; 8/10)

"This sun-drenched release only reiterates the Fang’s position as one of the best indie-pop Canadian bands of the moment." - Guillaume Moffet, The Hour (Tosta Mista)

*****

Management & label: ian@riceandcheese.com
Label (UK/EU): nigel@fulltimehobby.co.uk

Booking (Canada): robzifarelli@theagencygroup.com
Booking (UK/EU): ed.thompson@13artists.com

Publishing (UK/EU): cathi@rough-trade.com
Publishing (NA): mike@thegreatergoodsco.com

Press (UK): will@inhousepress.com
Press (Canada): bobby@dapsrecords.com