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Music: Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright

Tiger Army's Punk Rock exodus and evolution

By Ryan Mclendon · January 30th, 2008 · Music
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In the Rock band hierarchy, frontmen often become surrogate patriarchs of supremely dysfunctional families. The pressure upon them is twofold: They usually are responsible for writing and singing songs that will (theoretically) thrust them triumphantly into the annals of commercial fame. And they also must protect their sonic investment from dissent, dissolution and fragmentation.

The tale of poor Marilyn Manson illuminates the numerous hardships that can afflict a beleaguered frontman. Manson has altered his lineup of musicians on every album since his 1994 debut, Portrait of an American Family, and even before the album pressed he replaced transvestite heroin addled bassist, Gidget Gein, with a slightly fiercer transvestite, soon-to-be drug enthusiast, Twiggy Ramirez.

Fortunately for Manson, he invariably chose who to keep and who to lose. Some bands, such at the California Psychobilly trio, Tiger Army, don't seem to have that choice.

Tiger Army burst out of the Berkeley, Calif., Post Punk revolution in 1996. Nick 13, frontman, guitarist and songwriter (essential one-man-band), began to make a name for himself after extensive touring with AFI and legendary Psychobilly group, The Meteors. The band immediately grabbed the attention of Rancid's Tim Armstrong, owner of Hellcat Records, who signed the band. He was integral in putting out their first full-length album.

¨Basically (the band has) always been my thing, artistically," says Nick. "I've always been the songwriter. The dynamic has always been the same."

2004 was an exceptionally interesting (or traumatic) year for Tiger Army. In the same year, the band released Tiger Army III: Ghost Tigers Rise, its most highly acclaimed and influential album to date, producing the wildly acclaimed and challenging hits, "Rose of the Devil's Garden," and "Ghostfire," a cautious, but enigmatic sandwich of Psychobilly and Synth Pop (think Operation Ivy tuned way down with a Morrissey pompadour).

Meanwhile, the band's membership was ostensibly dissolving.

The premise of Tiger Army's lineup has always been similar to haphazard musical chairs. Throughout the band's history, Tiger Army has had nine different members cycling in and out at various times. However, there was never an instance where multiple members departed simultaneously. Until 2004.

Bassist Geoff Kresge left the band to join Horrorpops (he rejoined the band in early 2008). Drummer Fred Hell departed due to physical problems directly resulting from gunshot injuries sustained in a 2003 home invasion.

"As far as the band itself it concerned, that's definitely the most dramatic and painful thing that's happened," says Nick.

The solidarity of Rock bands is a complete anathema being that nearly every external force (drugs, sex, ham sandwiches) has the capacity to tear it apart. Beyond the typical rock star pitfalls, it's difficult to remain a band when all your bandmates leave. By definition, you're really not a band.

But either Nick 13 is a wondrously resilient human being or perhaps he doesn't own a dictionary. Regardless, as the only original member of Tiger Army, Nick 13 resolved to unite and preserve what was left of the band, namely himself.

"I never gave up because it just didn't seem like an option to do anything else with my life," said Nick. "There's nothing else that I have this passion about."

In order to stay afloat, he hired new members Jeff Roffredo and James Meza, both formerly of The Rezurex (and a myriad of other California Psychobilly bands) to complete the then-fractured lineup.

And the music continued on ostensibly without pause.

With Nick perennially at the band's helm, Tiger Army released Music from Regions Beyond in 2007. The album is a raucous revitalization of Ghost Tigers Rise, but with a few tricks up its sleeve.

"There are ideas on the new record that I began exploring on the third album, but some of these ideas ... are not new to me," says Nick.

The new lineup of the band had a direct influence on the record's aesthetic, specifically with Meza on drums. According to Nick, James is such a versatile musician he's allowed Nick to actualize some ideas he's had for a long time.

"With the current lineup, if I can think of an idea musically, we can play it now," says Nick.

Tiger Army's involuntary commitment to change has given them an unfair advantage over many musicians, allowing their sound to evolve exponentially. A rotating cast of musicians and experience rarely achieves stagnation or runs out of ideas for the future.

And for Tiger Army, the future is gleefully uncertain.

"I've never seen our music as a static thing" says Nick. "It's always important to me to maintain some contact with where we came from musically, but it's also important to me to push forward with each new album."


TIGER ARMY plays Saturday at the Mad Hatter. Buy tickets and find nearby bars and restaurants

In the Rock band hierarchy, frontmen often become surrogate patriarchs of supremely dysfunctional families. The pressure upon them is twofold: They usually are responsible for writing and singing songs that will (theoretically) thrust them triumphantly into the annals of commercial fame. And they also must protect their sonic investment from dissent, dissolution and fragmentation.

The tale of poor Marilyn Manson illuminates the numerous hardships that can afflict a beleaguered frontman. Manson has altered his lineup of musicians on every album since his 1994 debut, Portrait of an American Family, and even before the album pressed he replaced transvestite heroin addled bassist, Gidget Gein, with a slightly fiercer transvestite, soon-to-be drug enthusiast, Twiggy Ramirez.

Fortunately for Manson, he invariably chose who to keep and who to lose. Some bands, such at the California Psychobilly trio, Tiger Army, don't seem to have that choice.

Tiger Army burst out of the Berkeley, Calif., Post Punk revolution in 1996. Nick 13, frontman, guitarist and songwriter (essential one-man-band), began to make a name for himself after extensive touring with AFI and legendary Psychobilly group, The Meteors. The band immediately grabbed the attention of Rancid's Tim Armstrong, owner of Hellcat Records, who signed the band. He was integral in putting out their first full-length album.

¨Basically (the band has) always been my thing, artistically," says Nick. "I've always been the songwriter. The dynamic has always been the same."

2004 was an exceptionally interesting (or traumatic) year for Tiger Army. In the same year, the band released Tiger Army III: Ghost Tigers Rise, its most highly acclaimed and influential album to date, producing the wildly acclaimed and challenging hits, "Rose of the Devil's Garden," and "Ghostfire," a cautious, but enigmatic sandwich of Psychobilly and Synth Pop (think Operation Ivy tuned way down with a Morrissey pompadour).

Meanwhile, the band's membership was ostensibly dissolving.

The premise of Tiger Army's lineup has always been similar to haphazard musical chairs. Throughout the band's history, Tiger Army has had nine different members cycling in and out at various times. However, there was never an instance where multiple members departed simultaneously. Until 2004.

Bassist Geoff Kresge left the band to join Horrorpops (he rejoined the band in early 2008). Drummer Fred Hell departed due to physical problems directly resulting from gunshot injuries sustained in a 2003 home invasion.

"As far as the band itself it concerned, that's definitely the most dramatic and painful thing that's happened," says Nick.

The solidarity of Rock bands is a complete anathema being that nearly every external force (drugs, sex, ham sandwiches) has the capacity to tear it apart. Beyond the typical rock star pitfalls, it's difficult to remain a band when all your bandmates leave. By definition, you're really not a band.

But either Nick 13 is a wondrously resilient human being or perhaps he doesn't own a dictionary. Regardless, as the only original member of Tiger Army, Nick 13 resolved to unite and preserve what was left of the band, namely himself.

"I never gave up because it just didn't seem like an option to do anything else with my life," said Nick. "There's nothing else that I have this passion about."

In order to stay afloat, he hired new members Jeff Roffredo and James Meza, both formerly of The Rezurex (and a myriad of other California Psychobilly bands) to complete the then-fractured lineup.

And the music continued on ostensibly without pause.

With Nick perennially at the band's helm, Tiger Army released Music from Regions Beyond in 2007. The album is a raucous revitalization of Ghost Tigers Rise, but with a few tricks up its sleeve.

"There are ideas on the new record that I began exploring on the third album, but some of these ideas ... are not new to me," says Nick.

The new lineup of the band had a direct influence on the record's aesthetic, specifically with Meza on drums. According to Nick, James is such a versatile musician he's allowed Nick to actualize some ideas he's had for a long time.

"With the current lineup, if I can think of an idea musically, we can play it now," says Nick.

Tiger Army's involuntary commitment to change has given them an unfair advantage over many musicians, allowing their sound to evolve exponentially. A rotating cast of musicians and experience rarely achieves stagnation or runs out of ideas for the future.

And for Tiger Army, the future is gleefully uncertain.

"I've never seen our music as a static thing" says Nick. "It's always important to me to maintain some contact with where we came from musically, but it's also important to me to push forward with each new album."


TIGER ARMY plays Saturday at the Mad Hatter. Buy tickets and find nearby bars and restaurants here.


 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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