How Saves the Day Helped ‘Spin’ Tigers Jaw’s Indie-Pop
Influence is fleeting and ever-changing. Sure, a band might be rooted in a particular style, but how they mold their music from that initial blueprint into something different is how they find their specific sound — a rapper may be influenced by Krautrock and seek out old loops, or a metal band might be inspired by Aretha Franklin and decide to move toward clean, epic vocals.
Tigers Jaw's new LP is their fifth overall. It's called spin, and marks over a decade since the release of their debut in 2006. Indie-pop with touches of emo-punk is sprinkled across the release, making for a logical continuation of what the band set forth to do with 2014's Charmer. But where did those ideas come from? What were they listening to in the moments leading up to recording the LP? We talked to both vocalist / keyboardist Brianna Collins and vocalist / guitarist Ben Walsh about the new LP and the records that helped shape it. Shocker / spoiler alert: We ended up discussing the Microphones.
LAND OF TALK, SOME ARE LAKES
Some Are Lakes is Land of Talk's debut. What does that LP mean to you specifically? What do you take away from it that is so important?
Brianna Collins: Some Are Lakes was the first Land of Talk release that I was introduced to, and from my first listen, I fell completely in love. I think before that point in time, I hadn’t found a female-fronted band (other than Paramore) that I felt connected to and really inspired by. I am obsessed with Elizabeth Powell’s voice. It’s got this amazing, almost whispery quality, and the vocal melodies throughout the entire record are so satisfying and catchy. However, I think that what I connected to the most with this record were the lyrics. They’re so poetically written, and they remind me so much of growing up in the area I did, and relationships that I’ve had.
How does that record specifically apply to your new release?
BC: “It’s Okay” is my favorite song off of Some Are Lakes. It’s this soft beautiful song that builds up perfectly to an instrumental outro, and I really wanted to write a song like that for our record. When I listen to “It’s Okay,” I always envision how cool the instrumental outro would sound if it were just played on piano, so for the song “Same Stone,” I took that idea for the instrumental outro directly from what I would think about when listening to “It’s Okay.”
Have you been keeping up with the LOT reunion, and are you excited for new material?
BC: I absolutely have been! I got to see one of the LOT reunion shows at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn, and it was one of the best shows I’ve ever been to. It’s always a good feeling when you see a band you love for the first time and it sounds even better than you could’ve imagined. I felt that it was a little bit of fate that our new records would come out on the same day, especially because of how much I was thinking about Land of Talk while writing for our record.
RIVAL SCHOOLS, PEDALS
Pedals is the comeback LP from Rival Schools. Why this LP and not the much-revered debut United by Fate? What makes this LP special to you?
BC: Truthfully, I didn’t get into Rival Schools until shortly before Pedals came out. I really liked United by Fate, and when they announced they were doing a new record for the first time in years, I was so excited and immediately pre-ordered the record. As a fan of any / all projects that Walter Schreifels is a part of, with Rival Schools and Walking Concert being my two favorites, Pedals was the one record I found myself listening to consistently throughout the years.
How does this record specifically apply to the new album? Are there themes or ideas that resonated with you, and how do they show on the new album?
BC: A key factor in whether or not I connect to or love a record is how I feel about the vocal melodies / harmonies throughout the record. I like when the vocal melodies are just as driving and rhythmic as the rest of the music, like how they are on Pedals. That’s something I tried to consider when writing for spin. The song “Brass Ring” definitely is inspired by Rival Schools. Although they’re different sonically, “Brass Ring” is really similar thematically to “A Parts for B Actors” — the concept that you’re putting in a lot of effort toward something and are met with indifference, or not the result of a situation that you were hoping for. The chorus for “A Parts for B Actors” has one of the most satisfying vocal melodies ever written, and for the end of “Brass Ring,” I wanted the outro to have a similar feeling.
THE MICROPHONES, THE GLOW PT. 2
This LP is considered a classic amongst the indie set. How much do the other works of Phil Elverum resonate?
Ben Walsh: The music of Phil Elverum, specifically the Microphones and Mount Eerie, has been a constant source of inspiration for me ever since Tigers Jaw started. His music has an unassuming purity and simplistic beauty that I rarely sense in other artists. I feel like it might be because Elverum started the Microphones as more of a recording experiment than a band, so the songwriting aspect was secondary, and perhaps never overthought for this reason. Buried in weird tape hiss and bizarre recording techniques are these amazing melodies and vivid lyrics. I love the textures of the nylon string guitars, the use of hard panning for certain tracks to utilize the full stereo spectrum, and the lyrical use of natural imagery. My other favorite releases in his catalogue are Seven New Songs and Wind’s Poem.
What are your thoughts on Mount Eerie's new tearjerker of an LP?
BW: I think it’s an amazing tribute and a painfully real account of the aftermath of losing a loved one. I can honestly only handle it in small concentrated doses. I don’t know if I’ve ever had as immediate or as visceral a reaction to an album before this, especially after reading the circumstances and details surrounding it. Music has helped me process a lot of difficult things in my life, so it’s powerful to see Elverum bare himself so honestly after going through something so devastating.
How did some of the ideas from The Glow apply to the new album?
BW: Most directly, I wanted to use the recording technique of hard panning two interweaving guitar tracks (as seen in the title track, “Instrumental” and many other tracks in his catalogue) on the song “Escape Plan.” This type of mix is best experienced on headphones where you really can hear the panned tracks bounce from one side to the other. Other more subtle nods can be found in the track “Blurry Vision,” where the bridge lyrics came from stream of consciousness writing about water (Elverum writes about aspects of nature in many of his songs), the acoustic guitar rhythm of “Bullet” (à la “Headless Horseman”), and in the driving rhythm on the downbeat of the song “Oh Time” (found, although understatedly so, in the end of “I Want Wind to Blow”).
SAVES THE DAY, IN REVERIE
In Reverie seems like an interesting choice as opposed to the more conventional Through Being Cool. How does this album resonate more for you?
BW: This album was actually my introduction to Saves the Day, which I’ve found is very uncommon for people my age. In Reverie came into my life at an extremely formative time, and has aged significantly better than anything else I was listening to in 2004. It’s actually my favorite record of all time. I love the production, the layering of vocal parts, the use of jazz chords to make interesting chord progressions, the poetic lyricism, and the balance of power and groove by the rhythm section. I was also enamored by the artwork when I first bought it on CD.
How did you apply ideas from In Reverie to the new album?
BW: Our new album spin is the first Tigers Jaw release since Belongs to the Dead where I also played bass and drums, and I really wanted to create a tight and interesting rhythm section for the album. The bass and drums on In Reverie are so locked in, and seamlessly trade off between lively bass grooves and towering, around-the-kit drum fills, and I used that as an inspiration for the sonic palate of spin.