By Willow Grier
CALGARY – “Tiger Army never dies!”
A catchphrase indelible in the minds and hearts of fans and onlookers the world over, shouted at the top of lungs and carved into skin from the West Coast of the United States to South America to Canada and beyond. For a band that has never found a discernible niche but always created their own, never fit into the confines of a single genre, and had almost a decade long gap in between albums, it’s impressive to see such a undying devotion to the Tiger Army legacy.
In speaking with the band’s primary songwriter, Nick 13, BeatRoute gains a little insight into where those strong roots come from.
“I’ve always tried to be true to myself as a songwriter,” he describes, referring to the whole of his band’s 20-year history. “I’ve never written with anything commercial in mind or fallen into the trap of trying to please different demographics. I just try to create something that is true to me at the time… that means something to me. If I can do that, it might mean something to someone else.”
“The fans of Tiger Army are true music lovers,” he continues. “They care about the songs and the songwriting and they are relating to something on a personal level, so it therefore becomes timeless in a way.”
Over the course of five albums, Tiger Army danced from punk to rockabilly to everything in between, and on their latest release, the confusing to search, but fittingly named V•••- (after morse code for ‘Five’), they find themselves drawing from a noir aesthetic with heavy influence from “the second wave of rock and roll” that took shape in late ’50s and early ’60s. The album is like a grey, rainy day exploration, with bursts of fire in between. It’s both a vintage throwback and the shock of new life.
“I think there was something really interesting about that time [in rock and roll] because the first wave was done and it was a transitional period where people didn’t know it was going to happen,” recalls Nick. “There was a lot of experimentation and a lot of trying to figure out what the next step was in the sound. There was something I related to in that and in very early punk, specifically out of New York City. I heard a musical link between doing something new and pushing the boundaries that punk initially represented, but also having sort of a direct lineage with early rock and roll and doo-wop.”
“As a music fan and a concert-goer” himself, Nick 13 keeps a master copy of all the setlists from each show Tiger Army has played so that fans can get the most from every live performance, and never have to see the same show twice.
Now about to embark on a co-headlining tour with dark Americana group Murder by Death, Tiger Army will have the chance to express additional parts of their repertoire, and dig into their discography that includes “In The Orchard,” and other examples of sounds that found expression in Nick 13’s solo country/Americana releases, which he plans to work on again towards the end of this tour.
“I would say there’s a certain musical overlap,” he explains. “That mid century country and hillbilly music has always been a small part of what Tiger Army is, so the two do share that but the solo stuff was more about honing in on that.”
Despite this connection, Nick 13 expresses that the two projects will always remain unique for him. “I get a different feeling when I step onstage. There’s a completely different energy at a Tiger Army show.”
Tiger Army and Murder By Death bring play the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver on July 3, the Ranch Roadhouse in Edmonton on July 5 and the Palace Theatre in Calgary on July 6.Commodore Ballroom, Murder By Death, Palace Theatre, Ranch Roadhouse, Tiger Army