Hooded Fang's Summertime Blues

By Stephen CarlickThe odd thing about Hooded Fang's sunny second album, Tosta Mista, is that it was written in the dead of winter. "I was in the Philippines in January for three weeks, and I came back and Daniel had a whole new record," exclaims multi-instrumentalist and co-songwriter April Aliermo. "A couple lyrics had to be written, we had to record some extra things, and do some mixes, but I came back and I was like, 'Whoa, you've been busy.'"

The Toronto indie pop collective, led by vocalist and songwriter Daniel Lee, are striking while the iron's hot. Tosta covers more of the upbeat, melodic territory they traversed on their too-aptly titled debut, Album, just a year ago (which earned the group both a sizable following and a long list nod for the Polaris Music Prize), but there's a key sonic difference: Where their debut spryly skipped over the Canadian wilderness, their new record catches a couple of waves before hopping in a T-Bird to dry off in the California breeze.

The album's sunny vibes, however, are underscored by the sadness of Lee's lyrical inspiration: the termination of his and Aliermo's five-year relationship. "The main reason to write music, for me, is just to do the opposite," Lee contends. "If I feel really shitty or something, I make something extra sunny. You can use [music] as a way to escape what you're dealing with at the time, that you're trying to get over."

Tosta Mista ended up playing a substantial role in the healing process, as the album's "over the top," "tongue-in-cheek" lyrics provided relief from emotional strain. Claims Aliermo: "If you listen to our slow jam on the record, 'Den of Love,' we went halfsies on the lyrics for that one, and it's really over the top dramatic, like 'Arrrggh' [grabs her heart.] But it's also coming from that part deep down inside that's trying to get over the break-up. It's a good way to express what you're going through, to help you get over it. After we wrote lyrics for it, and it came together well, it helped us tie up the break-up and help process those feelings." In doing so, Hooded Fang are have tapped into one of the key tropes, historically, of pop music: escapism. The feelings associated with breaking up, Lee states, "are really universal, so you can kind of remove yourself from it, like in all those '60s doo-wop tunes. You can remove yourself from the situation and just try to hit those motifs that are always there. You don't necessarily need to be entirely personal."

Of course, catharsis isn't the only reason to write and release an album as quickly as Hooded Fang have, and predictably, the band are ready to move on once again. Tosta Mista might be a lyrical snapshot of where Lee was earlier this year, but he's already looking forward. "That's how we like to work,' he states. "Make songs fast, put them out fast." Aliermo has another reason for putting out the album sooner than later: "The tunes are really summery," she quips. "Why wait until the fall?"

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Article Published In Aug 11 Issue