Tiger Army

We managed to catch up with Tiger Army not long before their first trip out to Australia.

Tiger Army guitarist
Nick 13 had plenty to say on Psychobilly, Aussie bands and Tiger Army fans.

You guys played your first
show at 924 Gilman St in Berkeley, the same venue that gave
Operation Ivy, Green Day and AFI their start. How big a role did it
play in getting the band started and how important is such a venue
to the local scene?

Our first show was in fact with AFI at
Gilman St. They were putting together a bill for their headlining
show while hanging out at my apartment, and I talked them into
throwing us on. I didn’t know at the time we’d wind up using their
drummer Adam for the gig! I think Gilman St. was tremendously
important at the time, obviously if there’s nowhere to play, it’s
hard to have a scene. One of the benefits for us was that it tended
to draw a crowd that was quite open-minded and that was important,
as we were a psychobilly band playing in a country without a
psychobilly scene.

You have described your latest album III: Ghost Tigers Rise as the
bands finest work yet. What can we expect from it, and how does it
compare to II: Power of Moonlite?

It’s more mid-tempo as opposed to
breakneck fast – it’s a little moodier, more melodic in spots,
although melody’s always been an element of our sound. I think the
song writing took a step forward, but a big part was just knowing
how to get what I wanted in the studio. This was definitely a result
of having the experience of making the first two records. Ghost
Tigers Rise was an evolution for the band, but one that stayed in
touch with our roots; it’s a bit more like our first album than
Power of Moonlite in some ways.

Apart from obviously being a psychobilly fan, I hear who have a soft
spot for many post-punk bands like the Smiths, The Cure and
Morrissey, do these bands creep into influencing the band?

I’d say so. It wasn’t a conscious
thing, but certainly the bands you mention along with stuff like New
Order/Joy Division and Depeche Mode have occupied my stereo pretty
consistently for a long time. I guess it’s natural that they all
finally seeped in to my music, although I didn’t notice for the most
part until other people heard the record and pointed it out, they
were right!

A lot of the themes is Tiger Army songs are ‘atmospheric and dark’
where does the lyrical inspiration come from?

A lot of the lyrics just seem to bubble
up from my subconscious. I never sit down and think, “I’m going to
write a song about this topic.” I often have no idea what the song
is about as I write the first verse. Eventually some theme will
emerge from what I’ve written and I follow it. The dark aspects are
just reflections of my own interests and perhaps parts of my psyche.

How did your recent tours of United Kingdom and Ireland go, and what
is the psychobilly scene like in other countries?

The UK tour was amazing. We were there
only once before, supporting Dropkick Murphys three years ago and
while that was cool at the time, the interest and enthusiasm of fans
in the UK has really grown. The shows were packed and the energy
from the crowd was fantastic. As far as the psycho scene, it’s
definitely older in England. We saw a lot of older psychos who’ve
been into it since the eighties and a lot of the younger people at
our shows there were more from a punk/hc background. We’re always
happy to see both at our shows.

How big is the psychobilly scene in the states?

It’s hard to judge in terms of numbers.
The area where it’s the most popular is certainly Southern
California. The scene was very small & almost nonexistent in the
U.S. prior to 2000, but it’s definitely something that people are
gaining awareness of and it seems to get a little bigger each

Psychobilly is a relatively unknown genre in Australia, for those
that aren’t yet in the know, how would you describe it?

Well, a basic description is that it’s
a kind of hybrid between punk rock and rockabilly that dates back to
early-eighties England. It also tends to be dark with at least a
touch of the macabre. There are many different flavours of
psychobilly, much the same as punk, but there’s a certain sprit that
defines it. It’s hard to describe but it’s easy to get into when you
hear it.

Do you think psychobilly will ever be accepted by the mainstream, or
would you prefer it as an underground subculture?

I don’t think psychobilly would ever be
embraced or understood as a subculture by the mainstream, but I’m
also not one to advocate limiting the number of people who could or
should be into a style of music. The fact is, in the U.S. anyway, is
that a decreasing number of people listen to rock music anyway, it’s
all hip-hop. So there doesn’t seem much point to worry about too
many people digging a style of music based on darkness and true
rock’n’roll, that’s just not gonna happen. The more the merrier I
say, as someone who remembers when there was NO scene at all in the

Do you ever think people get too caught up in the fashion and image
side of psychobilly, that they lose sight of the music?

That’s one of the dangers. I mean, I’m
into the style, but there are definitely people who focus on that
before the music. One of the problems with subcultures is that some
of the people they attract are only into it to try and appear
“different” or “unique” when really they’re as conformist as any
idiot in the street. These people only stay until they can jump on
the next obscure trend, looking for identity. If someone’s truly
into the music, they have my respect, regardless of their style.

With limited radio and video play and a fan base built on word of
mouth, does is surprise you that people all over the world,
including Australia, are such big fans of your band?

It’s an idea that I’ve started to get
used to, but it is quite strange. It’s one thing to have a crowd in
a town where you’ve toured and played many times, it’s quite another
to have an amazing crowd in a city or country you’ve never been to
in your life! I’m happy that it seems like wherever Tiger Army goes
in the civilized world, it seems like there’s someone there who’s a
fan of our music.

You are coming to Australia for the first time shortly, what are you
expecting of our country?

I’ve been told that Australian
audiences are quite rabid and appreciative of those who make the
long journey, as few bands do. We’re quite happy to get the chance.
The only bands I know personally who’ve done it are AFI and Rancid,
they both say it’s a great place to play so I’m quite looking
forward to it!

So what can audiences expect from a Tiger Army show?

A lot of energy, we put everything
we’ve got into the live performances. Sometimes they’re more
aggressive than people would expect, onstage that is. We’re a three
piece so we’ve got to work harder to put on a good show!

Have you heard of any Australian bands?

Quite a few, actually! Rose Tattoo, The
Saints, The Only Ones and the Fireballs are just a few that I dig…

The band have had several line-up changes over the years, is the
current line-up now permanent?

Well, nothing in life is permanent! But
I’m having a great time playing with Jeff and James. They seem to be
enjoying Tiger Army as well, so unless one of them moves on to other
things, this is the band as far as I’m concerned. They are certainly
among the most talented musicians I’ve played with in this or any
other band.

What’s it like playing on the Warped Tour to a whole bunch of
pop-punk kids?

Well, I’d be lying if I said I liked a
LOT of the music on Warped, but the people who choose to come see
Tiger Army at Warped obviously have the best taste! One of the cool
things about Warped is that you reach kids who are still open-minded
musically; they’re not as jaded yet. If seeing our band positively
affects their musical perspective, that’s what we’re there to do.

Any final words, or things you want to tell the people of Australia?

Well, we can’t wait to get down there
and rock! It’s an honour to make the trip, see you all soon! If
anyone’s interested in gig dates or just more info on the band,
you’ll find it at www.tigerarmy.com Cheers!

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