Naming your band after anything weapon-like implies a punk ruggedness or merciless speed, but John Lutkevich’s quiet folk rock band, Soft Fangs, snagged an appropriate title. “I made a cat made out of buttons and marshmallows for fangs, and my friend said ‘soft fangs,'” he says when asked about its origins. “I thought it fit the music well.”
It does. Soft Fangs is the type of fragile folk rock that’s hard to imbue with originality, yet Lutkevich pulls it off. He crafts his own form of sad, fragile, distant songwriting that recalls Elliott Smith as much as it does Sparklehorse, a vibe enhanced by recording the lo-fi songs in his parents’ attic. It’s a comfortable melancholy that offers respite from total immersion. “I feel like a lot of kids relate to it,” Lutkevich says, “but my grandfather thought it was good, too.”
After his last band, Devil and a Penny, disbanded, Lutkevich relocated to Brooklyn and tried out his new sound. The last thing he’s looking to do is convert to new standards, no matter what New York City’s scene suggests. “I’m only interested in making or performing things that are very intimate and special to me,” he says. “My goal as a performer is to ‘break through’ every time I play. This may not always happen, or I could be playing to an audience of five unimpressed people, but it doesn’t really matter. If no one is listening, I’ll just play for myself.”
Live, Soft Fangs treads in gloomy water. Armed with a backing band and his guitar, Lutkevich shapes his music to stay warm and approachable despite a vague loneliness pooling at its core, drawing listeners in with an undeniable mood too thick to ignore. Fitz Fest called on Soft Fangs to headliner Sunday’s afternoon acoustic sets. Missing it would be, to say the least, a fool’s mistake.
From the slowcore sigh of “Dog Park” to the odd familiarity of “Point of View”, Soft Fangs scrapes up sounds ideal for fall weather, but summer heat won’t let idle chatter interrupt his live shows. Lutkevich knows how to dodge folk’s pitfalls. “Don’t rip off Dylan (too much), no ‘Whoaa oh oh ohhhh’s,’ no dressing like you’re going to mine coal or just fought in the revolutionary war, and don’t think that playing an acoustic guitar makes you a protest singer,” he says. “Also, don’t play the chord progression to ‘House of the Rising Sun’ at a slower speed and try to tell me you made that up.”
After this tour, he’s looking ahead. Lutkevich’s first full-length is finalized and ready to come to fruition, but that isn’t even the bulk of what’s on his plate. He hits the studio in September to work on his next album. Turns out a man with soft fangs has big eyes, too.
SOFT FANGS W/ HONEYSUCKLE, AMY & THE ENGINE, COUNT AND KING, REBEL IN THE MORNING. O’BRIEN’S PUB, 3 HARVARD AVE., ALLSTON. 617.782.6245. SUN 7.26. 1PM/18+/$15. OBRIENSPUBBOSTON.COM.