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Rising: Bat Fangs Makes Acid-Soaked ’80s Hard Rock for the Living and the Dead

BatFangsBetsy Wright; Photo Credit Mark Hoelscher for DCMD

Listening to “Wolfbite,” the debut track of recently formed super-duo Bat Fangs, makes me feel like Stranger Things’ Steve Harrington–an effortlessly cool, unstoppable force with a penchant for ’80s flair and style. It’s not surprising, given the minds behind Bat Fangs–Ex Hex’s Betsy Wright and Flesh Wounds drummer Laura King–that they both have a knack for blending raw, bulldozing rhythm with classic guitar tones and even bigger riffs. 

Their forthcoming self-titled debut that’s set to release in February draws from a menagerie of ’80s rock subgeneres and monster fiction. Recently, I sat down with vocalist and guitarist Betsy Wright to learn more about the band, as well as discuss why Halloween is definitively the best holiday.

This interview is edited for length and clarity. 

Can you give me a brief history of Bat Fangs? How did you and Laura get together and decide to embark on this project?

I had seen [Laura] play when I was with my other band, Ex Hex, doing a show at 9:30 Club. Matt McCaughan from Superchunk was opening for us with his solo project, Non-Believers, and Laura was playing drums with him. I saw her play that night, and a couple other times, and we kind of became friends through that. But if you’ve seen her play, she’s fucking awesome. So when Ex Hex came off the road and we were gonna take a lot of time off, I had a bunch of songs that I was working on that I didn’t really think had an Ex Hex vibe. I just started thinking about recording… and it really just seemed natural to start a band with a drummer. It’s difficult working with more than one person, especially with melodic instruments, when you really want to jam. 

How do you and Laura mitigate the distance between D.C. and North Carolina in terms of collaborating and writing? 

Before we had even met up the first time, I had just sent her a bunch of demos that I had on my computer. I had basic structures of songs, and some of them were somewhat fleshed out. Then I went down and went up with her, and she has a really cool space to practice in, which is really hard to find in D.C. I would go down there and we’d spend a couple of days together–we did that a bunch of times. We’ve also played a couple of shows before we decided to make the record. We only had nine songs, so it’s a little short, but we decided to go to Kentucky to my friend Matt Montgomery’s studio for maybe… four days?

It sounds like a pretty quick recording process.

Yeah. We just freaked out, stayed up all night, started at 10 in the morning, and just made it. 

For those who are fans of your music with Ex Hex, how would you differentiate this new project from your past work? 

I would say Bat Fangs is more metal, darker in quality… some of them are still pretty poppy, but it just has a different style, a different feel–it’s still guitar rock. I think my singing is a bit more out on the record. With Ex Hex it’s punk, but with this it’s more rhythmic. 

Bat Fangs is self-described as “acid soaked ’80s hard rock for the living and the dead” that “makes music for third eyes and stiff upper lips.” Could you speak more to the spooky themes that inspired this project?

I just got really into monsters, vampires, werewolves and stuff like that. I love Roky Erickson, Ozzy, and Alice Cooper–all of these artists that have this big, really theatrical side of their performance. Everyone has a dark side or monster inside them, kind of like a fractured side that I wanted to channel.

Were there any monster films or works that inspired Bat Fangs?

It was more so books, actually–Frankenstein is one of my favorite books, that and Dracula. But I also love Jim Jarmusch’s vampire movie, Only Lovers Left Alive, and TV stuff like True Blood. Friday the 13th too, the first Nightmare on Elm Street film. I need to get into more older stuff though. 

You must be a big fan of Halloween I imagine.

I absolutely love Halloween, Halloween is by far my favorite holiday, if you can call it one. I get really into it. For me the entire month of October is all Halloween–I really like dressing up in costumes. And I think that’s relevant to this project, because I like acting, but I’m not a very good actor. But with artists like Alice Cooper, he has this whole act and character when he gets up on stage, but I’ve seen videos of him like… just playing golf. For me it’s really hard to get up on stage and just be like, “hey, I’m Betsy.” I like to have a character of some kind in performance. 

External to thematic influences, you also cite the band as “picking up where Roky & the Aliens blasted off,” who were a psychedelic rock band active in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Is Bat Fangs primarily influenced by psychedelic rock? Could you speak to any other specific influences on the forthcoming record? 

Yeah, definitely Roky Erickson, basically because all of his songs are about different monsters, some Black Sabbath… [laughs] I cried at the Roky show, which was weird, but I cry at a lot of things.

Me too. 

Maybe it’s not that weird. I don’t know. 

You recently released the single “Wolfbite,” which has this really big, anthemic, kickass feel to it. Is the rest of the album just as big? 

I think that song is the biggest one on the record, it’s definitely got more of a metal or thrashy component to it. But at the same time, there’s a few songs that have a hair metal vibe, as well as some that have an ’80s pop feel, almost, kind of like Poison? And then a few others that almost go into this surf rock thing. It’s kind of all over the place. 

Bat Fangs’ self-titled record comes out this February. What are the plans for the band, as well as yourself, in the near future?

Well, we recently made a video, which is definitely coming out soon. It turned out really cool–videos are weird because you never know what the end product is gonna look like. But it’s really trippy and fun, and also it’s kind of funny I think. 

We’re also going to play our release show on February 9 at Comet Ping Pong, which is really exciting, and then play a couple of shows down in North Carolina before going on tour. We’re first doing some shows on the East Coast in February, in New York, Richmond, and Baltimore, and then we’re going out to the West Coast to tour from basically LA to Vancouver. 

And then we’re gonna go to South by Southwest in March, but beyond that, I don’t really know what we’re gonna do! Usually it’s like the record comes out and you tour on the record and then make another one, same cycle over again. With my stuff, I’m trying to balance it: do a record cycle with this, and then Ex Hex will do a record cycle, and then who knows what happens after that? Hopefully make another Bat Fangs record. It’s tricky. I guess I’m gonna have to figure it out as I go along. 

Bat Fangs will release their self-titled debut on Don Giovanni Records February 2. Their record release show will take place at Comet Ping Pong on February 9.