Tigers Jaw press photo 2021

Interview: Tigers Jaw discover new creative freedom with authentic sixth album

Tigers Jaw is releasing their sixth album I Won’t Care How You Remember Me this Friday, February 5th, an ode to living in the present and being direct & honest with the people in our lives at a time when we need it most. Despite the current inability to tour, the album release comes with a few exciting tidbits — from already released self-produced music videos, to a song featuring Manchester Orchestra’s Andy Hull, and even an album performance you’ll have to keep reading to learn about! 

The Scranton, PA based band — comprised of Ben Walsh (vocals/guitar), Brianna Collins (vocals/keyboards), Teddy Roberts (drums), and Colin Gorman (bass) — have fused their collective skills into their most sonically ambitious album yet. Produced by longtime friend and collaborator Will Yip, I Won’t Care How You Remember Me is the band’s first album with their new label Hopeless Records. It pushes the elements of liveliness and human connectivity forward. While their last album Spin was a moving soundscape made up of several dense layers of instruments and vocals, I Won’t Care used minimal layers.

The aptly-named song “Hesitation” — which was originally brought in to be recorded in early 2019, but was re-recorded and changed several times before reaching its final status — is accompanied by a quirky music video that was released in January.

The album takes us on a journey through songs like the groovy “New Detroit” — which reminds us of alt-rock band Gin Blossoms — to songs like the energetic “Can’t Wait Forever” and “Body Language,” which complement Collins’ mellow tracks “Lemon Mouth” and “Commit.”  Ending the journey, the album closes with “Anniversary,” a compelling anthem of solidarity that disperses with vibrations of Walsh’s refrain: “We all fall apart in the same way.”

Soft Sound Press chatted with vocalist and songwriter, Ben Walsh, about the album release, the personal insights that have come with creating it, and how COVID-19 has impacted the band and their refreshed sound. Plus, near the end, he announced a fun virtual event that’s happening on release day!

You can read it all below, and find the link to pre-order I Won’t Care How You Remember Me here.

I want to hear about how you decided on picking “I Won’t Care How You Remember Me” as the title track. What about that and the theme of not caring about how people remember you stuck out?

We didn’t come up with calling the album the same name as that song until pretty late in the game. We were kind of stuck on a title and we’d thrown that out there as an idea, but we were like, “well, it feels kind of long.” But the more we thought about it and reflected on it, we were like, “no, it’s a very strong sort of statement.” And it makes people think about what it means and it’s memorable. The longer we sat with it, the more it made sense.

Basically, it’s an exercise in figuring out your priorities about the things that you can control and things that you can’t control. The idea sparked from reflecting on a relationship, and when the relationship is over, you’re going your separate ways, your paths are diverting and you can’t waste all this time trying to control how the other person thinks about you.

You just have to be responsible for yourself and figure out how to move forward in your own way and take accountability for your actions. It’s about figuring out how to move forward in a healthy way, and it’s also about change. Over time, personally, or as a band, people go through a lot of changes. It’s just about finding that certainty and confidence in who you are and being like, “I’m going to be myself, regardless of what people might attach to me or what people might think about me.”

Yeah, I love that. The press release mentioned the band having this shared personal Renaissance, and that really struck a chord with me. During this time with COVID, the political climate, and everything else, that’s been happening to a lot of people. I was wondering if you could touch a bit more on what that Renaissance was like for you and anything that you may have gained through this discovery process that came with the creation of this album?

Just like anything that goes on for a really long time, our band has been through a bunch of changes. When we did our last record, it was definitely at a transitional point in the band. We decided to bring it back to the root of how things were in the very, very beginning when it was myself and my bandmate, Adam, and we were working on the songs, just the two of us. So when Brianna and I were figuring out the plans for our last record Spin, we were like, let’s bring it back to this early idea of what the band was, where it’s two people working closely to develop songs together. That was the perfect way for us to approach that record.

But we knew going forward from that, we were developing these strong friendships and relationships with our bandmates, Colin and Teddy, and we were like, “we want to move things forward; we want to make it feel like a band again,” you know? So when we got together a bunch of times — basically it was in Brianna’s basement — it very much felt like starting a new band. We got together for a couple of days every month for six months at the start of 2019 through the summer.

We would get together for a couple of days and work on the songs and refine things and toss new ideas at each other. It was a really nice collaborative, healthy process. And it really felt very creatively fulfilling, like we were able to just all be in the same room and bounce ideas off each other. If an idea sounded sort of crazy, we would be like, “Well, let’s just play it. Let’s try it anyway and see how it works out in real-time.” It allowed for a lot of discovery and a lot of chasing ideas and figuring out what works and what doesn’t.

Oh, neat. I like that a lot. I definitely noticed a shift in the sound of your songs and it just felt more alive, from my perspective, which I really appreciated.
So in talking about how your sound has changed and the themes of this album, who do you hope this album speaks to? What do you hope people gain from it?

My favourite type of listener is someone that’s a long-time fan of something and embraces the changes over time. So, I do think somebody that’s listened to our band for a long time and likes seeing all the different changes from album to album. Each album is like a snapshot in time of what was happening at that point in our lives, and this particular record was a testament to the last couple of years. We’ve toured more than the band has ever toured. It was a lot of time spent together and getting to know each other on a deep, personal level and developing those friendships, but also getting to know each other as musicians.

We got to really learn each other’s tastes, we learned each other’s musical styles. So when we were building these songs together, everybody kind of knew how to take up the right amount of space in every song. Everybody really knew their role. So, sonically, it’s very balanced in a lot of ways. We didn’t do a lot of layering of tracks; on the last record, it was really dense. There were a lot of guitar tracks, there were a lot of layered vocal tracks, and so this time we spent all this time refining and developing a really tight live performance. We wanted to make sure that we captured that energy in this record.

How is performing versus recording, and how did you implement that shift? I think that’s really interesting.

Yeah, it’s very different. When you’re performing, you can’t get hung up on little things like when you’re recording. You have to make this the best representation of what you hear in your head and how you want the rest of the world to hear it in a live show. It’s like it’s happening in real-time. You’re in a different headspace, ‘cause you make a little mistake or something and just keep going. There’s more of that human element to it. On the last record, it was just me and Brianna who played on it.

Obviously, between the two of us, we couldn’t play all the instruments in the same room at one time. So, when we toured that record, there were little things about the performance that kind of locked in once we started playing with the band. This time around, being able to practice and rehearse and write with myself, Brianna, Colin and Teddy, we’ve played the songs so many times that it felt like they were getting tight in a way that they would if we were performing them on a tour. Having the luxury of time for this record gave us the opportunity to really lock in, in a different sort of way.

That’s really cool. You mentioned incorporating more of the human elements into this album this time around: having more time, having more people, being able to be more dynamic and fluid and tight. Reflecting on what this past year has been like, how have you personally, and as a band, had your values or perspective on life changed?

This record is definitely about self-reflection and spending that time thinking about priorities and moving forward in a healthy way and being accountable for yourself. So it was written in a pre-pandemic world, and then the pandemic hits, and all of a sudden, you’re forced into that mindset because you’re interacting with fewer people and you’re alone with your thoughts a lot more. You’re reflecting on the things that you have and the things that you don’t have anymore, or the way that things have changed. We recorded it before all of that happened, but it applies just as strongly, given the state of the world.

On a creative level, it’s forced us to rethink how we roll out the record because typically you put out a record, you go on tour, maybe you try to tour overseas as well. It’s sort of this repetitive cycle. Without the element of touring, there’s a lot more uncertainty and there’s a lot more, “how do we best roll this out? And how do we best interact with people that we’re unable to be in a venue with anymore?”

We channeled that creativity into more self-production of music videos and stuff like that. We’re doing an album release show on release day that’s the full performance of the whole album. You can hear the album, you can watch us perform it from front to back. Nothing will quite replace the actual in-person show, but this will be as close as we can get in a pandemic.

Definitely. I’m sure fans are going to enjoy that.

We’re so excited to share the record with everybody and we’re really proud of it. So, it’s cool that we’ll be able to release it in both of those formats on the same day. You can listen to the studio recording, and you can watch the actual live performance.

That’s exciting! I’ll have to check it out too. Do you have a favourite song on the album that you are really proud of and have a soft spot for?

We’ve been sitting on the record for quite a while because it was mixed in early 2020, so we were moving back the release plan a little bit, month by month. And then finally we were like, “this pandemic isn’t going anywhere. We just need to set a release date.” So I think my favourites can change from time to time, but the title track is really special for me. As a songwriter, it’s definitely a very raw autobiographical song: lyrically and the flow of the song. It starts very simplistic and barren and then little elements get added as it goes.

Then it ends with this big loud, emotional outburst ending. It’s also special because we were able to get Andy Hull to do some backup vocals on it as well, which was really cool and adds a really special element to the song. It’s a really cool way to introduce the record. 

We put a lot of thought into the sequencing of the record and how the songs flow from one moving into the next. People’s attention spans are different these days and not everybody listens to the full album or whatever, but I do hope that people want to take the time to listen to it and think about the track listing and everything, have that full front-to-back experience because the record sort of ends where it begins. It starts with just one vocal and acoustic guitar, and then the outro of the last song is again, just acoustic guitar and one vocal.

I love that, that’s awesome. So, going back to the COVID situation: other than trying to figure out what the future holds, have you picked up any hobbies to fill the void of touring or any new things that maybe you wouldn’t be able to do because you’re touring?

Yeah. Well, I’ve had pretty insane writer’s block as far as writing songs, which is a bummer because I’ve had a lot of time, but I’ve never been one to really try to force that. So I’ve just been trying to be more active and get outside more in nature. My partner and I started kayaking a whole lot this past year. It’s a little cold for that now, but it’s so fun.  It’s so relaxing. And there’s a lot of great bodies of water in Pennsylvania, so there’s no shortage of new places to go.

Yeah, I live right near the Susquehanna and I kayak on it all the time, so that’s awesome! I don’t know if you have any final words or things you would like any of your listeners to know?

I’m just grateful you took the time to cover our band.

Yeah, I’m happy to see you guys releasing new music. It’s good to see. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk.

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