The Mister Tang trio was born in a basement in Vancouver, WA., and bred into psych-rock titans who’ve overwhelmed the Portland music scene with their groovy energy. Heavy guitar riffs and bellowing lead vocals, these lo-fi wunderkinds have been playing a multitude of shows and getting the whole city addicted to the Tang. MT is a seance channeling the ghosts of surf-rock past, a sound fit for a bachelor party thrown by Andy Warhol. And if these spry rebels haven’t taken the town by storm already, there’s no doubt in Rip City Review’s mind it’s in their forecast.
The youthful vision and enthusiasm of MT is their strongest gift. While many bands may be bogged down with the formalities and technicalities of creating music, the Tang dudes find that good music comes from the gusto of the group, not the shredding capabilities of one.
Not only are they making music, but they’re helping other bands make music as well by having their own label called “Citrus Tapes.” They provide buttons, vinyl and cassettes for bands at what many in the music biz would call “dangerously low prices.”
I sat down with Stone Laurila, Jeff Schultz and Cody Railey at the cozy Pied Cow on Belmont- we talked about Citrus Tapes, what it really means to rock and why Vancouver sucks.
Editor’s Note: When the youngest member of Mister Tang turns 21, Rip City Review is making a formal promise to throw the boys a raging birthday rock’n’roll extravaganza at the bar of their choice. Or just buy them a few long island ice teas at a dive bar, whatever.
Rip City Review: What’s on the horizon for Mister Tang?
Stone Laurila: We’ve got the idea of a 7”, hopefully coming up within the next month or two.
Jeff Schultz: Eventually seeing the production a full length, right now we’re just trying to build a buzz and put out as much as we can. At the right time we’re going to release a full length.
Cody Railey: We also won the Portland Deli’s Artist of the Month for August, and we’re doing a live track with them and interview with them. We got offered about twelve gigs in August.
JS: We haven’t personally booked a show in like four months, we’ve just been asked to play shows. It’s been pretty smooth.
RCR: How long have you guys been a band?
CR: Since October or November of last year.
RCR: So, still a very young band.
JS: Initially it was kind of tough playing to nobody for a few months, and then we made friends and we have a small following of friends and a couple of anonymous fans that show up to shows.
SL: Right now we’re just trying to build off this momentum that we have going.
RCR: What other bands helped you sort of “lift off”?
SL: Bath Party is the coolest, we’ve played the most with them. They’ve helped us a lot. We went on a mini-tour with them too, that was awesome.
CR: Jollapin Jasper are really cool, we did some recordings with them. He’s kind of like the older brother who shows us the ropes.
RCR: What made you guys want to start this band and play in the Portland-area?
SL: We had all been doing different things and different bands just about a year ago. We would play with each others bands around town.
JS: It was kind of abrupt, all of our bands dissolved around the same time.
SL: I used to play bass, and Jeff used to play guitar, now he plays drums. And Cody used to play guitar, now he plays bass. I wanted to play guitar in a band, and Jeff owned a drumset- so we started our band.
JS: When the band started is when I started learning drums. I just taught myself by ear.
RCR: On the note of being a new, young band- we can’t help but notice that you’re all under 21. How do you think that affects playing music in Portland?
SL: Places need to figure out a better way to handle people under 21. I know there are places all over the country where people who aren’t of age can get a wristband or something.
CR: Backspace has an open bar, and sometimes The Star Theater has all ages shows. When you have 21+ shows you’re closing yourself off from business. Kids love rock’n’roll.
SL: It would be cool if Portland venues did a better job trying to incorporate young people. I don’t know what I could do personally to change the way the scene works for people under 21. I think there are simpler ways dealing with people who are under 21.
RCR: Since you guys are younger, you’ve probably got a fresher perspective on the Portland music scene. What do you think about it?
CR: I used to play a lot of “mellower stuff”, and then something clicked in my head that this stuff isn’t that fun to play. There’s an excess of really mellow music in Portland. I feel like there needs to be a little bit more rock’n’roll.
JS: There are a bunch of really cool garage psychedelic bands, and they’re doing really great and they’re just popping up everywhere.
SL: The Shivas are really cool.
JS: We went to high school with The Shivas, when they were seniors we were freshman and sophomores. I remember going to see The Shivas play at a record shop with about 30 people in downtown Vancouver. They’ve come a far way with K Records and Burger Records, they’re like our big sister band. They’re kind of inspirations.
RCR: What’s the direction for Mister Tang?
SL: We are going to be the biggest, loudest rock’n’roll band in the world.
JS: The next Kiss. But really, instead of trying to be the best drummer, I just want to be in the best group of people as opposed to Van Halen, where people say “listen to Eddie Van Halen rip guitar, but those other guys are alright too.” I don’t want to be in a band like that, I want to be in a band that maybe isn’t the most technical, but as a whole is a real solid piece of work. That’s always been my philosophy, I don’t want to drill scales or take a million lessons in something, I just want to practice rock’n’roll.
SL: I think the direction is to bring back dirty rock’n’roll. It would be cool just to break it down again, bare bones. Something that just rocks.
CR: There was a time when rock’n’roll was the most popular music ever, and now just nerds are into rock’n’roll. It’s really sad listening to the radio, 94.7 is supposed to be a radio station for alternative rock. But when you change the station to Top 20 Hits, you hear the same stuff. It’s all synthesized 80’s throwback stuff now.
RCR: What are you guys’ favorite venues to play as under-agers?
SL: House shows are the best.
JS: Our first show was at a house show. We played with the guys from Cambrian Explosion, and they named it the Lightening Falcon Fortress, and the cops showed up and everyone was moving, it was killer.
CR: When bands go through on tour they play all these 21+ shows because there isn’t a large all-age-venue that isn’t like The Crystal Ballroom. Whenever the Burger Records bands come through Portland, they always play Dantes or Star Theater, it’s such a bummer because I’m a huge fan of Ty Segall and every time he’s been through he plays at 21+ venues.
RCR: Are you guys planning to move to Portland soon?
SL: Yes, we just need to get money first.
RCR: Can you guys tell me a little bit about Citrus Tapes?
SL: We’re offering really good deals to anyone who wants tapes. Basically we make tapes and buttons for bands.
JS: We did Pheasents EP.
CR: There have been bands that have been coming through and asking about it a bunch. We did the Rigsketball compiliation tape. We helped duplicate a lot of the tapes for Lunch for Ressercution Records. We try to make it easy on both ends, we’re trying to build this network of people. The tape thing is kind of coming back, and we’re trying to be a part of it. The tapes are really cheap too.
JS: We wanted to release on tapes, and I bought a duplicator on Ebay for pretty cheap and we have a recorder that’s tape. It seemed convenient. Anyone can make CDs, not anyone can make tapes. Well I guess anyone can make tapes.
SL: What I think is cool about tapes is that it’s cheaper to make tapes as a band than CDs, so you can have tapes to sell at your show for cheaper. Then you leave with a physical piece of music.
RCR: What do you guys like most about living in Portland?
CR: How raunchy it is sometimes, it looks nice during the day but comes alive at night.
SL: It’s like a living organism.
JS: Which is the exact opposite of Vancouver. There’s no nightlife. It’s people’s parties that happen every Friday, same people getting trashed at the same place. It’s no fun.
SL: But in Portland, you can go to someones house and see bands you’ve never seen before. Even if you were to have shows in Vancouver nobody would show up. I mean, if you want to shop there’s Vancouver Mall and a Safeway around the corner. But Portland is unique, there are hidden gems around every corner.
Mister Tang is playing DAY 2 of HIVE-O-WEEN @ 113 NE Fremont for Bath Party’s record release on Oct. 26. Check it out if you love free, good music.