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The Tiger Army Wants You!

I’m sitting outside the Rev in Brisbane, on the pavement with Nick 13 of Tiger Army, prior to their first ever Australian show. When the interview was about to begin in the backstage area, the noise from sound check was distracting, and Nick 13 suggested we go outside. He apologises for us having to sit on the ground, but I don’t mind at all – it is a beautiful night. The Queensland humidity is noticeably absent and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. What also lifts my mood, obviously, is the fact that I’m talking to the singer and guitarist of one of the bands, psychobilly or otherwise, to make a strong impact at the moment.

It’s no secret that the band has been through some extremely tough times since forming in 1996. A lot of interviews that I have read have focused on these difficult times, but I’d like to try a different approach and write about where the band is now, in 2005. It’s not that the past is irrelevant, far from it, but it seems more appropriate to talk about the present. I ask Nick 13 what his thoughts are on the place that the band is in today. 

“I feel as though the Tiger Army has been my life’s calling, if you will. It definitely hasn’t been easy. On the one hand, I can look back and be proud of a lot of the things that we have achieved, especially considering the circumstances in which we’ve achieved them, but at the same time there has never really been a period where the band felt as though it couldn’t all go away tomorrow. In a way I suppose that’s the way life is. If you think something that you have can’t change, you’re fooling yourself. The line-up we have now, Jeff and James are excellent players and I personally feel that this is the best that the band has sounded live in its history and we’re still getting to do new things, for example coming to Australia for the first time. I’m definitely optimistic about the future.”

Could you see yourself doing this in ten years time?

“I certainly hope so. I suppose the day may come when I’ll have to do something else… I suppose I can see myself wanting to do something else years and years from now, but only when I feel as though the band has done everything it set out to do and we have said everything that we had to say musically. I’m still very much looking forward to making our next album and I feel that the best is yet to come. I guess if that feeling ever left me, I’d do something else.”

Tiger Army toured extensively throughout the US last year and kicked off 2005 with sold-out shows in the UK and Ireland.  Since the last time they were in the UK, a few years ago, a couple of things have changed. Most noticeably, their fan base has skyrocketed.

“I was very, very happy with the response in the UK. It was our second time there, and our first time headlining. The first time we were there three years ago… it was definitely quite good, I was happy with the response, but you can tell that our following has really built over the last few years. A lot of the crowds have been quite amazing. One of my favourite shows recently was London. Just an amazing, amazing response. The crowd [was] singing along, shouting along was so loud you could hear them over the music. It reminded me of some of our early shows in LA with the crazy energy.”

The band is known for putting everything they have and then some into their energetic and intense performances. I ask Nick 13 what the highlights and lowlights of maintaining such a touring schedule are.

“As far as what I don’t like, there are definitely times when it’s hard to be away from home. When you tour a lot, it’s like your life is constantly in motion and anything that can’t co-exist with that motion kind of falls away, whether that’s friendships, whether it’s whatever. But the things that do stand up to those tests, you tend to cherish them and appreciate them even more. As for what I do like, it might sound pretty simple, but getting to play every night is the best part of it. There are times where it’s a drag when you’re just sitting around waiting to play, but that hour that you get to play every night is the best feeling in the world.”

What can Australian fans expect from a Tiger Army show?

“A lot of energy. We definitely put everything we have into the performance, physically or otherwise. I hope I can do that tonight – we got in yesterday morning after a 14 hour flight! But I feel better than I did when we went to England. I think tonight will be a great show.”

Last year saw the release of Tiger Army’s third album III: Ghost Tigers Rise. The album has been credited with expanding upon the psychobilly label that has gone hand in hand with previous releases (2001’s II: Power of Moonlite and the self-titled debut of 1999). On III: Ghost Tigers Rise, elements of darkpop permeate some of the songs, but intensity is never lost – in fact, Rose of the Devil’s Garden and Ghostfire, the tracks on which this melodic aspect is most apparent, are two of the most impacting and downright beautiful songs off the album.

“I think the songwriting is perhaps the best yet and I think we’ve reached a new level on this album. The playing is certainly the best. When you start out as a band you are kind of influenced by the things you love, but you are trying to find your own voice and do your own thing and you kind of struggle to balance all those things. With our third album, I think that very much became a reality – the music became its own thing, not like anything else. I’m proud of all of our releases, but this new album is the first time I’ve felt that we’ve achieved everything we wanted to achieve.”

I then asked what song off the album he is most enjoying playing at the moment.

“I think all the songs from the new album that are in the set are favourites, but especially Rose of the Devil’s Garden and Santa Carla Twilight. Those are two of my favourites.”

Upon returning to the US, the band will embark on another tour almost immediately. What does he hope 2005 will bring for Tiger Army?

“That’s a good question. One of the things I wanted to do was come to Australia. I was looking back to some old interviews from about four years ago and that was one of the answers. I’m quite excited about our first full United States headlining tour which we will start when we get home. I hope that’s a lot of fun and a good success. I also look forward to doing a bit more touring.”

Aside from their hectic touring schedule, preparations are ongoing for a future release.

“We’ll hopefully be returning to the studio at some point towards the end of the year.

I have in the last few months started writing a couple of songs. With me songwriting is a gradual process, it never really starts or stops. You know, some bands sit down and say, ‘we’re going to write an album now.” For me there are always three or four songs that I’m working on even after our record is done and then I gradually add to that throughout the year. Certainly there are times when I’m off the road and I focus on writing, but if I get two songs I like out of that month, I’m happy.”

Likewise, Australian Tiger Army fans are damn happy that the band is here at last!

Dates are as follows:
March 9: The Rev, Brisbane
March 10: Lions Den, Brisbane [All ages]
March 11: Troccadero, Gold Coast
March 12: Gershwin Room, Melbourne
March 13: Stonecutters, Melbourne [All ages]
March 16: Rosemount, Perth
March 17: Enigma Bar, Adelaide [All ages, lic]
March 18: Annandale Hotel, Sydney
March 19: Annandale Hotel, Sydney [All ages]

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