PILL FANGS is a self described “garage type punk type” and “nu old guitar” band based out of England. Featuring drummer Rob Daniels, guitarists Dan Haywood and Rich Turner, and bassist Simon Fletcher, the somewhat newly formed band has already performed at festivals such as Preston’s Vernal Equinox, featured on it’s Psych Night, with a debut album soon to be released.
Could you give our readers the gist of how PILL FANGS came about? When was this seed planted?
We got together two or three years ago. I wanted an outlet for certain songs of mine that were going in a certain direction and so I asked some friends kind enough to put up with me.
Gig was good. Hats off to Rico La Rocca. He puts a lot on the line. Our set was distinguished by receiving an official noise complaint. The sound engineer told me to turn my amp down, so childishly I turned it up and up.
After watching you guys perform on YouTube I’m left wondering: how many guitar strings do you go through per week? Dan, you absolutely trash that guitar!
It sounds more like a trashing than it actually is, I think. My SG can obviously take the misuse, because it usually stays in one piece. And I’ve been mangling it off and on since ’95 or ’96. We actually did thoroughly smash up two electrics in the studio. A double Townshend- batting them off each other. Sounded ace.
Let’s talk about gear. What do you all prefer?
My Gibson is called ‘Miss Collins’- I can’t remember why. It’s a 1970 SG Deluxe with a Bigsby tremolo. Amp it with a MusicMan 112RD among other combos, up to three at once. My distortion is largely manual until I need more unpleasantness and then I step on a Ron Asheton (The Stooges) fuzzer that Richard gifted me. Sounds like hell with the hummmbuckers. Richard’s guitars are bright and crisp to cut thru my fuzz and weight- a single-coiled Fender Mustang, also a Strat/Tele ‘’partscaster’’ and a Ventures copy. Sound men tell him to roll off the treble but he doesn’t fall for that. He’s got a generic workhorse amp that he thinks is a bit too clean but he has an early 60s Selmer combo being fixed up that is much more his style. It belonged to Liverpool band The Cordes who played it at the Cavern etc. Rob’s drums are many but his red Gretsch kit is the most ‘PILL FANGS‘. Very tonal. It’s young but he likes its 60s-ness. The snare is an ancient Premier Royal Ace that he bought for 30 quid when he was a callow youth. He spent a fortune on posh ones before finally realising the cheapie was THE ONE. His cymbals are Zildjians (mainly ‘K’s’)…not too bright. Just as well for our frazzled ears cos he thwacks the shit out of them. Simon is the only member who isn’t a sad gearhead. We give him a Fender (cos his old bass was warped) and a Fender amp and he just plays away beautifully!
Your song ‘Bison Grass’ is very catchy. Could you tell our readers a bit about the song?
It’s about a mis-spent thirties playing acoustic and/or folkier music in other aggregations, and disses certain characters and attitudes I came across within that scene. “I took to folk cos I don’t do soul / or anything approximate to rock and roll“. Oh fuck, I’m middle class and white and ‘inauthentic’- I’ve got nothing to say… so perhaps I’ll appropriate some peasant music from Azerbaijan or something…get exotic– try and sell that to some chin-strokers.
Who are you inspirations musically? And in a related question, what other art forms influence your band?
Well, WE appropriate NYC exotica for this band- stuff we’ve only heard on records in most cases- so I’m just as bad. I was very late coming to Richard Hell‘s first album but it galvanised me to rock again like I did in my teens (hence PF), so my contributions to PF rip off Richard Hell And The Voidoids considerably, particularly at first. We’re all fairly ‘’arty’’ too in a broad sense. I used to ogle Russian art when I was a teenager and our album has an Op art theme, somehow. But popular music is art to us- we certainly don’t view it as inferior or owt. It’s the best.
As a self categorized garage punk band, what are some of your favorite garage rock and punk bands, separate to the ones you listed above?
The Velvet Underground is probably at the centre of the rock/garage/new wave/punk web and we love them… With the Voidoids, The Sonics, The Seeds, The Monks, The Modern Lovers, Television, Blondie, Martha And The Muffins there too. Rich in particular likes the early The Yardbirds, The Who, The Kinks and The Rolling Stones that got the aforementioned North Americans going in the first place. The Music Machine‘s first album with the anti-social lyrics and the spiky-osity. Some of the early The Byrds which I would class as garage punk too. ‘I See You‘ for example, or ‘Hey Joe‘. Brit groups like the Delta 5, Au Pairs, Alternative TV. Three Dimensional Tanx is at the optimal garage/punk/psych interface now and inspire me each time I see them. I’m currently enjoying punk funk sax man James Chance thanks to a recommendation from Spacey Tanx.
How does the songwriting process work for you as a band? Do you share the creative control when it comes to that?
As Barry Manilow says: “I write the songs. I bring them to the others to see what they reckon and we thrash out arrangements. Sometimes, if they’re not convinced about a certain song I just shelve it it and write some more“.
You tweeted earlier this winter that your debut is to be released later this year. What can you hint at so far? What can we expect from it sonically?
It should be out this summer. It will be on LP and CD. Twelve tracks recorded at Alan Gregson’s West Orange Recording Studio near Preston. When we told him we wanted to record it in mono he was delighted. He has a big centre speaker embedded in the control room wall like a cyclops’ eye. So it’s mono, quite dry and dark-sounding. A very good record and fun to make. Aside from the sounds, the lyrics are interesting.
So you’ve got the debut set for release, what else does PILL FANGS have in the books? Gigs lined up? Working on a bit of new music, possibly?
In Preston later this year supporting Mekons and Alternative TV, both at The Continental. We’re always working on new music, and have more than enough recorded for a second album. In newfangled stereo.
Photo credits: Darren Andrews