Trixy Tang founder and frontman Klay Fennema Interview

INTERVIEW WITH TRIXY TANG FOUNDER AND FRONTMAN KLAY FENNEMA
Date: March 18, 2020
Interviewer: Olivier

TRIXY TANG HAIL FROM THE GREAT STATE OF MICHIGAN IN THE USA AND CONSIST OF BAND FOUNDER AND FRONTMAN KLAY FENNEMA, BASSIST KEVIN TURNER, GUITARIST REY HERNANDEZ AND DRUMMER CHRIS RAJT. THE GROUP IS LITERALLY ONE OF THE HARDEST WORKING INDEPENDENT BANDS OUT THERE PLAYING JUST ABOUT EVERY WEEKEND SOMEWHERE IN THE STATE OF MICHIGAN. I’VE KNOWN ABOUT TRIXY TANG SINCE IN OR ABOUT MARCH 2018 BUT IT WASN’T UNTIL I LISTENED TO THEIR DEBUT FULL-LENGTH SELF-TITLED ALBUM IN NOVEMBER 2019 (WHICH LANDED THE #10 SPOT ON THE SLEAZE ROXX’S TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2019) THAT I REALLY TOOK NOTICE OF THE BAND’S KILLER MUSIC. I CAUGHT UP WITH FRONTMAN KLAY FENNEMA WHO PROVIDED SOME REFRESHING INSIGHTS AND PROVIDED A GLIMPSE OF JUST HOW DRIVEN HE IS TO GO TO THE NEXT LEVEL WITH HIS BANDMATES.

Sleaze Roxx: Thank you very much for doing the interview. I guess that the first thing that I should ask is how has the Coronavirus [COVID-19 Virus] impacted Trixy Tang?

Klay Fennema: Well, it looks like the next couple of weeks at least, until we hear anything further, have been cancelled. We’re used to playing every single week anyways so having a couple of weeks break isn’t that big of a deal for me. It’s not a problem to step back for a minute.

Sleaze Roxx: Yeah. And I actually wanted to speak to you about that. I reviewed your [full-length self-titled] album back in December [2019] and I went in to check how many shows that you had booked, I was shocked to see that you had almost a full year booked in advance. How come Trixy Tang is such a hard working band that plays so many shows?

Klay Fennema: Yeah. Fortunately, the music scene is really good where we live [state of Michigan in the USA] and we’re able to just stay busy all the time. Most of the time unfortunately, we have to play a four-hour night where we’re not doing solely our own music. So we have to play cover nights and what not but it is what it is. We’re able to stay relevant that way and keep practicing while promoting our own music. That way throughout the night, we’re able to sell our own album and play our own songs. So that’s good. But you know, I mean there’s always good — we have a lot of good connections and we’ve been doing it for so long that we’re able to get a lot of good shows.

Sleaze Roxx: Now I understand that you guys started as a cover band, and it was you and a bunch of other guys. I guess high school buddies. Is that how it started?

Klay Fennema: Yeah, exactly. We ended up doing a talent show when I was a senior in high school. It was the first time that I even played music. I never ever did anything band related before and the idea kind of just fell into our lap. I gathered some friends to do the show and the next thing I knew, I was like, ‘Oh my God! I cannot not do this anymore.’ It was like a drug and I just wanted to keep playing. So eventually over the years, those guys went their own paths and went off to school and things of that nature. I ended up gathering new guys, just because I wanted to keep it going and I felt like I had something that I wanted to prove. I wanted to go all in for this dream and I finally met the guys that kind of mesh with me very well, and those are the guys that are in the band with me now. It’s a long road but it’s awesome.

Sleaze Roxx: Cool! So how did the other guys end up joining the band?

Klay Fennema: Basically, my bass player [Kevin Turner] — he was in the same type of cover band scene — and just kind of floating through and really not enjoying what he was doing but doing it to play music. He noticed what I was doing and he noticed my popularity going up and noticed that I wanted to do something bigger than what I was doing. He kind of messaged me out on a whim and said, ‘Hey! If you ever need a new bass player, I am your man. I want to do what you’re doing.’ It was really weird at first because I never got a message like that [laughs] from somebody that I hadn’t even met.

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]

Klay Fennema: But it was like destiny. It was like I looked at this guy over. I checked over his stage and music and thought, ‘Man, this might work.’ And I did not like who was in my band at the time. I mean, it just wasn’t going well and they just did not have the same dreams I did. But man, I was like two minutes away from quitting. I just really wanted to be done with it. I couldn’t handle it. I decided to contact him [Kevin] and he was excited, we met and I said, ‘We need a guitar player. Who can we get? I want to revamp this entire line-up.’ We heard of this young prodigy. It was Rey [Hernandez]. He was 19 and playing the same scene that we were playing and we were like, ‘Man, this kid is the real deal. He’s 19 and he’s playing like he’s been doing it for 50 years.’ He was real soulful. He had this real old soul look about him — the way he could play. We knew that he wanted to do something big, that he just didn’t want to play for fun. We contacted him out of the blue and we all met, and just said, ‘Let’s do this.’ So I pretty much did an overhaul on the line-up in my band. Those guys were pissed but…

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] OK…

Klay Fennema: You know what, band members come and go. It is what it is. So those guys jumped on it and we had a different drummer at the time. He was really not on the same page but you know, it is what it is. We played our first gig with Warrant in Detroit [in March 2017] and it was like magic. And then, to make a long story short, I had a drummer fill in for me on a night that I was opening for Dokken and his name is Chris [Rajt]. He was also a 20, 21 year old kid. Same deal. I told him, ‘Hey man, I think you and I can really do something t0gether. If I ever get rid of my drummer’ — and my drummer at the time, he was a lot older than all of us and we knew that he didn’t really want the longevity here, like the long haul we wanted so we figured it was a means to an end anyways. So I said, ‘Listen if I ever get rid of my drummer, if he ever leaves, I’m going to let you know and please come and join our band.’ So, that’s what happened.

Trixy Tang‘s “Fade Away” live video:

Trixy Tang – Fade Away (Official Live Video)

Official live music video for the new song “Fade Away”. Filmed at Park Theatre in Holland, MI by White Knuckle Films.

Sleaze Roxx: So how did you break it to your previous band members that ‘Hey! You guys are no longer in the band. I’m doing this with the new guys.’?

Klay Fennema: Well, I kind of did it — I did it very nicely but kind of in a jerk way because the way I did it, I practiced with the new guys who are in my band now. I was practicing with them for three months before I even told my band members at the time. I knew that if I told my band members at the time that ‘You’re out’, I had all these shows that I had to play and I wanted to be ready with my other guys…

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] OK.

Klay Fennema: …to take over all the shows. [I was thinking,] ‘I have to be strategic on this. I can’t just fire these guys and then all of a sudden, not have a band be ready and have to cancel shows.’ I knew that they would say ‘Screw off’ and leave. [Laughs] So I just told them, ‘Listen guys, it’s just not really working. I want to write music. I don’t want to play these shows like this anymore really. I want to do bigger and better things. It’s understandable if you guys don’t want to so I got to go this other route.’ And they understood. They were salty at first but now we’re all friends and it’s all good.

Sleaze Roxx: That’s good. The guys that you ended up ditching for a lack of a better word, were they the original guys or already different players from the original ones?

Klay Fennema: Those were already different guys. The original line-up was my high school buddies and one other guy that I met in college. It shifted from then on to another line-up in between so those guys were in between the originals and the current — the ones that I had to let go. We didn’t do any original music with those guys. It was literally playing covers. We were just a covers band at that time. It was nothing more than that.

Sleaze Roxx: So is it when Kevin and Rey got in the line-up that you started doing original material?

Klay Fennema: Exactly. We did try to do something before but it was not clicking. So once they [Kevin and Rey] got into the band, that’s when we had our formula down. We started writing together and that’s when it hit.

Sleaze Roxx: Cool! You released an EP a couple of years ago. What made you decide to go with the EP rather than the full-length that you have now?

Klay Fennema: Kind of just because we wanted to get our foot in the door with our style and how we wanted to write music. We had never really done it before, especially all together. Each of the guys had kind of dabbled in writing music and released some CDs in the past but you know, it wasn’t anything real major. We had this fame already where Trixy Tang was a big name in the local scene. We really wanted to change what everybody thought of us. Everybody looked at us as strictly a cover band playing ’80s music. We’re this, we’re that but there was always this talk of, ‘When are you guys going to write your own music?’ We knew that’s what we wanted to do. There’s a lot of expectations behind us to put out something really good. We can’t just throw this in our basement and do garage band on our computer and put out a mediocre album.

Trixy Tang circa 2014

So we were like, ‘How can we really get our foot in the door and really make a footprint on this?’ So we basically decided we need to find a good producer. We need to leave the scene if we have to and let’s just — as quickly as we can but also as well as we can — write a few to three to four really good songs that will just be like ‘Holy cow!’ Blow people away and [have people] go, ‘This is really good. We want more.’ So we didn’t want to sit together and write music for a year or two years. We had a little bit of urgency behind it. So we were like, ‘We’ve got to go do this.’ So it was that missed with money. It’s not cheap to record an album professionally. So we were going, ‘Let’s do this economically and let’s also get it done quickly.’

Sleaze Roxx: The four songs that are on the EP, are those the first ones that you wrote or were they the best ones that you had at the time?

Klay Fennema: No. Those were the only ones that we wrote. I think that maybe we had one or two more that were really rough demos that never really had vocals or anything but we just chose to go the other route. Those were our strongest so pretty much, those are the only ones. Yeah.

Sleaze Roxx: So when I listen to the song “Sunday Cruisin'”, it seems like it’s got a real hit potential. Maybe 30 years ago, it would be a breakout hit but because of the music environment that we are on right now, it seems that it’s not getting its due or the credit that it should get. What are your feelings on that?

Klay Fennema: Yeah. You could not have worded that any better because exactly what you have just asked is what we all sat down with each other and questioned ourselves. It’s like ‘Sunday Cruisin'” wasn’t necessarily a song that, something that we love together. It’s not really our style per say but we had this idea when we wrote it when we brought it to our producer. And it was like, ‘OK, this might not really be our style and what we want to be known for because it’s a softer song and it’s kind of pop-ish. You

Trixy Tang circa 2015

know, we’re more hard rock and ’80s driven. We all liked this song and we all liked what it could do. It can be a hit. At least it can get our name out there and do something for us. So we were like, ‘OK. Let’s see what we can do.’ And we were really surprised. Our producer talked to us about how it had this big hit potential. It could be on a commercial. It could be on a movie. There’s a lot of things it can do. It sounds like a country artist just put it out.

We’re like, ‘How can we put this out there without — exactly like you said — having a record label pushing it or not being on any radio stations. It was getting some airplay locally, regionally and even a little bit out of state [out of the state of Michigan] but nothing major so we decided to put out a music video. There’s no better way to get a song out there then put a music video to it and that got a lot of traction behind it. It had about 2,000 views the first week and we’re just going, ‘How can we get this out there to the nation?’ Because like you said, we had no idea how to do it and still to this day, everybody asks us to play it every time we play a show. It’s our most requested song. I mean, I hear people playing it all the time, on the summer, on their boat. I’m just like, ‘Someone has got to pick this up.’ And I am thinking to myself, ‘Maybe someday it will be a hit.’ In one year, two years later, who knows?

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Exactly. It’s a great song. At first, I wasn’t warmed up to it but the more I listen to it, the more I’m thinking, ‘Wow! This is just a fantastic song!’

Klay Fennema: Thank you so much!

Trixy Tang‘s “Sunday Cruisin'” video:

Trixy Tang – Sunday Cruisin’ (Official Video)

From the new EP Sunday Cruisin’ available now! Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/5GjLxPJxgaIZ6jnQAhWjv4 Site: https://www.trixytang.com Video by White…

Sleaze Roxx: No problem. It terms of your album, when I listen to it — when I listen to one or two songs — it didn’t really hit me but when I listened to the whole album, I was like, ‘Holy shit! This is a great album!’ How do you feel about it in that one or two of the songs don’t stick out that much aside from “Sunday Cruisin'” but when you listen to the whole thing, it’s a great hard rock album?

Klay Fennema: Yeah. Honestly, the way I gaged it was this is an album that I would listen to if I had no idea who this band was. So I like every song on the album. I like some songs more than others but I’m going, ‘Man, I could dig this.’ I listen to it in my car every now and then. I know a lot of musicians don’t listen to their own music but I like jamming to it when I’m driving every now and again, when I’m working out. The way I can see it is there are so many bands nowadays that put out music — rock bands especially, country, whatever it is. Everything sounds the same and I got so tired of that standard progressive rock where you hear it on the radio, and it’s all the same. It’s good but it doesn’t really stick to you. You forget. You hear it a couple of times and you totally forget whatever they said, whatever the song is about. And I was like, ‘I want to write songs that stick with you and that have big choruses just like the ’80s’ you know? This music from the ’80s just never gets old and you just constantly want to listen to it. You just don’t get tired of it. And I’m like, ‘I want to have some meaning behind it. Really bring back that style but do it with a modern twist.’

Trixy Tang circa 2016

And you know, that’s exactly what we did I think. We kind of really brought back that style and I love how the album has a lot of different styles to it. One song sounds like Alice In Chains. One song sounds like a mixture of Metallica and somebody else. It’s really different and can appeal to a lot of audiences. If I’m being perfectly honest, I think that there’s a song or two that we really rushed a little bit. I don’t feel like I really like the way it came out as much as it could of. I had different ideas but you know, a lot of artists understand that in the studio, you only have so much time — a week or two when you’re trying to get this done — with a budget. If you’re on a time crunch, let’s say for instance that your voice is not feeling the best, you’re sick or you’re just fatigued, you can’t sing a song exactly how you envisioned it. You can’t be like, “OK. I’m going to come back in a month, really give my voice a rest and then nail it.’ It’s like you don’t have that luxury. It’s not sitting in your basement — your studio — and you have to get it done so [for] a couple of the tracks, I just got very frustrated and I went, ‘You know what? I’m not going to sing it like I thought I would. I’m going to sing it differently.’ It’s still turned out well but not like I hoped. It is what it is but that’s kind of how I feel about it.

Sleaze Roxx: So which songs are the ones that you’re not as happy about?

Klay Fennema: Kind of like “Rock Me Pop Me.” It’s a song that I had a really different hope for. We wrote that song — we had that song written well before we got to the recording studio but we didn’t have the lyrics written until the day of. So I had this vision of singing it more Stryper style , very melodic and big vocals. And I went, ‘OK. I’m really not feeling it. I’m going to sing it a little bit more like Taime Downe, Faster Pussycat style. It’s going to be different and it did not work like I wanted it to. Like I said, it was still good and there was probably another one like “Rollin.” I like that one. It’s got a more James Hetfield of Metallica, kind of drive style but I had a different thought for that one too but it is what it is.

Sleaze Roxx: Fair enough. The band name Trixy Tang — how did that come about?

Klay Fennema: That’s kind of a funny story actually. That was well before the band ever was even a thing. I was sitting in my living room watching TV with my old drummer, my best friend from high school who was the original drummer. We were just sitting there. We had a little band going at the time. I think it was actually the talent show, like I was telling you how we started. We were watching ‘The Fairly OddParents.’ It’s this cartoon from when we were in middle school, in high school. We loved — we were huge hair band freaks back then. And we were like, ‘Here’s Trixie Tang.’ She was the girl on the show. I’m like, ‘Trixy Tang. That sounds so ’80s. It sounds like Cinderella or one of those band names from the ’80s.’ I was like, ‘If we ever start a band, and change our name, it’s gonna be Trixy Tang. It just sounds so ’80s!’ And he was like, ‘Yeah. Sounds good.’ And that was history right there [laughs]. Next thing I knew, I’m like, ‘Yup. Changing it to that [laughs].’ That’s it!

Sleaze Roxx: That’s cool! Speaking of the band name, why did you decide just not to rename the band when you got Kevin [Turner] and Rey [Hernandez] in the band rather than stick with the Trixy Tang name, which was associated with cover songs, right?

Klay Fennema: Yeah. That’s actually a very good question. That’s interesting because I had thought of that at the time. I guess that the best way that I can answer it is we had made a name for ourselves and people knew who we were and we didn’t really do anything big before the guys got into the band. So, had we released albums with the old band members, then I may have considered changing the name more so, but since we were just doing cover shows and just playing regionally and not doing anything major, I thought, ‘Well, people already know the name. Instead of revamping everything, I can just kind of start from here.’ People will not really even notice or care. And that’s kind of how it worked but it is interesting because I thought of doing that — fresh start — but I was like, ‘You know what, screw it! I’m just going to keep what I’ve got and keep the brand, the booking places — they already know who we are.’ So let’s just keep it simple.

Sleaze Roxx: So obviously, you guys play a lot in the Michigan state. Have you guys played out of state and if so, how far?

Klay Fennema: Yes, we have. We’ve gone to Florida. That was a couple of years back for a spring break thing. We play in Indiana, the mid-west there quite a bit, but like you said, we play in Michigan mostly. It’s a matter of connections. It’s really all it is. We want so badly to get on major tour or to find somebody to book us out travelling and playing in all those places. It’s just a matter of who. I manage the band 100%. I don’t have anybody that helps me. I don’t have any agency or anyone or staff that I work with on a big scale so it’s just a matter that I don’t know how to. I don’t know how to get out to certain places. You reach out and they don’t get back to you. We want to figure out how to get to places. We’ve had messages. ‘When are you guys going to come to Pennsylvania?’ ‘You guys going to come here, there?’ I have no clue. I don’t know how to [laughs].

Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Fair enough. I think you guys would be an amazing package, like opening for a band like Steel Panther. I think that would be just an amazing thing to see.

Klay Fennema: Totally!

Sleaze Roxx: What’s that? Totally?

Klay Fennema: Totally man!

Sleaze Roxx: What are your future plans? You released the album last April [2019] I believe. Do you have any new material coming up, and especially with all the downtime that you’re going to have in the next couple of weeks?

Klay Fennema: Yes. We are going to use this time to our advantage. We’ll be sitting down together and really working on the next album. We have a little bit written already, kind of in a rough draft area. But we’re definitely going to be working together on recording and probably going back to the same producer [Justin Rimer] we used before. We’re not entirely sure. We are weighing

Trixy Tang — current line-up

out our options at the moment. But we’re excited! We’re definitely bring out the next album and it’s going to be killer! It’s going to be phenomenal. We’re not sure of the direction that we’re going to take. It’s going to be similar style absolutely but it’s going to be really good. We’re very excited! And we have a big show coming up with Krokus in the fall [at the Token Lounge in Westland, Michigan, USA on September 30, 2020] so we’re thinking by then, we should have the entire album done. We’re not sure if it will be recorded but we’ll be done with it more than likely and then we can debut some songs that might or something.

Sleaze Roxx: Cool! Is there anything that we haven’t covered that you’d like to mention?

Klay Fennema: I don’t think so. I think that you actually did a very good job of covering all the bases that we needed to talk about. I appreciate that.

Sleaze Roxx: Great! Last question for you — what are your three all-time favourite albums and why?

Klay Fennema: My number one favourite album is ‘Dr. Feelgood’ [by] Mötley Crüe. That album — 100% — changed my life. A lot of people talk about how that album is not their favourite from Mötley Crüe but for me, it was the best. Every song on the album is awesome. It correlates very well with the style that I like most about Mötley Crüe and it was during their sober era. They were better songwriters and better musicians I think at the time. That was the album that drew me to that band right away. Number two favourite album is definitely ‘Appetite For Destruction.’ That was one of the first albums that I have ever bought. Guns N’ Roses are always going to be very near and dear to my heart. For the little amount that they put out, that first album just blew up and everything from that album, from front to back, every song is amazing. So that’s got to be number two. Number three is probably going to be and it’s an interesting answer. I say Twisted Sister’s ‘Stay Hungry.’

Sleaze Roxx: I love that one!

Klay Fennema: That [laughs] album is awesome and Twisted Sister was one of my favourite bands when I started playing music. We actually covered “We’re Not Gonna Take It” for the talent show. That was actually the first song that we ever did in the band so Twisted Sister is awesome. I’ve never seen them live and I really wanted to see them.

Sleaze Roxx: Yeah. I saw them once way back in 2006. It was part of their Christmas show [tour] and even though it was their Christmas show and they were playing Christmas songs for half the set, it was still one of the best concerts that I’ve ever seen. 

Klay Fennema: That’s awesome!

Sleaze Roxx: They are an amazing live band. So thank you very much for doing the interview.

Trixy Tang‘s “After Party” video:

Trixy Tang – After Party (Official Video)

Official video for “After Party” by Trixy Tang Video by Moondog Productions