In July, Pet Fangs released the single “Barbarella” in advance of its debut album “Ultra Deluxe,” which arrives this week on blue vinyl and online.
Over the band’s mix of guitar hooks and synthesizers, Joe Stark sings a sort of longing homage to the sexually liberated heroine played by Jane Fonda in the cult-classic 1968 sci-fi film “Barbarella.” She’s a fitting muse for the band’s atmospheric explorations.
Pet Fangs emerged from Joe and brother David Stark’s guitar-slinging, punk rock-inspired band Baby Bee, which had been signed to Universal Music Group’s Republic Records. After the demise of that deal roughly three years ago, the brothers were looking at restarting the band and were joined by bassist Jory Cordy, who is from Lafayette but had been handling photography for them in California. They set aside Baby Bee, and with Ben Alleman started Pet Fangs, which has embraced a wider palette of keyboards and electronic sounds in what the band dubs “garage pop.”
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“The music doesn’t sound as organic or as rootsy as what we did in Baby Bee — or even [its predecessor] Sons of William, but the process is still rock and roll,” Joe says. “We still go to the studio. The difference is we have no preconceptions of what we’re going to do. I used to care so much about what box things fit in, what kind of band we were and where does it fit? Now I’m like: Let’s do whatever we want, and if people dig it, cool.”
“Ultra Deluxe” has several tracks that delve into techno and dance music territory, accented by falsetto vocals on several tracks, including “Afterglow,” written by Alleman. “Problemz” has more of a hip-hop sound, though it’s Joe Stark’s vocals altered by recording studio filters. The group will release a video for that song next week.
Pet Fangs has been releasing songs and videos for more than two years, and the members write music while working around travel and other projects. Joe plays in Marc Broussard’s band and does a lot of session recording work at Dockside Studios near Lafayette, where some of “Ultra Deluxe” was recorded.
Alleman formerly played in Dr. John’s band and is currently supporting singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis. Pet Fangs develops and shares songs over the internet and convenes to record. “Problemz” was recorded in Los Angeles. Most of the work on “Barbarella” was done in a studio in Nashville. But the process is democratic and free of the pressures of major labels, Joe says.
Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack received the New Orleans equivalent of a state funeral.
“Anywhere we are, if there’s a TV, we put on background movies,” Joe says. “It’s always some crazy Western or ’60s psychedelic sci-fi thing. Anything to zone out to while you’re listening back (to recorded samples) — just to not overthink the music. Just to have something visual going on and get out of your head.”
Joe had the movie “Barbarella” on while working on ideas.
“I had bought a four-track (recorder) and I wanted to try it out,” he says. “I plugged in a keyboard, set a little loop and played a little fuzz guitar to see if the thing worked. I played two chords and sang, ‘Oh Barbarella.’”
The members didn’t all agree they should do anything with the recorded snippet, but they ended up fleshing it out in the studio.
They’ll play a show at House of Blues Aug. 30 to celebrate the release of the album, as well as some regional shows. They’re planning on touring in early 2020, Joe says.
From the beginning, Pet Fangs members agreed to write and release songs as they went, rather than following a more conventional music industry model, Joe says. The band has licensed a couple of songs to commercials and one song recently was used on the TV show “Good Trouble.”
“We tour, we go play shows,” he says. “But we’re not teenagers anymore. We made this pact, let’s ‘Field of Dreams’ it. Let’s build it and let people come.”
Musicians, artists, public figures, and fans of every sort came out to pay their respects to the late Dr. John.