It takes a certain kind of band to mashup Joy Division with Harry Nilsson. So when you see that the last track of Tiger Bones’ debut EP Go Over Here is called "Transmission (Nilsson edit)" you know you’re dealing with some guys that cleverly employ their sense of humor with a unique perspective on music. Aside from that, the four piece blends elements of post-punk and surf rock into ominous and brooding garage sounds. So far compared to the Cure, Suicide and Broadcast, among others, this is a band difficult to pin down by association alone.
On the heels of their EP release (out March 8th on Dedd Foxx) I had a chance to talk with guitarist Jay Ranz about the band's origins, their history with the Ponys and the ubiquity of ‘tiger’ bands. The official release party is going down at the Whistler next Thursday March 3rd, with Village opening up. Read the interview below.
WCR: Give us a little of history of the band. You went by Gay Baby for a bit. Was that a completely different thing or was it just a name change?
Jay Ranz: It was kind of different. The whole thing basically started out as me, Jon our bass player, and our drummer Mike. . .I was in a band with Mike before where he played bass and guitar, and so just knowing that he was a really great musician I decided I was going to turn him into a drummer since drummers are impossible to find. I wasn’t really sure what instrument I was going to play at that point so I decided he was going to play drums. And he was up for it. We did that for probably about a year or so, and then we got our friend Nick in the band who lives in Champaign and actually grew up with Jon. Once he joined the band it sort of changed the whole dynamic. . .At first it was mostly us screwing around, not really taking it too seriously. Once Nick joined the band, everything sort of congealed and it became basically what it is now. So we decided that we should change the name, actually having defined our sound at that point and having a new member.
There was an article recently in the LA Times talking about the resurgence of soft-rock in indie (Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses), and chillwave has become one of the bigger fake genres right now. But in Chicago there seems to be a very strong psychedelic and garage scene. Do you think it’s a reaction to music like that or do you think they’re equally valid poles on the same spectrum?
I wouldn’t say it’s a reaction, in Chicago at least. Those sounds have always been around. The whole chillwave thing is cool, I like it. We’re all into a lot of those bands. All of us listen to pretty much everything there is to listen to. I definitely wouldn’t say it’s a reaction to that, though.
Since you had the name Gay Baby and you have the first single ‘Kill Them,’ do you consciously create a sense of danger/audience discomfort or do you think its more of just a byproduct? When you make music, do you think there needs to be that sense of danger to it?
Not necessarily. I wouldn’t say that we sound dangerous. I would definitely say we sound uncomfortable. I mean that sort of general feeling of being uncomfortable and maybe even slightly paranoid sometimes is a sound that’s sort of subconsciously in all four of our heads at the same time. That just sort of comes out naturally. We don’t really try to sound like A, B, or C; it just worked out really well that all four of us are sort of awkward, weird guys and that comes out naturally in the music.
021 Tiger Bones from Kyle Obriot on Vimeo.
Jered Gummere from the Ponys produced the EP. What’s your relationship with those guys?
Actually, Jon and Nick grew up with Jered down in Bloomington/Normal and they were all in their very first band together in high school and a little bit after high school. . .a surf rock band called the Defilers. It was mostly instrumental stuff with Jered playing drums, Nick playing guitar, Jon playing bass. I went to school in Bloomington/Normal for college - that’s how I met Jon and Nick actually - they were in high school while I was a freshman in college. From there I became friends with Jered and a whole bunch of people that were down there, like Todd from Horizonal Action and Hozac Records. Nick worked with him at a record store down there back in the day. This was all in 1995-6-7-8. So we’ve known [Jered] forever. We knew that he had this little studio set up in his attic for the Ponys, which is where they practice and stuff. So basically for him, it was an experiment too, recording us. We were like the first band he ever recorded outside of his own band. He did it for free just so that he could learn and we could learn and we all benefited. He did a really great job. We were really happy with it.
Do you have a full length on the way as well?
Yeah, we recorded a bunch of stuff up in Minneapolis in the fall at Old Blackberry Way, which is the studio where the Replacements recorded Let it Be. . .Husker Du recorded their first seven inch there or something, so it’s a pretty famous studio. Our friend Neil runs that place now. It’s like a house - he lives there and records there. We did like eight songs and mixed them over Thanksgiving. So that’ll be out eventually, probably around the summertime.
Any other plans for 2011 as of right now?
We’re getting together SXSW shows and trying to go down there. All of us have day jobs so it’s really hard to do really long tours and stuff like that. Over the course of the year we’re trying to get together long weekends and trying to spread out as far as we can. Even for west coast stuff, we have friends out there, so we could fly out there and do a long weekend and borrow equipment. We’re putting out the full length eventually this year. And with the Dedd Foxx label that we started just to put out our EP, we’re going to be looking for bands to put out ourselves so it’s not just like a vanity label.
Last question: Miniature Tigers, Carbon Tigers, Twin Tigers…
Are you all gonna make a big festival or collab with these bands, are you going to try to just get a big tiger pit going?
Totally. There should be a tiger festival. I didn’t even know about any of these bands until like four or five months ago. My youngest daughter actually named our band Tiger Bones. A lot of weird things come out of her mouth. We were sitting around one day and she was talking about things she was going to start throwing up. Just being funny, making us laugh, and one of them was Tiger Bones. So when we changed our name, the other guys remembered that and never forgot it.
Check out more WCR interviews:Battlestations