riffs. But the DNA here is similar: free and fun, with enough hooks to hang the audience’s denim jackets. Everyone is still high-fiving everyone; now there are just more people watching. The recording sessions for Major took extra consideration for how the songs would transition to a live set. Fang Island, which started as a class project at the Rhode Island School of Design, had only played a few shows when it went into the studio to make its eponymous debut. As a result, the band had difficulty bringing the ideas on the album to the stage. The Major sessions were different. “We still tend to take a maximum-capacity approach rather than a minimalist one,” Bartell says, “but we learned that we had to play the songs live.”
“There is sadness to overwhelming joy. If you push it far enough, you end up there. That’s usually when the best hooks come out.” —JASON BARTELL The new album sounds like summer, with a mix of bouncy piano, soaring synths, fuzzed guitars, and sing-alongs. Opener “Kindergarten” leads the listener to a happy place, and the rest of the 11 tracks keep him or her there. Positivity comes easily for Fang Island, a group based on friendship, but adding depth to that emotion is more difficult than one might think. “It’s easy to do happy,” Bartell says. “It’s hard to do one notch past that. We try to push the sonic positivity of it so far that it becomes kind of sad again. It’s bittersweet. There is sadness to overwhelming joy. If you push it far enough, you end up there. That’s usually when the best hooks come out.” The New Hampshire native laughs at the absurdity of the explanation. Really, he and the boys just want to play. If people show up, wonderful. If not—well, whatever. Fang Island had few expectations for the 2010 debut, and the two songwriters sound genuinely flattered when they recall the first reviews. Positive sentiment
know your priorities Goals for Fang Island’s new album are, in order: worldwide positivity; worldwide acceptance of the guitar again; earning a trip to Japan. “That is our biggest hope,” guitarist Jason Bartell says seriously of the last one.