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The last few years have been unexpected for everyone, but for Pennsylvania indie-rockers Tigers Jaw, a global pandemic definitely wasn’t the background they thought their sixth album, I Won’t Care How You Remember Me, would be released against.
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Forming back in 2005 and releasing a trio of critically-acclaimed albums over the following five years, the band’s lineup shifted in 2013, with vocalist and guitarist Ben Walsh, and keyboardist Brianna Collins, remaining as the only original members.
Though records have taken a little longer to arrive since, Tigers Jaw have remained resolute, working hard on delivering records that cut deep to the emotional core while pairing with a sense of musical majesty most acts can’t come close to matching.
Ahead of their upcoming tour of the country with Perth’s Sly Withers, Walsh and Collins spoke to HysteriaMag.com about releasing a record against COVID, and making their triumphant return to Australia.
As Collins notes, though the critical reception of 2021’s I Won’t Care How You Remember Me was a little muted, the general response from fans made it worthwhile in the long run.
“We’re always making music for ourselves, but part of making art is also how it will be received, and what it can be for other people,” she says. “So it’s been really great to have such a warm reaction to it.
“I feel like it’s an album that didn’t necessarily get a lot of acclaim as far as publications or anything because of the timing of it with the pandemic, but the fans have been insanely receptive and supportive and really made it a great experience to have put out that record.”
Of course, an album release in 2021 must have felt a little strange for a band such as Tigers Jaw. After all, for a group who feel at home on the live stage, the lack of access to such an experience made it feel a little hollow in the long run.
“It definitely was the strangest record release of our career,” Collins says. “We did as much as we could for fans, like a live playthrough of the entire album that we released on the same day that the album was released so that there was some semblance of liveness to it and the ability to connect with fans.
“Ben and I were actually talking about this yesterday, and it’s not that we regret putting it out when we did, but sometimes it feels like the timing of it hindered maybe the total success of it because of everything else that was going on in the world and not being able to tour or release it in like a typical way.”
However, despite the difficulty that would have accompanied the record’s release, the music itself served as a sense of solace for both band and fans, while the positive response their fanbase provided was a sense of validation at a time when it was so dearly needed.
“We actually tracked the record in 2019, pre-pandemic, and once we put it out into the world, the songs almost took on a different meaning because we were all just going through this bizarre shared experience,” Walsh explains. “We held off on releasing it at first, and then we were like, ‘You know what? This doesn’t make sense, let’s put this out.’
“We put it out into a rapidly changing and uncertain environment, but the time that we were able to all be together during the pandemic were some of the brightest moments of that three year period. So it did feel triumphant in that way to do these things on our own terms.
“Every bit of content that surrounds the record really kind of encompasses us and it’s just such a great representation of us, our friendships, and our musical relationships,” he adds. “So it was a really special time; a really special record.”
I never in a million years thought that I would ever fly to Australia for anything – even a holiday or something
[ Ben Walsh – Tiger Jaw ]
Fast-forward to 2023 and it’s a special time for Tigers Jaw. Not only do they have an upcoming tour of Australia, but it’s also the 15th anniversary of their self-titled second album, which has since gone on to become a highly-regarded record amongst indie and emo fans.
Of course, for a group as humble as Tigers Jaw, no one – least of all the musicians at the heart of it all – could have expected that they’d be on the receiving end of such acclaim when they first coalesced almost two decades ago.
“We wanted to release a CD on a local Scranton label and we wanted to play at a venue that was 12 miles down the road,” Walsh remembers. “Those were our big aspirations.
“So it’s pretty wild to see that record take on its own life and have so many people connect with it. And even still, younger people are finding it now and having a connection with it, so it’s definitely special.”
It didn’t take long for a record such as their self-titled release to expand their fanbase globally, with the band suddenly finding themselves as an in-demand touring band, and countless live opportunities arriving at a breakneck speed.
“The first time we played outside of Scranton and people showed up, it was like, ‘Wow, this is incredible’, and then the first time we played out of the country, we were like, ‘Oh my god, people know us here, this is mind blowing’,” recalls Walsh. “I never in a million years thought that I would ever fly to Australia for anything – even a holiday or something – so when the opportunity came to tour down there, I could not believe it.
“I was like, ‘This is as far from Scranton as I could possibly be and there are people showing up to the shows, singing our songs, they want to say hi to us after the show, and they want to wear our t-shirts,” he adds. “It’s never lost on us, and it still blows my mind that we do this thing that we love and it connects with people in a really cool way and it’s enabled us to do so many things.
“For the 15, 16 years of my life, I barely traveled outside of Pennsylvania and now I’m like checking things off my bucket list and it’s the most gratifying thing.”
Tigers Jaw first ticked Australia off their collective bucket lists back in 2015 off the back of the previous year’s Charmer, and then again in 2018 following the release of Spin. Now, with a new album under their belts, they’ll be touching down in the country in August for a tour alongside Sly Withers, with the upcoming run of shows on track to be their biggest to date.
“This one will be a little bit different than the others because it’s a co-headlining tour and we’re going to be in some bigger rooms, which is really exciting,” Walsh explains “We’ve been looking forward to this for such a long time.”
Even with such a fitting pairing alongside Sly Withers, Tigers Jaw are themselves looking forward to this tour for another reason – namely being so they can experience the Perth outfit live, having not been across them prior to the construction of their upcoming Aussie trek.
“We were approached about Sly Withers, and our agent sent us a message and was like, ‘Hey, there’s this band that’s wondering if you guys are available to do a tour’,” recalls Walsh. “We were on tour at the time and we threw them on instantly in the van and were like, ‘Yeah, I could see this; it’s a really cool pairing.
“We’ve never done a co-headlining tour down in Australia, and this would just be such a fun and new experience,” they add. “I mean, the tour hasn’t even started, but we’ve been dealing with their team and they are just the sweetest, most awesome people.”
With a comparatively new album under their belt, a hunger to share their new music on the live stage, and a contingent of dedicated Aussie fans eagerly awaiting them, next month’s tour will be a long time coming for Tigers Jaw.
“We’re so excited,” enthuses Collins “Like, we cannot express enough how excited we are to finally get to come back.
“To see all the cities again, to travel, and meet all the people we became really good friends with when we toured there previously,” she adds with a smile. “I hope I get to hold a koala bear again.”