No Band Looks Like It Has More Fun Than Red Fang

Red Fang
Red Fang
James Rex

In 2008, a video surfaced of four Portland residents, clad in chain mail and medieval armor made solely of beer cans, going head-to-head with live-action role players.

In 2011, the same four Portlanders appeared again, blowing a record label advance check on a beatup station wagon and a plethora of items that look all too good in slow motion when driven through at 50 miles a hour.

In 2013, Fred Armisen briefly joined the group, now battling beer-swilling zombies on the streets of their beloved Oregon city, running for their lives and their suds with 30-pack in hand.

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All three videos -- actually just a handful of their offerings -- are set to brutal, down-tuned and metal-tinged soundtracks courtesy of the same foursome, Red Fang. Known for their brand of Northwestern stoner rock, as well as a loyal following that appreciates them equally for their creative, outlandish music videos, the Relapse Records band currently is on tour with In Flames and Opeth, capping off a big year before heading into the studio to work on their follow-up to 2013's Whales and Leeches.

There's a tongue-in-cheek element to Red Fang that counters an aesthetic that includes beards, brews, and bruises. Though hard to pigeonhole from any external angle, Red Fang is always drenched in fuzz pedals, hammering drums, gigantic vocals, and, of course, Pabst Blue Ribbon.

"I guess we're maybe not skilled enough musicians to pull off a genre-specific thing," says vocalist/bassist Aaron Beam, laughing. "It's just whatever comes out when you're sitting on the couch with a guitar, that's just what ends up being a song. There's a unifying theme that it's just the four of us playing and all bringing our individual styles, so it's always going to sound like Red Fang because of the way the four of us play."

From the view inside the band, the trajectory of success has been a smooth, linear one, but to the untrained eye, one would argue that there's been a exponential rise in mainstream attention since the release of 2011's Murder the Mountains. With a Letterman appearance, a slot at Soundwave (Australia's premier music festival), and headlining slots at Desertfest and Day of the Shred, Red Fang is in the spotlight more than ever. To Beam, it's a welcome, yet unfamiliar, paradigm shift.

"We all come from a background of having played in, at best, moderately successful bands for 15 or 20 years, so I'm used to zero amount of success," he says. "I think I had done one West Coast tour and played outside Portland like five times before this band formed. My goals have always been much, much smaller than headlining festivals. It can be just as fun to play to 10 people in a basement with them spilling beer all over you as it can at a huge festival."

For Beam, measuring triumphs within Red Fang is less about attaining goals and more about appreciating the band's progress as it comes. He long has since achieved his personal "high school goal" of being able to solely play music for a living, having done so in 2011, after holding down a position as marketing director of the Portland Mercury alt-weekly newspaper, among other jobs.

There is an overarching theme here that's bigger than just the success of the band, however. It's more about Red Fang's connection to its rabid fan base, a far more dramatic measure of how far the band has come.

"I've already so far surpassed what I consider success," Beam says. "I already got there a long time ago, which is to get to a point where you're actually touching people with your music and [where] you're doing something that [is] satisfying to yourself. We're staying true to what we like as a band, musically, and it's getting through to people. That's really the goal."

Red Fang is scheduled to perform Wednesday, December 10, at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe.

Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.

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