Like some kind of gang symbol, Red Fox's name takes on various illustrated forms, yet retains its meaning no matter the iteration or spelling: the sick and mighty local punk band fronted by singer Krystyna Haberman. A clean slate of a singer with no prior band experience, Haberman has chiseled her voice into a sharp instrument of what she calls "white magic," even as the rest of the band has expanded into ever further realms of crunch-punk, plotting the sonic astrology for its new album, Year of the Rat.
"Red Fox is a gang. We have to be clear on that," says bassist Josh Mator (formerly of Crooked Grind and Douche Locators). The gang, which has earned a reputation as pugilistic punks, recently recruited fleet-fingered guitarist Mychael Smith (formerly of Pyramid Scheme) when its original guitarist split town less than a year into the band.
"It's not like we go out trying to fight people," says drummer Dave Cristello (ex-Night Terror). "It's just all these hipsters or crazy skinheads try to fight us and we're in the right place at the best time so we get into these awesome fights." Last September, for instance, during a bewildering show at the Brillobox, fireworks popped off indoors and fisticuffs followed outside when Red Fox got tangled up in a sidewalk melee with Japanther.
Considering the trademark posse of "crusty filthies" thrashing front and center at every performance, it's no wonder the band never flinches when faced with a clash. But it's not just boys' fun, because the women in the audience are pulling -- or perhaps pushing -- more than their own weight in the pit, and in combat. "The girls are always the toughest, dirtiest fucks that show up," says Haberman. "They're like an extension of the gang."
Year of the Rat opens with a lick of guitar fuzz before bull-nosed rhythms stampede into the ring. Swerving into the oncoming traffic of "Road Dog Zombies" and kicking through the doors of perception with "Immortal Visions," Red Fox focuses the guitars' thrust around its singer's roughhousing snarl.
"I think what Krystyna's singing has done is it's kept us punk when we could have very easily gone into being more of a stoner metal band," says guitarist Mike Cristello (Awesome Party, ex-Aphasia, ex-Die Screaming, ex-F.L.A.K.). Thanks to his kid brother Dave's drumming and Larry Luther's production techniques at Mr. Smalls' Studios, you'll hear anything but stoner metal on Year of the Rat. Unless, that is, you use the wrong speed setting on your turntable.
"People bought our records and played them on 33" because it's a 12-inch," says Haberman. "They were like, 'You gave us the wrong record. Why is there some fat dude screaming on it?'"
Red Fox with The Black and Whites and Burndowns. 10 p.m. Thu., Nov. 13. Howler's Coyote Café, 4509 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. $5. 412-682-0320