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Xu Xu Fang

New Artists for 2006

Jan 01, 2006 Xu Xu Fang
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Featuring former members of The Warlocks and Hovercraft, Los Angeles’ Xu Xu Fang pack a dark, noir-inspired sound that ranges from meditative—soothing vocal drones, ambient keyboards, tripped-out space guitars, and found sounds—to aggressive—dance numbers that would suggest a harder version of Garbage. Underneath it all looms an appreciation for the bold melodies of Ennio Morricone.

Their first album, Los Angeles During the Winter of ‘99 was released by Cowboy Small’s Sound Ranch in 2001. Work on the follow-up was recently completed, but despite interest from a few labels, the band is holding off until more people can see their live act, which should be in the next few months. We caught up with Bobby Tamkin, the mastermind behind the music deemed “uncategorizable” by LA Weekly.

Under the Radar: It’s been a while since your first record. What’s been going on in the interim?

Bobby Tamkin: Our first record was officially released in early 2001, although there is a misconception about that because of the date in the album title. Well, there are several reasons why it took some time to make the new album. I spent much of 2005 suffering from a rare eye problem called Recurrent Corneal Erosion. Basically my eyes didn’t work for most of 2005. Throughout the night my eyelids would stick to my cornea then rip pieces of the cornea off when my eyes would open in the morning. Very painful. They work fine now though! Our first album was a dark concept album which featured lots of instrumental stuff, sound effects, voices, etc. and from that I received offers to do some film and TV music. That was very time consuming. I am really a drummer at heart and after we supported the first album I wanted to join someone else’s band and just play drums rather than writing new stuff because a Xu Xu Fang album is quite an undertaking. After many months of searching, and jamming I couldn’t find any bands that I wanted to play with so I decided to make a new Xu Xu Fang album. This time around I wanted to retain the concept of the first album, but add songs with vocals. So, I had to figure out how to write songs, put a new band together and write and record a new concept album.

UTR: Are you still an active member of The Warlocks?

Bobby: No.

UTR: How did the band form?

Bobby: I wrote a bunch of songs and found friends to help bring them to life and play them with me. Xu Xu Fang is now Ruben, Ray, Katz, Sera, Barbara, Bobby and The Wrangler.

UTR: What is the origin of the band name?

Bobby: Xu Xu Fang is the cheesiest, glam rock name I could think of. But the name was conceived ten years ago during a boring Greek and Roman mythology lecture in school.

UTR: Where did the nickname, “The Wrangler” come from?

Bobby: The Wrangler operates a recording studio in Culver City, CA where he records all kinds of different projects. I guess he got the name from having to “wrangle” everyone together. I’m not really sure.

UTR: How would you describe the sound of your band to someone who’s never heard the band before?

Bobby: One fan described our new stuff as Sigur Rós meets Lynyrd Skynyrd. I guess that’s kind of true.

UTR: Your music does have a noir feel to it. Where does that come from?

Bobby: Dark souls. The force is strong, but the darkside is stronger. Growing up in Los Angeles, the home of film noir.

UTR: Who is R.P. Luger and why is he the band’s spiritual leader?

Bobby: R.P. Luger is a very close friend of the band. I can’t really explain what he does other than he holds the keys to the Hall of Forever. The RP seems to interpret everything we do with an understanding greater than possibly any of us.

UTR: What kind of response have you been getting as a result of MySpace?

Bobby: Myspace has been the single greatest tool so far for distributing our music. We have reached more people through Myspace in a few months than we did over a long period with our last album. I posted one of our songs and within a weeks time a well known record label became very interested in releasing our music. That was nice.

UTR: Where would you realistically like your band to be in one-year?

Bobby: Opening for a reunited Van Halen with David Lee Roth. Or ditching our equipment and taking roadie jobs with Kraftwerk.

UTR: Which band’s career path do you most admire and would you most like to model?

Bobby: Kraftwerk.

UTR: What are you doing to differentiate yourselves from all the other new bands out there?

Bobby: It seems as if a lot of bands hear other bands and decide that that’s what they want to sound like. They strive to sound and look like things that have existed before them. We have no interest in that. So the way we differentiate ourselves from other bands is by writing music that comes naturally from our personalities and moods, rather than finding a mold and imitating it.

UTR: So far, what is the biggest misconception about the band?

Bobby: The biggest misconception is that we are some kind of soundtrack or super avant-garde band. We used to get reviews that would compare us to film composers and I thought we sounded closer to Black Sabbath or Fugazi.

UTR: If you had to choose, would you rather have wealth and fame, or the respect of your peers?

Bobby: The obvious answer would be the respect of our peers, but a little wealth would be nice right now and I’m not even sure who our peers are. They could be creepy.

UTR: What’s the one thing you won’t do to help further the success of the band?

Bobby: This is a tough question because there are many things I wouldn’t do to help further the success of the band. It would be impossible to choose one.



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