When three-fifths of a band, including one of the co-founders, quits, you’d think that might mean the end of the road.
But Tigers Jaw’s remaining duo of Ben Walsh and Brianna Collins dusted themselves down, recorded a new album and became the first signings to a new major label imprint.
The band’s fifth album, Spin, comes out today on Black Concrete records, an imprint of Warner Records.
A collection of blissful, fuzzed-out indie-rock, it shows the band moving on from its punkier roots, and highlights Brianna’s increased role.
And for co-founder Ben, it’s all been a huge justification of the choice to carry on: ‘It’s been really gratifying, the band has been through a lot of changes. It’s been quite a journey and it feels great to have everything come full circle, with just Brianna and I, really doing it on our own terms.
‘It was so cool for us to build it up from nothing and work really hard on it.
We thought we’d bring it back to how it all started – two songwriters working together – and recapture that spirit of the early daysBen Walsh
‘It was a complete change of process from what we’re used to, but the end result still felt organic, and still felt like Tigers Jaw and retained everything that we were going for.
‘When the band started it was myself and Adam (McIlwee). We wrote everything together and we built everything together. When we were planning what we were going to do for Spin, we thought we’d bring it back to how it all started – two songwriters working together – and recapture that spirit of the early days.
‘Brianna really stepped up as a songwriter, her ideas and her songs and lyrics and melodies were really strong, and she’d never been a songwriter before.
‘She’s been in the band for years and years, but was never one of the songwriters, so when it was just the two of us she said she wanted to do it and she really stepped up.’
The band is a full five-piece on the road, but the album was put together entirely by the pair in the studio - which also harked back to how Ben originally worked with Adam.
‘It was a familiar format, but just something we hadn’t done in a good couple of years, but it was really cool.
‘We had a full month to do the record, which is more time than we’ve ever spent on anything. We tracked song by song – instead of doing all of the drums, then all the bass, then the guitar. so it was really cool.
‘We would go in the morning, I’d play a scratch guitar and vocal track to click, then I’d get behind the drums and record those, then we’d layer the bass on, then by the evening we’d be working on the vocals, and it would be like, wow, we’ve got a song with most of the elements laid out. This morning we had nothing.
‘It was such a cool process, it was exhausting, but in the most creatively fulfilling sort of way.’
And they worked again with renowned rock producer Will Yip, who has also become the ambassador for their new label.
‘To be honest, we hadn’t signed the deal when we made the record,’ explains Ben, ‘so when we made the record, we hadn’t committed to anything.
‘We did the record exactly how how we wanted to do it, which was great. We had total creative freedom, so when we decided to go with Black Cement, we sent them the record and Will was able to be an impartial person.
‘We were worried about the level of creative control we’d have working with what is essentially a major label, but they’ve been so supportive and so great.
‘And they, as much as they’re using their resources to help us, they’re taking a step back and kind of learning from us, what we’ve accomplished and how we’ve functioned as an independent band.
‘It’s been a really great and supportive process throughout and we’ve felt fortunate to be a part of it, I think ultimately it’s going to open a lot of doors for bands who came up in the same sort of world as us.’
Ben looks back on the band’s formative years in Scranton, Pennsylvania, as priceless.
‘When we started there wasn’t really a scene, but there were a lot of creative people, and bands from the immediate area like The Menzingers, Title Fight, and Three Man Cannon, all phenomenal bands, that all grew up and started in a 10-15 mile radius.
‘We started booking our own shows – we would play anywhere we could do a show we would play shows, and in that way we were networking, and eventually we would be doing show trades with bands a little bit further out of town. It was a very organic way to grow a scene, and it felt like we were doing something important in a town that didn’t have much going on.
‘It was a really cool time and very exciting to put in the work and promoting the shows, and to see people turning up to watch these original bands, it was a really exciting time for us.
‘Not every band starts off that way, but if there’s some sort of spark or talent, or something the industry can swoop in and convince you you need a manager and booking agent before you’ve even played many shows, so I feel those early formative experiences where you’re stumbling through the dark are super-important.
‘Those first couple of tours we were basically playing to the other bands and whoever was running the sound, but we learned so much about how things, work, and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything, and it made us really appreciative and work that much harder to get where we are.’
But for now, they’re happy with where they are and the way things are heading.
‘We’re really fortunate that after 12-and-a-half years of being a band we’re still on an upward trajectory and we’re still getting really cool opportunities and growing things as organically as we possibly can.
‘The scale has changed, but our basic intuitive process - how we keep the band moving forward, has remained constant.
‘It’s sort of surprising, We are essentially on a major label, we didn’t know if this was something we’d feel comfortable with, but this feels like the right move to make at this point on our careers. We heard them out and gave them a shot and it’s proved to be a really good fit.’
The Joiners, Southampton
Friday, August 18
The Haunt, Brighton
Sunday, August 19