The track “Behind the Light” on Red Fang‘s third album, Whales and Leeches, paints a fairly grim picture. Lyrics like, “It’s so insane to be alone/With all the time I gave away,” fit neatly with the classic rock and roll notion of the weary traveler, the artist who, having given up what commonly passes for a normal existence for his craft, wonders what could’ve been. With as much time as the Portland, Oregon, four-piece spent on the road supporting their 2011 sophomore outing and Chris Funk-produced Relapse Records label debut, Murder the Mountains (review here), no doubt the band has had some opportunity to stew on it, and for being known essentially for a party atmosphere and ridiculously catchy songs like “Wires” from the last album or “Prehistoric Dog” from their 2008 self-titled debut — they have a propensity for putting the hooks up front, and “Blood Like Cream” from the latest continues the trend — “Behind the Light” presents something of a departure in atmosphere.
It’s the centerpiece and emotional low of Whales and Leeches, which the band returned to Funk to produce after what seems to have been a hurried songwriting process — deadlines to meet — and it’s followed by the record’s greatest triumph, “Dawn Rising,” on which YOB‘s Mike Scheidt guests on vocals alongside Red Fang bassist/vocalist Aaron Beam. Though “1516″ provides some of his best tradeoffs to date with guitarist/vocalist Bryan Giles, Beam is featured more prominently throughout Whales and Leeches than anything Red Fang has done up till now, and his voice — in a somewhat cleaner approach than Giles‘ shouts — stands up to the dynamic both with the guitarist and within the emotionality of his own presentation, be it “Behind the Light,” the driving forward thrust of “Voices of the Dead” or the semi-psychedelic capstone(r) “Every Little Twist.” Of course, it’s the versatility of Beam, Giles, guitarist/vocalist David Sullivan and drummer John Sherman at the core of what gives Red Fang their personality. The difference this time appears to have been that Beam stepped forward to meet the challenge of the rush to put the album together.
So be it. If Red Fang were in a hurry, at least it was for a good cause. They took a break from songwriting to play Soundwave in Australia earlier this year, and have already toured the West Coast in support of Whales and Leeches with East Coast dates to follow next month and Europe in 2014 continuing a road-dog touring cycle that hardly seems to have stopped at all since before Murder the Mountains was released. Turn around and he’s Red Fang with another three weeks’ worth of dates in one region or another. At least thus far, it’s much the same for Whales and Leeches, and in talking to Beam about the album, I was interested to get a notion from him of where he thought it was all heading and what his vision of “success” was for the band. Particularly as he’s emerged in this material — not quite to a frontman role, but not far from it — I was curious to see where he felt it’s all been leading, what it is keeping them moving forward other than the obvious need to sell shirts on tour.
When we spoke, Beam was in New York City to do East Coast press. He’d flown in overnight from Portland and you could hear in his voice that specific I’ve-recently-been-in-an-airport exhaustion. Nonetheless, he spoke not only about his and the band’s motivations, but about the construction and recording of Whales and Leeches, his growing comfort as a singer, the prospect of spending most of 2014 on tour, and much more.
You’ll find the complete Q&A after the jump. Please enjoy.