White Fang, the hybrid rock band from Portland, Oregon currently situated in LA, have an ample discography and side project history. Erik Gage (vocals), Izak Arida (bass), Jimmy Leslie (drums), and Chris Uehlein/Unkle Funkle (guitar), are all part of their own individual bands, part of the LA based label Burger Records and involved in the Gnar Tapes collective. I sat them down for an interview following their active gig and before they left to continue their extensive European tour, which they are already four and a half weeks into.
You have said before that the history of your band is a “bit of a blur”, can you tell me what you remember of the formation of White Fang?
Erik: Well, I think me and Jimmy here are the oldest of the high council of White Fang. We remember the very beginning, but the very beginning is easier to remember than the parts that took place between then and now. What I do remember is that we started when we were 15/16 years old in high school and the very first White Fang release was a cassette that was two sides; one side was me and one side was Jimmy. Then I went into Chris’ studio, before he was in the band, and I recorded some songs with Kyle Handley [former guitarist of White Fang] who has been on all of our albums so far. Our next album will be the first album without him. I can’t tell you what Kyle is doing right now. He won’t talk to us – he may as well be Christian for all I know. But that aside, we went through high school as a folk band, after high school we became a noise-rock band which we were for a long time, and after that we were like a Guided by Voices/Television Personalities band and now we’re White Fang. It’s been like 10 years there – a lot of tours, 20 different countries, not a lot of money, lots of drugs, a moderate amount of sex…
Izak: Well we’ve had enough, yeah.
Erik: Yeah it’s been average. I would say I’ve had a lot of sex, Funkle’s had a lot of sex, so has Izak, Jimmy’s had a lot of girlfriends so his sex hasn’t been as diverse. Jimmy is a serial monogamist, he gets into relationship after relationship. But yeah, White Fang has been around for a while but I’m glad it’s a bit of a blur. It means we’re still living it and you always reminisce what you’ve done.
You’ve toured Europe before, is the experience any different this time around?
Funkle: This tour has been different on a number of levels. I think that because it’s our third tour as the four of us because we have two bands – it’s White Fang’s second tour and The Memories played last year. Because of that our fan base is growing here – we’re able to rent some really kick ass gear and we’re actually full up in terms of the itinerary. We’re on the coat tails on our strongest record in terms of promotion to date and there’s videos and shit coming out from it. So yeah, there’s people that are interested and the shows are going really well and we’ve come into a locked groove sort of thing where we’re just kicking ass and feeling nasty and being freaky.
Izak: I feel really nasty.
Funkle: I mean that’s how you do it, you remove yourself from your ego and push through as a group and you lose track of time. It’s been like five weeks now and it feels like a week has gone by.
Jimmy: Yeah, it feels like we only just left LA.
Funkle: So it’s different and much the same. Oh – and we have a much larger vehicle than any time before. It sucks being in a cramped vehicle, you get back pains, you’re tired constantly, so we have a lot more space now. We love it.
Would you say that being part of various projects and bands allows you to be more flexible and gives you more freedom to experiment with different styles of music?
Funkle: I think it’s in the same vein, it doesn’t necessarily allow to be more flexible but the act of us being a song writing camp and making multiple different styles of music is necessitated by the need to do that.
Izak: It also keeps our creativity satisfied because a lot of people will have one project and one band and they only do one sort of thing, as for us we have two bands and multiple side projects and we can get out all of our ideas for whatever type of shit we want to make. We can put it into something rather than wallowing like ‘I have to keep making this specific sound’. It does allow us to be more free.
Funkle: We’re flexible musicians so we have the desire to channel that.
Jimmy: We also like all kinds of music, not just garage rock, you know? Like Britney Spears, Hip Hop, Eminem – you name it. If it sounds good we like it.
Izak: Because of all the projects it makes each song more special – you know this song has to be a White Fang song. It’s not like everything is forced down to one.
Funkle: I think people find it confusing that there’s multiple projects and multiple bands but if you want to call it just one thing we’re Gnar Tapes. There’s bands within that umbrella but Gnar Tapes is just the four of us and we just write these songs – that’s what it’s all about. You know, the bands are just a channel for this song writing and this angle of marketing we go for – really what we are is a song writing camp and I think the best way for a group of white dudes to get their songs out there is just to have bands and play in them.
Izak: I’m not white.
Funkle: Yeah, me neither.
Erik: I don’t agree with that. I think the best way for white dudes to get out there is to start a fucking start-up. Be a software designer.
What do you think makes White Fang different to your other projects?
Jimmy: There’s no love songs. I mean there’s love for partying, beer and alcohol but that’s probably the biggest difference. I don’t think there’s any guidelines to White Fang – if it feels like a Fang song then it’s a Fang song. It’s kind of like it’s already laid out for us so we just open up the doors and it becomes clear.
Izak: White Fang has been around longer than Gnar Tapes too so there’s that as well. We are this song writing camp and at the end of the day White Fang is the original thing that brought everyone together, so there’s something very special about that.
I’ve seen the term“80’s thrash” thrown about a lot in terms of White Fang…
Izak: I like that!
Jimmy: I think we’re kind of shock rock with a slice of chunk and a little bit of improvisation for the live set, but what you’re getting on the records is pretty much going down the avenue of just party. It’s party music. Everyone should have a good time and nobody should be left out; we’re all in this together.
Izak: I also like the 80’s thrash comparison, in Europe a lot of venues will bill us as “garage” or something else along those lines which we feel like we’re not at all. If you listen to our albums one time you can understand that it’s not garage and I feel like it’s along the lines of an 80’s thrash band so I’m into that. For us we try to make these labels up ourselves to let people know what our sound is, but at the end of the day you can’t really pin it down. Other than the White Fang vibe we’re kind of just ready to party, ready to get wrecked, ready to thrash. Any night. It doesn’t matter – that’s White Fang.
Do you think there’s anything specific that has influenced this?
Erik: Marijuana. Weed. Not just getting high but the fact that that battle represents so much in the world’s understanding of misinformation and human control. If alcohol and pharmaceutical drugs are legal – I mean it’s ridiculous. It’s the same thing with borders and gun control, if marijuana is illegal in your country then your country is backwards. America is backwards too but some states aren’t. Marijuana doesn’t hurt anybody – all it hurts is the fucking marijuana. The marijuana burns, you smoke it and you feel great. It’s not like you’re gonna go and beat your wife on marijuana unless you’re nuts and need help anyway. Like alcohol is a problem, marijuana being illegal is a problem but marijuana is not a problem. My little brother died of brain cancer – if there had been medical marijuana available to everyone in the world and CBD was a thing that people knew about there would be way less people in the pharmaceutical industry making millions of dollars from people dying. It’s bullshit. That’s why I started a band called Free Weed – not because I want people to ‘give me some nugs, man’ it’s about the government controlling everyone’s brains. So yeah – marijuana and uh… Dead Kennedys.
Izak: If you’re a smart person and can actually find the right information then you would understand that it is actually good for you. My parents just came around to it these past couple of years – it’s awesome.
You’ve had a pretty hectic tour – did you get to spend much time in Hastings today?
Jimmy: We went to the beach, there were rocks in the ocean. It’s interesting – in Los Angeles it’s just sand and here there’s a bunch of pebbles and rocks.
Funkle: I think that was something to do with the Victorians.
Jimmy: Beautiful beach though. I saw a closed music shop earlier and a kebab shop.
Izak: We took the Chunnel today
Jimmy: Yeah we took the Chunnel! It’s Izak’s first time in the UK.
Izak: I’m super excited. I’m stoked. Everyone talks shit on the UK but I’m gonna make the judgement on my own. I’m excited to get a Full English because eggs are my favourite thing in the whole world. I love eggs. Breakfast is the only thing I think about, other than weed. Breakfast is so fucking sick. The most important meal of the day.
Jimmy: You gotta eat right to stay right.