It’s unbelievably hard to write a great Cheap Trick song. Just ask the guys in Cheap Trick – even they struggled with it for half of their career. But Jen D’Angora had no problem penning a tune that would fit snugly between “Southern Girls” and “Come On, Come On.”
D’Angora wrote “Takes One to Know One” for her new band, the Shang Hi Los, while thinking about Cheap Trick, and girl groups, and Sonny & Cher, and the Small Faces. Having so many odd (and wonderful) acts in her mind helped D’Angora create a perfect lead off track in “Takes One to Know One” – which begins the Shang Hi Los’ debut LP “Aces Eights & Heartbreaks,” out this month on Rum Bar Records.
“I honestly didn’t think the guys would like the song when I brought it in,” D’Angora told the Herald with a laugh. “So for it to become the lead off track, it makes me love the band even more.”
There’s a lot to love about the Shang Hi Los.
Born right before the pandemic, the band is something of a Boston supergroup. D’Angora came up fronting (or co-fronting) the Dents, the Downbeat 5 and Jenny Dee & The Deelinquents. Her songwriting partner and fellow singer and guitarist in this new act, Dan Kopko, powers Watts. The Neighborhood’s Lee Harrington plays bass and drummer Chuck Ferreira of Eddie Japan (and a dozen other bands) rounds out the quartet.
D’Angora has spent much of her artistic output in specific niches – punk, garage rock, girl group pop. With the Shang Hi Los, she and her bandmates pull it all together and some new twists. “Aces Eights & Heartbreaks” detours into power pop, Spaghetti Western vibes, hard rock and Cheap Trick (a genre unto itself). But taken as a whole, it’s just a great rock ‘n’ roll record that feels free of any specific genre, free of any artifice.
“The direction definitely wasn’t planned, it was completely organic,” D’Angora said ahead of the band’s Feb. 10 release party at Faces Brewing Co in Malden. “I never do anything on purpose. Whenever I write for a purpose, it doesn’t come out well.”
“Everything just comes from what’s inside my head at the time, which is why it’s so bananas,” she added with a laugh.
For “Aces Eights & Heartbreaks,” D’Angora and Kopko wrote together. Collaboration like this wasn’t very familiar to D’Angora but, “once we started working together it was like, ‘Whoa, this is really good, it all just clicked.” As they explored and traded songs, they pushed one another to take lead on lyrics written by the other person. For instance, Kopko sings the D’Angora-penned “Takes One to Know One.”
“Dan and I just know instinctively who should be lead on a song,” she said. “He wrote a couple and said, ‘You have to sing these.’ When I wrote, ‘Takes One to Know One,’ it was pretty obvious that Dan needed to sing it. I love that about working with Dan, we’re on the same page so much of the time.”
The Shang Hi Los should take some time to enjoy the rock glory of “Aces Eights & Heartbreaks.” But not too much time. When it feels right, when it happens organically, the band needs to keep the music coming. And – without writing toward a specific sound – maybe keep those Cheap Trick, Ronettes and Small Faces LPs spinning in the background. #
For tickets and details, visit facesbrewing.com.