Band to Watch: An Interview With Austin’s Tiger Waves

Hold onto your hats kids.

Tiger Waves are an up-and-coming band from Austin, Texas with a chill summer sound that’s too good to be undiscovered. They have oodles of talent, they’re down-to-earth, and they’ve got their musical ideas so fleshed out that it sounds like they’ve been playing for 20+ years. What’s particularly surprising is that they’ve managed to accomplish such a polished sound when their two main songwriters were separated by thousands of miles.

Their sound is a fusion of new and old, fast and slow. Some of their songs have me imagining a quiet basement party draped with strings of white lights, a makeshift stage in the corner with the Beach Boys grabbing Great Lake Swimmers’s Tony Dekker to sing on a couple tracks. Paradoxically, some other tracks are so hyperactive and exploratory that they could’ve been pulled right from the soundtrack from a trippy, psychedelic space western.

Not to hyperbolize, but their newest single Weekends poises them at the edge of a bigger breakout than a teenager with acne problems.

They’re that rare breed of indie music that doesn’t fall prey to hip hop samples, electronic whizbangs, and Swedish bandmates. They’re catchy without the annoying, gimmicky Apple commercial pretense (usually this means excessive handclaps).

Tiger Waves holds a really special place in the collective heart of Music Between Friends, because it’s the first band we’ve felt is important enough to interview. Let’s put it this way – In two years, when they make the bigtime and Pitchfork takes credit for discovering them, you can thank us for keeping you in the know. You can be that friend.

An interview with Tiger Waves

Which track on Don’t Be Yourself are you the most proud of?
Probably I Hope You’ll Feel Alright. The whole EP was an attempt to Phil Spector-ize our sound. We were listening to a lot Spector, Jesus & Mary Chain, Distortion-era Magnetic Fields, Shoe-gazy stuff, and that definitely influenced the sound of the EP. We also recorded it over the winter so that had a subtle influence on the overall atmosphere. Anyways, we were trying to convey this cold, distant quality in the songs, this feeling of being lost in the songs, of not quite being able to discern each instrument, each part, each harmony, but still feeling the song as a totality. I think I Hope You’ll Feel Alright captured that intention the most successfully, so we’re probably the most proud of that one.

How do your live and recorded sounds compare to each other?
We have a very particular & a very peculiar recording method. We don’t have much money so we can’t afford any studio time. Instead we record everything in our efficiency apartment. We have all these instruments lying around – countless keys, guitars, banjo, flutes, cello, etc – and we record everything with a borrowed SM-57 onto a borrowed Tascam which we then bounce onto our non-borrowed computer. We use a free internet program, Audacity, to mix and put the songs together. Since the recording techniques at our disposal are pretty lo-fi we have to use a lot of tricks that we’ve discovered over time to try & make our songs sound full, driving, engaging, and, frankly, listenable. One of the things we do is intense overdubs. Everything is tracked multiple times and we’ll pan it differently to fill out the space of the song. Sometimes we’ll play the whole recorded version of the song from the computer through a Fender Deville w/ a bunch of reverb and we’ll record that and bounce it back into the song in the back of the mix (kind of like an artificial echo chamber). Anyways, we do all of these things in order to make the songs sound fuller & more vibrant. But it also gives our songs a very unique feel, I don’t know how to put my finger on it, but its there, and that becomes a big challenge to replicate live. We have a big band, six of us, because our songs have a lot of unique instrumentation that we can’t really pull of as a 3 or 4 piece. I would say our live shows almost have a pseudo-punk  mentality. It’s very rock & roll; but like, weird rock & roll that you’d see at a circus or birthday party. We try to make the music as exciting as possible, so we’re always jumping around, dancing, changing instruments, hollering animal noises, that sort of thing. But it’s also fundamentally pysch-music. We have a lot of delay & loop pedals, and jangling guitars and weird vocals. I don’t know. The relationship between our records & live set is very interesting, because they mutually influence each other and also because we’re still working out who we are live and who we are in the studio.

Can you guys describe the visuals used in your live shows?
When we went on tour we brought a big bag of Christmas lights and would string those up when we had time. Our first show was with Olivia Tremor Control and some guy came up to us before our set and asked if he could project water droplets and ink and all these cool images onto the stage with this projector he had brought. We we’re totally down and it turned to be incredible. We felt like Pink Floyd (Syd Barrett era) for a hot second. Also on tour we brought along this 8 foot tall plywood cut out of a German man decked out in leiderhosen with a snare drum. He was kind of our mascot. We haven’t had a lot of time thought to organize any awesome visuals. We really want to make our live shows incredible, like early Flaming Lips. We wish we had all sorts of lights and fog machines and projectors and all that stuff. One of the most incredible shows I ever went to was Godspeed You Black Emperor, and they have absolutely unbelievable visuals. Just give us time, when we get money, we’ll put some awesome stuff together.

What’s a typical day in the life of Tiger Waves?
Wake up, get coffee, go swimming, send emails, read, write & record, eat dinner, record again, go out to a local bar & dance & hangout. Repeat. Unless I’m working. Then it’s the same, but insert “work” before “go swimming.

What are some of your touring pet peeves?
Not being able to stop at every historical marker (we had to miss Lincoln’s grave in order to make a show in Chicago). We only toured once, and it was booked pretty last minute, so half the shows were pretty empty & it’s just really physically taxing and discouraging to set up all your gear (and we have a lot) and then get up there and play & feel like no one is listening. The other half of the shows, though, were absolutely incredible and made everything so worthwhile.

What’s one comfort item you bring with you when you go on the road?
James: His dog Pierre
Tyler: Xanax/Kurt Vile
Reid: Philosophy
PJ: His box of stamps
Josh: All of his John Steinbeck books
Kevin: Libby

Name one band you’d like to trade places with for a day.
Creed. Just to know what it’s like.

What’s one song you can’t get out of your head?
Lodi by Creedence Clearwater Revival

If you were stranded on a desert island, what album would you take for comfort and what album would you take for firewood?
Comfort: Ahh, that’s a tough question. Really just one? Maybe, maybe, maybe Pet Sounds?
Firewood: Ryan Adam’s forthcoming box set. It’s so massive I feel like you could get a lot of utility out of it.

What musicians would make up your ideal “super band”?

Songwriter: Stephin Merritt
Lead Guitarist: Ted “The Man” Nugent
Rhythm Guitar: Hologram of Dimebag
Bass: Paul McCartney
Harmonica: Guy From Blues Traveler (John Goodman?)
Drums: Cat Stevens (aka Yusuf Islam)
Aux Percussion: Prince (aka The Artist Formerly Known as Prince)
Lead Singer: Girl from Evanescence
Imagine the possibilities! I’m 99% sure Stephin would kill to get an opportunity to write for an ensemble of this “caliber”.

Check Tiger Waves out on FacebookSoundcloud, and Bandcamp and their Website. You won’t regret it.

Some Music for the World Traveller

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a downloadable playlist, so I finally fought off my laziness long enough to put some songs together and get one up on the blog— and now I feel like I’ve had a pretty productive day and it’s only noon, which is dangerous, because I may spend the rest of the afternoon watching terrible reality TV or napping with the dog to keep me in check.  It’s my day off and these are my life decisions…

Travelling has always been a pretty fun and relaxing thing for me, because you’re usually going somewhere new and exciting so it’s always worth the sore neck from awkward napping positions and germs from the recycled air, plus, making a playlist for the airport/flight just adds extra excitement to the whole process. So here are 15 songs inspired by travelling and the places that make me want to go to them, that hopefully you can enjoy next time you take off.


Track Listing:
01 You Only Live Once - the Strokes
 02 Gangster Tripping - Fatboy Slim
 03 Archipelago - Miike Snow
 04 Leave House - Caribou
 05 Eighth Avenue - Hospitality
 06 Trip - Vacationer
 07 Canada vs. America - Broken Social Scene
 08 Mexico - The Soft Pack
09 Verona - Geographer
 08 Zimbabwe - Bob Marley 
10 Paris 2004 - Peter, Bjorn & John
11 Summer - Tiger Waves
 13 Desert Island - Architecture in Helsinki
14 The Harrowing Adventures Of - Tokyo Police Club
 15 Lucid Dreams - Franz Ferdinand