Fang Island high-fives its way from obscurity to notoriety

Courtesy of Sargent House

Every band dreams of the day it gets the call for members to quit their day jobs, tour the world and parade around living the “rock-star dream.”

So, if you’re not some boy band in the Mickey Mouse Club, the best route to fame and glory is getting a “Best New Music” rating from indie music authority Pitchfork Media. And that is exactly what Fang Island of Providence, R.I., did.

“It was really wild,” said Chris Georges, guitarist and vocalist for the band. “The day before we got the review from Pitchfork, we played to one person in Columbus, Ohio. It was still a fun show and we were still staying positive, but after that everything was different.”

The next day, the band got a call to play at the Irish music festival Electric Picnic with indie giants such as LCD Soundsystem, Crystal Castles, Fever Ray and Beach House.

The estimated crowds of 3,500 to 4,000 will be a drastic change from an audience of one.

Fang Island will visit Eugene as part of their tour. Bands Caspian and Red Sparowes will open for them at the WOW Hall on Sunday at 8 p.m.

Pitchfork has been criticized in the past for its selection process and favoring obscure artists, but Fang Island brings something to the scene that isn’t pretentious or too avant garde; it is a sound anyone can rock out to.

The band’s MySpace Web site describes its music as “Everyone high-fiving everyone,” and there isn’t a more perfect description for a band that just loves having fun and rocking out. 

In fact, that motto is easily observable in a video it has on MySpace. In a social experiment, the band went to a kindergarten class and talked to the kids about music and then proceeded to play a full set.

“We started to talk to them about the powers of rock ‘n’ roll and how rock ‘n’ roll can save your life, and they weren’t having it, they didn’t care,” Georges said. “It was all over their heads, they just wanted to hear some music and play our instruments and bang on our guitars.”

After the kids got acclimated, the rocking began. Kids were jumping up and down and dancing around in circles, their excitement trumping that of any candy shop escapade.

“By the end it was like what the video is, like a hug-circle-fit,” Georges said. “It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. That’s the proper way to dance to the music.”

Fang Island started as a custom made class at the Rhode Island School of Design Georges and the band created in order to get out of a class.

“We were in printmaking together and we needed a break from doing art all the time,” Georges said. “We still wanted to get class credit, and we did some jamming and kind of had a loose band going. But, we weren’t doing much with it.”

The band’s grand finale for the class was a house party that friends and teachers attended as well as an album with extravagant cover art. 

“We got a ‘B+’ on the project and thought that was worthy of pursuing,” Georges said.

The band continued to play together in Providence. They began taking part in the local music scene and developing their sound.

“There was a lot of noise music and a lot of avant-garde music, but there were no rock bands in the Providence scene,” Georges said. “So there was rock ‘n’ roll that we loved like Thin Lizzy and early Metallica and we kind of combined it with some of the ideas that were going around in Providence with bands like Lightning Bolt.”

The band’s debut full-length CD was released in February of this year, garnering an 8.3 out of 10 from Pitchfork. The eponymous album harkens back to the arena rock of the 1980s, but with a post-rock appeal as well. There’s nothing exclusive about them, just a synthesis of original ideas with foundational rocking influences.

The guys in the band quit their jobs before heading off to start touring and haven’t looked back yet. 

“Everyone just quit their jobs and thought that the music was more important,” Georges said. “It’s hard to say right now, but it’s all we really want to do. We’re having a wonderful time being together and playing every night right now.”

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