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Golden Fang Interview: “Sydney’s often lurking in the songs somewhere”

Following the release of their latest LP, we talk to one of Australia’s most underrated acts.

From the very first note some bands just have the ability to slice through and take a piece of your heart. Sydney outfit, Golden Fang, are one of those bands.

While we try and consume as much music as humanely possible (it’s a tough gig), there are always bands that slip through the net, whether it’s on the other side of the world or even in your own backyard. Again, Golden Fang are one of those bands.

Three albums deep, which started with Bad Actors (2019) with Here. Now Here following a year later, Golden Fang (Carl Redfern – vocals/guitar; Teo Treloar – guitar; Justin Tauber – bass; and Joe Parkins – drums) made it three albums in as many years with Man With Telltale Scars being released at the backend of 2021.

Their finest offering yet, Redfern’s songwriting is earnest, perceptive and unpretentious. This is music made for all the right reasons from a band that doesn’t sound like anyone but themselves.  

From the beautiful opening gambit of Sweet Dreams and the anthemic swoon of Teo’s Day (we’re pretty sure the words “cheeky little possum” have never entered the rock ’n’ roll broad-church until now), to the rail yard rocker of Dreams Gone Bad, Man With Telltale Scars is unobtrusive yet an essential journey across the Australian music landscape.

We don’t often claim such things throughout these pages, but from time to time it’s good to wear your heart on your sleeve. So with that here it is: Golden Fang are one of the great finds since the publication’s humble beginnings in 2020. Essentially, they are exactly the type of band that make what we do here completely worth it.

Last month, Redfern was kind enough to answer some of our questions about Man With Telltale Scars, songwriting, and the current state of Australian politics.

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S13: Can you tell us the history about Golden Fang?

Carl Redfern: “Sure, Teo (guitarist) and I started the band in about 2014. Teo was initially drumming but we soon discovered he was much better at guitar even though he couldn’t play guitar and he hasn’t looked back. Since then we’ve had a lot of great people help us along the way with gigs and albums. In the last couple of years our line-up has really settled with Justin Tauber (The Sins, Jo Meares Band) on bass (and any other instrument you want to throw at him) and Joe Parkins (cleckhuddersfax UK) on drums.

“In the beginning we didn’t really have any ambition for the band other than to see if we could improve from jam to jam and put something worthwhile together, which is essentially what we’re still doing and hopefully getting better as we go along.”

S13: To me, Golden Fang are like the hidden gem of inner West of Sydney. There’s no other band really doing what you guys do. Does it feel like this to you?

CR: “Thanks! At the moment I feel like there’s a great (though struggling to survive) music scene in the Inner West which has a pretty remarkable diversity to it. Something that I think helps promotors and bands alike in putting together some interesting shows while not having to worry too much about any particular type of sound. Most of the time when we play or put a gig together it’ll be more about it being with people and places we like and want to play with rather than anything else.

“All that said, I’ve never been quite sure where we fit into things. It’s not really a consideration though, making music that feels real and important is good enough motivation for us to keep going and for me to keep me feeding songs into the rehearsal room. How the songs come out should be an honest reflection of where we’re at as group of musicians.”

S13: Man With Telltale Scars has been out for a few months now. How have you found the response?

CR: “Because of the dreaded virus and various other reasons, we haven’t been able to play very much since we released it. We’re really proud of the album but the hothouse process of making one often leaves you as the worst judge of whether they’re any good or not. However, radio and reviewers have been kind as well as punters reaching out with their enthusiasm… it all been appreciated.”

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S13: Sweet Dreams feels so different to the rest of the album. Is that why you chose it as the opening track?

CR: “It was a bit of a puzzle where it fit into the album. Justin suggested it open the album which felt right, straight away. It’s a strong and immediate song with nice sit-down mood, and I think it sets up the album nicely.”

S13: Politics features throughout too with Sooner or Later. How do you assess the current political landscape in Australia?

CR: “Pretty dire, what a carpet bag of vipers we’ve been cursed with. Our government has lied about and misrepresented important issues so many times and then heaped scandal and corruption upon so much incompetence that I think the public just gets so worn down and exhausted by it all that most people just give up on thinking that any of it matters. Pretty depressing really.

“That song is not so much about politics more about somebody that spends their nights up the pub arguing and theorising about geo-politics while the stuff he should be caring about is slipping away.”

S13: The Night and Dreams Gone Bad have a real Eleventh Dream Day vibe about them. Are they an influence of yours?

CR: “Interesting, not a band I’m familiar with though I’ll definitely make an effort to check them out.

Dreams Gone Bad I was very much trying to capture the feel of classic (and fellow Inner West band) garage surf rock band The Sunny Boys. Funnily enough The Night was originally intended to have a feel a bit more like a Smiths song though Joe and Teo were having none of that and took it in a different direction giving it more drive and dirt.”

Golden Fang - Men With Telltale Scars

S13: Teo’s Day is an interesting song. It has a real fictitious quality about it. Do you read a lot of books and if so, who are your favourite authors?

CR: “Teo’s Day is a meditation on friendship and an ode to the lovably strange fella that plays guitar for our band. It’s essentially me trying to imagine what a typical Teo day is like.

“I don’t think I read enough, so I guess I don’t really have favourite authors. Though I recently discovered the Gormenghast novels by Mervyn Peake, which I’m about halfway through. I just love their arcane language and unique atmosphere. Otherwise, I’m generally a fan of Neal Stephenson, Irvine Welsh novels and I should give a plug to my friend Mirrelle Juchaw who recently published a great and moody novel about isolation and loss set in a damaged landscape called The World Without Us.”

S13: How much does Sydney influence your song writing?

CR: “I tend to write about what I’m thinking about which is usually the people and places I know which – whether I like it or not – is all tied up in Sydney. You’ll hear all through our albums references to places particularly around the Inner West of Sydney where I live. Even when it’s not explicit, Sydney’s often lurking in the songs somewhere.”

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S13: Have your challenges as a songwriter changed from when you began until now?

CR: “Interesting question. I’ve been writing songs consistently since I was a teenager and believe like any creative process it gets a bit easier as you go along, you become more aware of what your strengths are, more aware of what you’re trying to say. All the while you’re also building up banks of material that you can return too. Where once I may have bashed my head against the metaphoric wall trying to complete a song, these days if a song is resisting completion I’ll just put it aside and turn my attention elsewhere trusting that at some point the resolution I’m searching for will reveal itself without all the angsty head bashing.

“The challenge however regardless of how comfortable you get with the process is really the same as its always been for me, which is getting a feel out of a song. I’ve always thought that no matter how clever I think I’ve been with a song if I can’t catch feels out of playing it for myself then it’s unlikely anybody else will and then there’s not really much point to it existing. So, I guess that’s a long way of saying that making songs that feel worthwhile is the enduring challenge as it always feels like a mystery how and why that happens.”

S13: You’ve released a good number of albums now. With the lack of arts funding in Australia, how hard is it being an artist?

CR: “I can’t imagine the cultural situation that the arts and particularly bands operate in here will change anytime soon. Australia has a shocking record of supporting the arts and bands/popular music has always been at the bottom of that barrel, too. It’s a terrible thing to say but I think we just accept that and move on and do our thing without any expectation or care for help. We’re a determined group of people, and if we think we’ve got something worth doing we’ll make it happen ourselves.

“We’ve also set the band up in a way that’s doable for us. We record simply and spend a lot of time by ourselves getting the best songs tight and right so that when we go into the recording studio we’re not fooling around, seeing what happens. As I was saying before, I think this helps our albums sound like a genuine reflection of who we are.”

S13: Back to politics – I believe there’s an election in May – is a change in the air to the point where can actually Labor win?

CR: “There is a whisper of a hope, with polling and common sense suggesting that this freewheeling right wing freak show will get the boot, but then I thought that last time too…”

Man With Telltale Scars is out now. Purchase from Bandcamp.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

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