Heart, Annie Lennox, Pat Benatar, the Bangles: Beloved female artists of the ‘80s/early ‘90s always manage to evoke female empowerment with their catchy pop-rock choruses. Bat Fangs may remind listeners of that ilk—only with a bit more edge at the seams. Yet patriarchal layers of influences can be heard on their self-titled EP (released February 2018), too, from ‘80s hair-metal bands like Guns N’ Roses and Black Sabbath.
“With [Bat Fangs] I was really feeling anything that was on Casey Kasem’s Top 40 from 1985-1988,” lead singer Betsy Wright (guitar, bass) says. “I listened to it every week on my Walkman. It was the fabric of my existence, besides The Beatles, were constantly on the record player at our house.”
Wright and drummer Laura King (The Flesh Wounds) make up the femme powerhouse group, Bat Fangs. They will play Reggies 42nd Street Tavern on Thursday with Museum Mouth. “We will be at the end of a month-long tour, so we promise to bring the real rock ‘n’ roll,” Wright says.
Wright’s electric guitar was traded for a bass in Ex Hex, a three-piece female-rock group based in D.C. She easily fell back into her preferred Bat Fangs instrument. In fact, while she enjoyed playing bass, there were more growing pains that came with it.
“I love playing guitar and it’s super fun to get to do that in this band,” she tells. “I’ve been playing since I was young and I’ve always been more focused on guitar than bass, so it was more natural.”
Bat Fangs is fun for Wright. She and King share a palpable dynamic on stage, but audiences are brought in closer to the music throughout their sets, too. “We definitely interact with each other,” she describes. “We are listening, singing and playing together. I try to let the audience in by telling a little bit about the songs and rocking with them.”
Bat Fangs is a long-distance collaboration, too. While Wright resides in D.C., King is in Carrboro, North Carolina. Seeds of songs started to grow nightly as Wright penned lyrics and recorded demos in her D.C. apartment to send to King.
“I went down to NC and we jammed on stuff until it felt like it clicked,” she continues. “We rearranged songs, added parts and developed them over several weekends before heading to the studio.”
Despite the distance, with fewer cooks in the kitchen, the two write and develop songs with ease. Even the business side of things and making decisions are easy between two main players, as opposed to three or four people. Nevertheless, they do have bassist Aaron Deal (of the metal band Darkest Hour) play their live shows for a more complete sound.
“We’ve tried playing as a two-piece [live], and it was a little too bare bones,” Wright admits. “The songs were written with a bass part in mind so we need that live. We are super lucky to have Aaron with us on this tour.”
Yet, Bat Fangs’ sound isn’t lacking on their debut EP. Recorded with Don Giovanni Records, songs like “Static” and “Boy of Summer” embody more classic pop-rock nuggets. “Boy of Summer” was inspired by early Beach Boys, and centers around shallow boys and driving around all summer long with friends. “Static” quickly continues with a rockin’ surf riff down the halfpipe.
“‘Wolfbite’ is a love song,” Wright describes of another track. “It’s about someone who’s got their fangs in you so deep you’re basically under their spell. They bit you and now you’re becoming a creature of the night, someone you don’t recognize. They’ve turned your world upside down; they’ve turned your day into night.”
Folks at Reggie’s mostly can expect songs from the self-titled album, as well as a few new songs with a hint to a special cover track. “We’re kicking around some song ideas [for another album],” she divulges, “but for now we are focused on playing shows for the rest of the year!”