You don’t need a snooty music scholar to tell you that Rock music was born in America, but during the last decades it seemed just as if the genre’s homeland had abandoned their noble tradition when it comes to once thriving Hard Rock scene. Europe seemed to take over, with Scandinavia dubbed the modern equivalent of ’80s Los Angeles and the hegemony of the Italian label Frontiers Records. Will it change in the near future? Well, certainly young bands like the Michigan-based Trixy Tang make one anticipate the rebirth of American rock in all its glory. With their debut album released a year ago and an exhaustive touring schedule, the group is armed and ready to conquer the world – thus prompting the lead singer Klay Fennema to share a few thoughts about the band’s past, present and future.
Alexandra Mrozowska: We’re all sort of put on hold now due to the spread of COVID-19. How do you think the current situation and its aftermath will influence the music industry and the careers of young bands such as Trixy Tang?
Klay Fennema: This is a very scary time for everyone, including the Entertainment Industry. I am fearful that it will have a lasting impact on musicians, however my optimistic side feels as though once this all passes, then things will be back to normal. I have a feeling that people will remain fearful to attend concerts or any gatherings for awhile, but they will get the itch to get back the way things were. We rely almost solely on performances. Musicians cannot simply rely on sales of music anymore, but it’s a good lesson for bands, especially young ones to plan for things like this in the future. I know this instance is essentially once in a lifetime, but it’s crucial to have a backup plan. I see a lot of bands doing online performances for their fans and I think that is excellent!
AM: Speaking of which, your own live acoustic performance was streamed a few days ago. What was the idea behind this and what was the feedback?
KF: Trixy Tang has always been a very hard working band. We really pride ourselves on working our asses off and paying our dues essentially. We have had very very difficult times throughout our career, just as most bands have had. However we never let those obstacles slow us down or stop us. Those will happen and they create character and give wisdom. It’s important for a band to be able to adapt to anything that comes their way. This is just another one of those things. We unfortunately had a few shows so far get canceled due to this ongoing pandemic, and our fans are very bummed. We are completely unsure as to when we will be back onstage so we thought, what better way to give our fans what they want while also getting our fix and lifting our spirits than to do an online performance. We contemplated on doing a full band show, but Rey and I decided for now it was best to do a stripped down acoustic show just for something different, and fortunately people loved it!
AM: Do you think live streams, being more convenient and certainly cheaper, might actually replace the “real” live performances one day?
KF: This question scares me, because I can certainly hope not! It’s very far-fetched but anything is possible I suppose. I highly doubt it, but what I do think is that it will be something that musicians will start incorporating more often, because people genuinely do enjoy it. It’s a whole new way to see some of your favorite musicians do a show in a different manor. Almost like they are playing right in your living room for you. Now, the reason why I do not believe this will ultimately take over live shows is that you simply cannot beat a LIVE performance. Especially for Rock’n’Roll! The full production, the crowd, the energy, the lights, the sound, the screaming, etc. There’s just zero comparison. Not to mention there’s really no money to be made for musicians in an online format unless the fans tip the band, which is not practical.
AM: Still, it wasn’t the first time you’ve actually played acoustic. The unplugged gigs are often hailed as more genuine and intimate, and many artists prefer them to the regular gigs – do you?
KF: We do very much enjoy the acoustic shows. They are certainly not for everyone, but I myself thoroughly look forward to them. I believe the reason is because they are just different. They allow me to talk to the crowd a bit more with more of their attention. They allow me to share stories, and it also allows me to profile my vocal ability a bit better. A lot of the times the drums, amps, etc. can tend to overshadow a singers vocal ability. My full ability vocally tends to shine a bit more in these performances for that reason, but also because I am not exerting myself by running around, jumping, etc. I am just sitting there and solely focusing on breathing, and the proper vocal techniques. I cannot say, however that I prefer them to our full live shows. Those are unbeatable. There’s just something about that down and dirty rock show that is unbeatable.
AM: In 2019, you’ve released your first self-titled album. Looking back, are you satisfied with the result? What is the feedback you’ve received so far?
KF: I was very pleased with our full album release in 2019. It was a very good experience. The only downside I would say was we didn’t have enough time to really let the songs dissect, or process as a band and come back to them. We spent a few weeks overall in Memphis, TN. going back and forth to Michigan, but it would have been ideal to be able to sit on the songs, and come back to make changes necessary if we felt as though we needed to. Most bands spend months to even years on a single album. We did ours in weeks. Some of the tracks personally felt a bit rushed to me. I would have done some things differently vocally, or even as a band. I was vocally fatigued attempting different things and ideas over and over so there were times where I had an idea vocally for a track but then it just wouldn’t work out. Not of all of the songs were completely done when we got to the recording studio. Some were reworked completely which was good and bad. Overall, the reception has been amazing however. We’ve gotten stellar reviews, and our fans absolutely love the style. We get requests for albums all the time from fans all over the country.
AM: Having more actual experience in playing live than recording, which do you prefer more?
KF: Personally, I prefer playing live over recording, but that’s not to say that I don’t enjoy the recording process. That is a magic that I think every single musician needs to experience. And I don’t mean just record a song on your MacBook. I mean really go to a full professional studio and get it done. It is so fun to make music together and hear how it comes out. Nothing beats playing live though. Feeding off the crowd is a high that you can’t beat.
AM: What was the songwriting process behind making this album like?
KF: The songwriting process was mainly rough drafts written by Kevin Turner (bassist), and then we would get together during rehearsal and nitpick at the songs. Really go through them and workout parts. Kevin would then record them as either full band recordings or just instrumental for certain tracks and send them to me, and I would then write lyrics to some of them. Other tracks already had lyrics written by Kevin. We would really try to focus on that 80’s style with our songwriting. Big riffs/choruses, party anthems, but also songs that had a real message to them. Once we got to Memphis, TN. to record, we really dissected the drafts we had and fine tuned them with our Producer and as a band. Some of the songs hardly changed at all, and some changed quite a bit. Once we were able to have that energy together as band, the ideas just flowed like crazy. It was truly amazing.
AM: Your album is dubbed a perfect summer party soundtrack, and I won’t even argue. With all the changes happening all over the world – more people actually choosing to live clean than ever before – do you think such party anthems still resonate with the general audience?
KF: I truly believe that people miss the 80’s music. There’s a big reason that the music from that era is making such a huge comeback, but also seems to never die. You can hear those anthems and people never grow tired of them. Nowadays, the more “modern rock music” seems to just come and go. It’s good, no doubt. But people just seem to forget about it so quickly, like it doesn’t have that substance like the ’80s music did. I feel as though everyone is so serious all the time now, like everyone is just so on edge. People miss the days of letting their hair down and just rocking out. And now there’s a whole generation (AKA us guys) of people who never got to experience that. We want to bring that back with a modern twist. We don’t literally endorse or indulge in the activity we sing about in some of the tracks, but it’s a toast to the days of the ’80s, the parties and fun that our favorite bands from that era sang about.
AM: Alongside all those party anthems, there are also more personal moments on the album, such as “Mother Mary”. Are you comfortable opening up in front of the audience this much and do you find the experience cathartic?
KF: It was my dream and goal to write a song in tribute to my Mom once she died. It took awhile but I was so happy to be able to have done that in this first album. Obviously our influence is the ’80s, and so many’ 80s bands write love ballads. We didn’t want to do that with this album. We didn’t want that cliche love ballad just to have it. Even though “Mother Mary” didn’t really fit the theme of the album, I knew I wanted to put it in there, and I am glad I did. I’ve always been very expressive of my emotions. It’s never been difficult for me to share them with others, and when this track was released, it was astonishing as to how much positive reception I received from others claiming how hard it hit home with them. How much it helped them with their own grieving when they lost their Mother or even another loved one. When I hear those things, there is no better feeling than knowing my lyrics helped someone.
AM: There are some overtly modern vibes to some of the songs on the album as well, “My Life” or Funk-ish “Rollin” being some of the examples. What do you think about the contemporary Rock music, its quality and place in the world?
KF: “My Life” and “Rollin” both were tracks that really had some meaning behind them. “My Life” was really about not letting people control you, and to make your life become whatever you feel like you’re meant to be. I believe that a lot of contemporary Rock Music is good overall. I really do enjoy a lot of newer bands and music, but the problem is like I was saying before. Nothing seems to stick with you. Like it comes and goes. Im really unsure as to why this is. I feel as though a lot of songs are bit too overproduced or too commercial, this may be one of the reasons. Maybe musicians are running out of ideas, or inspiration as to what to write about. I really believe that one of the main reasons as to why the music back in the day has stood the test of time and has been arguably so much better that modern music is because of technology. I truly believe that technology has acted as such a distraction to people/musicians that it’s gotten in the way of creativity. So often back in the day, bands would completely seclude themselves for months to write an album. They would just run off the grid and write an incredible album. Almost like an Author does with a book. I think this has something to do with why Modern music doesn’t tend to resinate as well. This isn’t to say that modern rock/music isn’t good. But it will never compare to what Rock used to be.
AM: Mötley Crüe was certainly a band to stick to the young listener and resonate withto your social media, you cite Motley Crue to be your main inspiration. What kind of influence did they exert over you and subsequently, the band?
KF: Mötley Crüe was the first concert I ever attended when I was a junior in High School. At that point in time, I had really gotten into Rock’N’Roll, and for some reason Mötley Crüe just stood out to me over the other bands. It was something to do with their songwriting, their image and rebellion side. So when they were set to come to my city of Grand Rapids, my buddy and I immediately got tickets. That day I skipped basketball practice to get there early and be front row in the pit. It was the most incredible experience of my life, and it changed my life. I just right away knew that I had to focus on music, and make music my path. Ever since then, Mötley Crüe’s style has always been my favorite. Coincidentally when I united with the guys of Trixy Tang, they all loved the Crüe as well so it worked out nicely.
AM: Although it’s been less than a year from your debut album’s release days, you’ve already hinted at the sophomore effort being in the pipeline all across the band’s social media. Is it in the works indeed, and how different do you think it will be from the previous one?
KF: We are very much excited for our next album. It will be interesting to see how close/different it is from the first album but in my early opinion it’ll be similar and different at the same time. We made our mark on the first album, now it’s time to follow up with something even better. We have a lot to say, these tracks in this follow up album may be more story telling, more of a powerful message, etc. We are very early on the writing process so it’s tough to say. Needless to say we are excited though!
AM: Alongside making your own music, Trixy Tang is also a live cover band. Do you treat those gigs as means of making money, or is there also the tribute element to it?
KF: We began as a cover band early on, yes. The bright side of it was that I was able to develop my skills early on while learning the ins and outs of performing. I didn’t even know a single thing about how to perform, it was all brand new, but all I truly knew was that I loved every minute of it and focused on how to develop my craft. Eventually overtime the lineup shifted to what it is today, and we then began writing music which was my ultimate goal from day one. However we still to this day maintain the cover band aspect for a large portion of our shows. This isn’t ideal for us and we would ultimately prefer to play our own music all the time, but it’s a way to stay on top of our game, and earn good money while doing it. This allows us to fund our recording, merch, etc. without having to come up with those costs on our own. Unfortunately there’s just not a huge market for original bands where we are at. There just aren’t very many Venues that strictly thrive on live original music, unless they bring in National Acts, which is a great thing and we often times open for National Acts. We love that because it’s a way for us to get our music out there more effectively. We hope that soon we can land a major tour with a major act and currently we are weaning out the cover band shows off of our schedule so we can begin to focus more on our next album.
AM: There are plenty of ’80s Rock staples in Trixy Tang’s live repertoire, from Ratt to Bryan Adams. Is there a song you’ d never include in your setlist for some reason, even if it was in high demand from the audience?
KF: That’s a great question. We often times get labeled as an ’80s cover band also. Even though when we do play cover shows, we tend to span all sorts of genres. I’ve gotten requests to do “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey for years and I will never in my life perform it. That song makes me want to puke when I hear it come on. Not because it’s a bad song necessarily, but it’s SO overplayed, and every bar you walk into, the band is playing it. I never understood the hype behind that song.
AM: Not a big fan of it too (laughs) Out of all the notable Hard Rock acts you’ve ever shared the stage with, who do you have the fondest memories of?
KF: We have been so fortunate to have shared bills with huge name acts over the years. Out of all of them, my favorite would have to be Stryper. Not because our performance was any different or memorable, but because they were so friendly. They treated us so well. A funny time was when we opened for Dokken in Detroit. Don Dokken was upset at the sound tech and blamed the opening bands for being “shit bands” and ruining his sound. Basically it was his escape and excuse for sucking ass himself. Ever since then I can’t stand Don Dokken, but I’ve always like their music.
AM: How do you see Trixy Tang’s future in 5 or 10 years from now? Do you plan to focus on your own material more in the future?
KF: What I see and what we are planning for is to record this next album and from there on go on a major tour. We’re unsure as to who we will go tour with of course, but we’re anticipating it will be one the major ’80s acts, so it’ll be a good fit with us. From then on we will continue to grow as songwriters, musicians, and as bandmates. We really are a family in this band and that is important. We really enjoy each other’s company and love performing live. We also intend on landing a Record Deal in the near future and continuing to put out new material, music videos, etc. Rock’N’Roll is making a major comeback and Trixy Tang will be right there with everyone!