Self-described as “fast, damaging and energetic,” Houston rockers American Fangs have just released their most aggressive music yet on the new Dirty Legs LP. Ironically, most of the songs were written in their beginning years, but the LP (their fourth recording overall) was released only earlier this month. Front man Gabe Cavazos explains the transition.
“It’s been bittersweet," he admits. "We had these songs when we started out, we polished them, they were like this bottled-up lightning and we just let it go. It’s been organic, to say the least.”
When asked to elaborate on the bitter side of sweet, Cavazos sighs, “[We were] disgruntled by everything that had happened to us. By our second EP, we had made this catchy shit for radio…but never made it to radio. It was like a bad episode of American Gladiator, you know?”
American Fangs have opened for the likes of Papa Roach, Hollywood Undead, Deftones, Sevendust and Chevelle, but have yet to stake their own large-market territory and headlining tour. Using that frustration as inspiration seems to be the subplot of the narrative that is Dirty Legs.
“We changed, radio changed…instead, we just said, ‘Let’s grow from this,’ and we did,” Cavazos says.
Yes, they did. While most punk bands find a trajectory that begins in a gritty, lo-fi, angry sound leading into a radio-friendly Green Day type of accessibility, the Fangs seem to be doing the opposite.
“[Dirty Legs] is definitely the darker side of the zodiac,” the singer says.
While their genesis began in clean rock tunes with standard riffs and non-threatening lyrical hooks, Dirty Legs does something altogether different: It pops with electricity. With riffs that rip across the songs front to back, the LP offers what is only hinted at in the band's former releases. Intensity without letup, no breaks in tension throughout the entire record. With their anger justified, American Fangs funnel ire and emotion into tightly packed three-minute songs of melt-your-fucking-face-off punk rock in all its glory.
Refreshingly, Dirty Legs is the kind of music that bleeds originality, substance and relevance; the energy difference between it and their earlier work is palpable. It’s harder, has more muscle and is downright threaded with a darker conduit of punk purity. Experts in finding lyrical hooks, the members of American Fangs just seem to know when they’ve found the right words.
“You know you’ve got it when everyone’s ears perk up, you know?" Cavazos offers. "I’ve freestyled a lot and when we’re recording and plugging away, we just keep taking shots at it. I’m just saying what I feel inside. Yeah, it sounds corny, but we’re goofing off and then we just got it.”
And that rush is the communal inspiration for the Fangs.
“Look, we are sloppy, sweaty…[we] rage in people’s faces; we just flushed the pipes for Dirty Legs," Cavazos says. "We are the same band. We grow with each release.”
True. The members of American Fangs have been friends for years, even before the birth of the band.
“We had to let [our evolution] happen," says Cavazos. "It’s a necessary thing; we grow up and the music follows.”
So do the fans. While finding their audience originally in Houston and maintaining their home here, the Fangs find the UK to be a second home. That’s easy to do when your record label is the UK-based Best Before Records. When asked about the differences between the American rock scene and the UK, Cavazos elaborates with ease:
“In the UK, people are loving rock," he says. "Walk into a club there and instead of playing Drake, they’re blasting Rage Against the Machine and people are dry-humping to it. People just want to see a live venue rock the fuck out…the spirit of rock hasn’t died there. It seems like in the U.S., people just want what’s next.”
Cavazos’s appreciation for European audiences is obvious. Who can blame him? Texas culture doesn’t exactly support the rebel-rousing fuck-you attitude that punk rock lovingly and pervasively nourishes. Punk culture in Texas is at its best a misnomer, and Cavazos agrees.
“[The punk scene] is not going anywhere," he says. "We’ve been here, hanging out in our lawn chairs at barbecues, watching the ups and downs of the scenes. Texas [punk] is neither bad nor good.”
Yet for American Fangs, Houston is undoubtedly home, not just a starting point. An inspirational home that raised the band members on local rock and watched them not only cut their teeth on Houston stages, but lead the scene for other like-minded punk bands. Houston fueled the fire that started within Cavazos, who explains his inspiration
“For me, I remember being a 13- or 14-year-old kid at places like Fitzgerald’s and watching bands like 30FootFALL [and] Taste of Garlic and thinking, ‘Fuck yeah, this is what I want to do,'" he says.
The future of American Fangs is also in Texas, Houston specifically, with their plans to play regionally and release another EP in early 2016. Right now the band is focusing on what matters — their creative collaboration.
“We just realized one day, ‘Hey, let’s just enjoy what we have. Let’s enjoy our new music, enjoy this release," says Cavazos. "We looked around and realized we hadn’t killed each other yet and that was a good thing.”
A very good thing. Houston loves American Fangs. Cavazos sums it all up well.
“You know, in the vein of what we have going on, we keep in mind this one thing: Do what you want to do and do it forever," he says. "That’s really the theme of Dirty Legs and it’s really the theme for us.”
We hope they do their thing forever, too.
American Fangs perform with special guests thelastplaceyoulook, From Guts to Glory, Fire Moth and Only Beast tomorrow night at Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak. Doors open at 7 p.m.
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Kristy Loye is a writer living in Houston and has been writing for the Houston Press since July 2015. A recent Rice University graduate, when not teaching writing craft or reciting poetry, she's upsetting alt-rights on Reddit.