New York-based Fang Island brings lithe guitars spinning fizzy, shiny indie rock that could double as a fourth-grader's victory march. The songs from its first, self-titled album are what you wish the heavens piped when you beat "The Legend of Zelda" that first time or scored a picnic date with that sixth-grader you were always crushin' on. Fang Island's MySpace page once characterized its sound as "everyone high-fiving everyone." It's exceptionally easy to soak in those good vibes.
Debut LP "Fang Island" visually synchronizes with the band's sonic style. That album's cover is an '80s-nostalgia-inducing, frontyard scene of a girl dressed up as a fairy, waving her wand at an adult wearing a toy castle on his upper body. The child has no reservations about this game, and the castle person is right there pretending along too, without a hint of irony anywhere.
The cover of the group's July release, "Major," looks like it came from another band entirely. Its front is imposing stone, with the band's name and record title engraved in the gray, and nothing else. It's stately and solemn — oddly so for such a lighthearted band — and the more you look at it, the more it resembles the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Guitarist and vocalist Jason Bartell prefers to look at this design in the same way bandmate Chris Georges does. In a "Major" news release, Georges says: "The record is packaged to look like stone because it's rock. I really wanted people to hold a piece of rock when they picked up the record." Bartell adds: "We wanted it to feel different than the last record — the MO of this record sonically. I think it made sense to do something drastically different from the last cover — a lot less color, a lot less nostalgia. We wanted it to be very solid and present."
How solid? The album's cover is a photograph of a real tablet the band had engraved. Photoshop probably would have done the trick, but committing the idea to stone suits its style better.
"We're not ashamed about calling ourselves rock music," Bartell says, responding to a general uncoolness he feels has surrounded the word during the last decade. He also takes great pride in the band's positive attitude in person and on the record. On "Major," the band sounds absolutely ecstatic to be here.
Fang Island has called its style "recess rock," a play on "math rock" and probably a nod to the time it played a concert for an agreeable kindergarten class. (It's worth YouTube-ing.) "I think it's important not to take yourself too seriously. We try not to. It's a matter of straddling a couple of lines," Bartell says. "People who take themselves deathly seriously if you're in a rock band [are] sort of silly, and then to treat it like it doesn't matter at all and doesn't mean anything to anyone, then that's pretty silly, too." S
Fang Island will perform with Adebisi Shank and Sports Bar on Wednesday, Aug. 29, at Strange Matter, 929 W. Grace St. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door. For information, go to strangematterrva.com.