Maybe the band should have expected strange things to happen when they headed out on tour with Hollywood Undead. Considering their own name, American Fangs, this couldn't have come as a complete shock. Because it sounds more like something that would happen in an episode of HBO's True Blood.
Last week the Houston alt-rockers were winding their way through the upper Midwest with masked L.A. men Hollywood Undead when several members of their five-piece band were involved in an altercation with a fan outside the La Crosse Center in western Wisconsin. According to the La Crosse Tribune, a 23-year-old man assaulted a guitarist for Hollywood Undead after throwing a barricade through the window of that band's tour bus. Fangs guitarist Nik Slimp was roughed up in the ensuing scuffle, and wound up chipping a tooth.
Oh, and one more thing. The alleged assailant, one Scott Mehtala, reportedly told police he was a vampire and asked to see one sympathetic-looking officer's tattoo. Perhaps more pertinently, Mehtala told police he was high on heroin and had a blood-alcohol content of .12, the Tribune said.
Fangs lead singer Gabriel Cavazos remembers Mehtala as a large, "pretty intimidating" fellow. He says the band had already played their set that night, and Slimp and two other guitarists in the band were outside the venue changing clothes when they spied Mehtala apparently trying to break into the Hollywood Undead tour bus.
"They tried to calm him down, and he sucker-punched one of them, and the other two got to him and beat him up," Cavazos told Rocks Off Tuesday on the way to that evening's Fangs/Undead show in Clifton Park, N.Y..
Slimp is doing fine now, the singer adds, likening the battered guitarist's post-brawl appearance to the title character of '80s B-horror movie The Toxic Avenger.
"Actually today is the first day we're like, 'Wow, you don't look like total crap," says Cavazos. "He looked like the Toxic Avenger. His face was pretty banged up. He had to have a tooth grinded down because one of his teeth were chipped from the punch.
"But it was good," he adds. "After the fact we couldn't stop laughing."
Once again the moral of the story, Cavazos agrees, is "drugs are bad."
The singer says he was actually inside watching Hollywood Undead when all the vampire excitement happened. He says he enjoys mingling with fans after the group performs. Inside the arena, he chuckles about his vampire-fighting bandmates, "is where they should have been."
I was [wondering], "Where are the guys at?" and our bass player comes in covered in blood," recalls Cavazos. "He was like, 'You won't believe what happened.'"
Cavazos laughs off the irony of a self-proclaimed vampire attacking members of bands named Hollywood Undead and American Fangs. Although he says it was definitely the strangest thing he's seen on this tour, the front man asserts that seeing peculiar things on the road is not that unusual.
We've seen a lot of strangeness," he admits. "Like here we are in the middle of Illinois, and there's an 80-year-old man rollerblading down the street doing tricks. He looks like he's out of his mind, but he's really a good rollerblader."
Ironically, the show happened the same night that American Fangs' first-ever full-length album, American Fangs (Sony-distributed In de Good Entertainment), was released. Eleven songs loaded with super-size pop-punk choruses and assorted nods to '90s alt-rock heroes like Weezer, it's a worthy heir to the buzzy but sincere albums once made by the likes of blink-182 and Foo Fighters. Since it's also been completed since February 2012, Cavazos says playing songs they wrote a while ago on every night almost makes it feel like a different album.
"I don't think we're the only band that deals with that," he says. "But at the same time we're so proud of it, and we hadn't really had a chance to share it that the newness comes right back. Especially when you're playing outside of Houston, or to people who have never heard of us."
Although American Fangs has just been released, Cavazos jokes that the band has already talked about writing a song about the Great La Crosse Vampire Battle of 2013 on their next record.
"There's a bit of humor in some of our songs," he allows. "It would fit well, but it would all be for shits and giggles."
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American Fangs perform 1:30 p.m. Saturday, June 1 on the Neptune Stage at the sold-out Free Press Summer Fest in Eleanor Tinsley Park, and open for Fall Out Boy at Bayou Music Center Friday, June 7.