PHOTOS / SHANNA FISHER
STORY / Britt Perkins
“When you gonna go hooch? They all do. It’s just a matter of time.”
As Carah Faye, female lead vocalist of Shiny Toy Guns, relays the words of one particularly blunt PR exec, it’s hard to believe a girl who just got skeleton hands throwing up the LA gang sign tattooed her left arm is going to go hooch. Faye has a mind of her own. A mind that led her to leave Shiny Toy Guns in 2007 for reasons most simply explained as breakdowns in communication.
“When you have nothing, all of a sudden you have to do everything. And it really just pushes you,” Faye said. “And I grew so much in that whole experience… In retrospect, I’m very thankful for that opportunity…even though it was one of the most traumatic things I’ve ever been through.”
October’s release of the latest Shiny Toy Guns album, III, is the first release featuring Faye as female lead vocalist since We Are Pilots in 2006. While Season of Poison was released in 2008 without Faye, the presence of female vocalist Sisely Treasure was confusing to many We Are Pilots fans.
During Faye’s absence, she started a new life in Sweden, continuing to write music and perform with her then-partner Daniel Johannson, whom she met while he was sound engineer for Shiny Toy Guns.
When Jeremy Dawson, keys and bass of STG, proposed a trip to Sweden to visit Faye in 2010, she resisted at first.
“Not because I didn’t want to see him, but in my mind, it was just done,” Faye said. “That part of my life was over.”
However, the sincere desire to have her back in the band won Faye over.
“We all grew up. We had three or four years to sort of dwell on what we had done wrong,” Faye said. “There were a lot of drugs and alcohol, not on my part, and that wasn’t going on when I came back. They basically said, ‘Hey, we’re not going to do another album if it’s not with you.’”
In a move worthy of the drama of a breakup and reunion, the band opted against a short, lackluster blog announcement of their plans to release a new album with Faye. Instead a countdown clock on their website led up to the release of a short film on February 11, 2011, illustrating four souls lost in a desert of snow, each trekking the wilderness looking for their counterparts. Faye explained the shoot, which took place in Mammoth, CA, was the first time all four members of the band, Carah Faye, Jeremy Dawson, Chad Petree and Mikey Martin, were together since the breakup.
Faye says the basis of the band’s current relationship, while never perfect like any other relationship, is based on communication, and the band has a deep commitment to making sure unhealthy tensions are talked over and resolved.
III is a relaunch of what was started years ago but is a new creation not based on past successes for its direction, according to Faye.
“What we didn’t want to do was make We Are Pilots 2.0,” Faye said.
Faye says the process was a natural direction for the band and unlike We Are Pilots, Faye played a key role in songwriting.
“We did our best to make a well-rounded album. Kind of one that took you on a journey and then dropped you off somewhere,” Faye said. “I like to keep things positive so I like to bring things up, but we are super dramatic so we love to take it down. I like the album as a journey. I hate the thought of writing a single or two and then filler songs.”
III echoes the dance/synth sensibilities of Pilots and the voices of Faye and Petree play together like old friends reunited. III expresses more maturity and flexibility with a mellowness that still carries the energy STG became known for with We Are Pilots.
Both albums hook listeners from the start with infectious dance beats, but whereas Pilots hails to more aggressive, emo gods, III has the balance to present ballads with more meaning and a pleasantly nostalgic nod to some of the greats from the 80s and 90s (see “Fading Listening”).
“Somewhere to Hide” is the albums strongest classic STG track and best choice as an introduction to III. “Speaking Japanese” is a throwback to Faye’s hard, sexual tone in “Le Disko.” You really can’t go wrong with a song featuring a girl’s name and “Carrie” is no different.
Overall, III is a smooth, climatic album that begins fast, slows things down and then ends with a warming, expansive outlook on the future.
If being hooch is expressing relief and gratitude, then maybe Carah Faye is taking that route.
“We’re just so thankful to the people who hung in there and still believed in us. The people who waited.”