Text: Isabel Aleman | Photo: Hellcat Records
Los Angeles, Ca based psychobilly rockers Tiger Army blend the old school sounds of rock & roll and rockabilly with their own blend of punk. They will be headlining this years Great American Rockabilly Riot on September 2nd. Singer/guitarist Nick 13 spoke with Fusion about their success and how their cranked up good tunes have gotten them to this point.
Did you ever think that Tiger Army would be where they’re at now, 5 albums in and with a very loyal fan base?
It’s hard to predict the future! But I’m grateful these things are the case. I always felt there was something special about 5 albums—to me personally it represents the point where a band has a significant body of work, becomes sort of an institution in a way. The fact that there are people out there who’ve stayed with us through it all, as well as new people still discovering the music every month, is incredible.
Can you guys tell us more about your fans and what they mean to Tiger Army? Can you give us an interesting story on weird stuff your fans have done for you?
Well, I wouldn’t be able to do this for a living without them, but it’s a delicate balance, because I have to be true to myself as an artist as well. But we do try to look at things from an audience point of view. For example, I always look at previous setlists so that when we return to a city, even if it’s just a year later, people will hear different songs than the last time they saw us, or if we play cities that are close together or multiple nights in a row, there are always different songs. That was always exciting for me as a show-goer, so it’s important for me to do that in our sets. There have been paintings, poetry, too many tattoos to count… but I wouldn’t call these things weird, they’re just expressions of relating to, or enjoying something which is what we’re all about.
Your latest album V •••– is very influenced by 50s and 60s rock & roll. What made you all want to explore different styles for this album?
I’ve always wanted every album to be different, and while that era has always been an influence on our sound, we delved more deeply into it on this record. I was fascinated by the process that began at the end of the 50s when people started looking ahead to what was next after the first wave of rock & roll and began experimenting with new sounds, but before what the 60s would become known for was really established. I related to that idea of exploring what was next. But as much as I love vintage rock & roll music, we’re not just recreating it, it’s sort of retro-future.
How is V •••– different from previous Tiger Army albums and how is this album transcendent toward the future of Tiger Army?
Progression in my abilities as a singer and a guitarist since our last record allowed me to explore influences that have always been there, but approach them in different ways. For example, I’ve always been inspired by Roy Orbison, but playing wise, that’s something I could’ve gone only so far with when the band started. As for the future, there’s always going to be a bit of evolution, but the core influences of early punk music and midcentury rock & roll will always be a part of it.
You’ve said that you always switch up the set list so that your audience will always have a different show. When you’re performing how do you want your audience to feel at a Tiger Army show?
The best feeling I can get from watching live music is the feeling of inspiration. It’s beyond words, it’s feeling the joy of being alive. If someone can experience that for one song or even one moment at our show, that’s huge.
Since Tiger Army has been around for awhile, how do you think the band has influenced the ever-growing and ever-changing psychobilly scene?
The thing I always took from psychobilly was that it was rebel music, it was about breaking the rules, defying expectations and being true to yourself. I think there’s too much musical conformity within the genre at times, I’m always happy to see bands that break out and do their own thing without worrying about what people say.
I understand you guys are also avid concert-goers, what have been some of your favorite shows that you’ve been to recently also who are some of your influences?
This summer I’ve seen Dick Dale, The Zeros, Big Jay McNeely, Lana Del Rey… Dick Dale is certainly a guitar influence. Artists who recorded in the 50s and 60s are sadly becoming rarer and rarer to be able to see live—Dale is 80, Big Jay is 90. Even the Zeros started 40 years ago, in 1977. I try to see artists like this whenever I get the chance.
Tiger Army has toured with lots of different bands including AFI, what has been your best touring experience?
We just toured with a punk-rock band called The Broilers in Germany—they’re absolutely huge there, they had a #1 record. They treated us so well and welcomed us like family, it was my favorite experience supporting another band.
Okay, here’s my wild card question—if you could place one of Tiger Army’s songs in a movie soundtrack, which movie would it be and which movie scene?
Well, people have always said “Outlaw Heart” belongs in a movie, so I guess I’ll go with that. As for which scene and which movie, I’ll let someone else answer that, perhaps it’ll happen one day! “Carry My Body Down” from my solo album was featured recently in the TV show Kingdom, that was cool.
Nick 13 did an Amoeba YouTube series called “What’s In My Bag?” If you guys were to do a another one of those, what would be in your bag right now what are you listening to right now?
I’m always listening to old music, it’s been a lot of surf and 60s garage in the past couple of years. Duane Eddy, who’s really more of a precursor to surf, Dick Dale, The Sonics, stuff like that. Newer music would be the Cactus Blossoms, Lana Del Rey, Grave Pleasures and Jay Reatard, who I unfortunately didn’t get hip to until after he was gone.
Can you tell the Fusion Magazine readers something about Tiger Army that not too many people know about and that you’re willing to disclose?
We filmed a new video recently, it’s for the song “Dark and Lonely Night.” We’ve mentioned the video existing on social media, but the song it’s for has never been revealed until now. It should be online anytime, it might even be out by the time this interview hits. We’ll announce it at tigerarmy.com when it does come out.