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Royal Teeth’s new EP is called Amateurs, despite the fact that, after five years, three cities, two albums, various personnel changes, and hundreds of days on the road, the Louisiana pop quartet is definitely an ensemble of well-seasoned pros. The title is a literal etymological reading of the word: the French amateur from the Latin verb “to love”, applied in this case as a mission statement and a reminder of why they do what they do.
In 2011, the effervescent electronic pop of the band’s debut EP, Act Naturally, attracted the attention of Dangerbird Records, which re-released both that project and its full-length follow-up, 2013’s Glow. The spirited anthem “Wild,” driven by the sparkling vocal chemistry between singers Nora Patterson and Gary Larsen, propelled the band to multiple TV, film, and video game placements, guest appearances on Last Call with Carson Daly and American Idol (at the personal invitation of fellow Louisiana native Harry Connick, Jr.) and slots at festivals, including Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo, Firefly, SXSW, CMJ, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and the Voodoo Experience.
On Amateurs, Nora Patterson’s passionate lead vocals are showcased front and center, emerging from the more layered production of earlier releases. “Kids Conspire”, the infectious lead single, buoys her up on a wave of ringing synths and propulsive, Afropop-inflected beats, as she demands, “take me all the way up, take me all the way up.” It’s a clear relative of “Wild”, an anthem of possibility, but with more muscle and urgency.
“Children have a wild imagination,” Patterson explains. “They make up a plan for what they’re going to be when they grow up. They don’t hold back in terms of what they feel like they can accomplish, which is something that a lot of people lose over time.” In writing the song, she wanted to channel that untamed joy, the feeling of unlimited potential and steadfast conviction. “It’s about going back to when you thought you could do anything,” she said. “It’s nice to remind yourself of that.” Promoting Act Naturally and Glow, Royal Teeth averaged more than 200 live dates per year, earning a glowing rep for exuberant, sweaty, high-energy live shows as explosive as their signature confetti cannons. The addition of guitarist Thomas Onebane, an inveterate, crafty tinkerer, has also led the band to take more risks in the studio. “Thomas was a game-changer creatively,” says drummer Josh Hefner. “He’s a secret weapon. We spent a little more time in the studio – more experiments, more fine-tuning. And it was more fun, with less pressure.”
Both the sounds and the overarching themes on Amateurs are tougher, more mature and more surehanded than Royal Teeth’s previous outings. They play like a band that’s honed itself down to its core chemistry, musicians who know what they want to do and how to do it. But they also play with pure joy, ease, and love of what they’re doing – like amateurs.
Mixing the stomp and swagger of a rock ‘n roll band with the danceable drama and rule-breaking spirit of pop music, Pet Fangs bridge the gap between old and new, raw and refined, organic and digital.
The band members call their sound "garage-pop," pointing to a range of influences — from Prince to T Rex to Let's Dance-era David Bowie — as wide and varied as the group's own material. All four members of Pet Fangs hail from South Louisiana, where brothers Joe and David Stark first attracted an audience as co-founders of the swampy rock band Baby Bee. Signed to Republic Records, Baby Bee launched as a duo and steadily expanded into a larger lineup, with Jory Cordy and Ben Alleman joining the ranks. Cordy, Alleman, and the two Stark siblings were all songwriters and multi-instrumentalists in their own right, having logged time in the touring bands for artists like Ryan Adams, Marc Broussard, and Grace Potter. Together, though, they were something more: a tight-knit, democratic unit of musicians whose new songs were bigger, bolder, and broader than anything they'd created before. Looking to move outside of the rules they'd placed upon themselves as a rock band, they dissolved Baby Bee and launched a new band. A band with bite. Pet Fangs was born.
From the start, Pet Fangs embraced change. The guys switched instruments often. They switched recording studios, too, looking to chase down different sounds in a string of ever-changing environments. In doing so, they approached their new music like a rock group. They focused on hooks, grooves, and riffs, playing organic instruments along the way. Then, once the basic blueprint for each track had been laid, they abandoned the rule book altogether. Real instruments were sonically manipulated. Live drums were joined by programmed loops. Synthesizers and vocal effects were added to the mix. It was a no-limits approach to pop music, blending the influence of older decades with current sounds and rules-free experimentation. Joining them throughout the studio process was producer, engineer, and honorary "ghost member," Justin Tocket, who manned the recording console and collaborated on new material during its earliest stages.
From their forthcoming single, "Gold Coast Dreaming" (releasing August 18, 2017), to the internationally recognized "Bitch Baby" (whose percussive punch and sexy strut helped land the song in a Chinese fashion advertisement campaign for Umbro and Madonna's Material Girl clothing line), Pet Fangs' music represents something new. It's equal parts attitude, atmosphere, and adventurousness, glued together by four songwriters whose rock ‘n roll pedigree lends edge and electricity to their spacey pop music.