By Michael Lello
If you feel like you’ve been waiting for the new Tigers Jaw album for a while, try being in the band.
It’s been since 2010 since their last full-length release, and since last April that they began recording “Charmer,” which finally sees the light of day this Tuesday (June 3).
You can hear the album now on Pitchfork, which is streaming it, and if you preordered the record, you already have a download. The latter was not part of the original rollout strategy by the band or its label, Run For Cover.
“Well, somebody actually leaked the record (last week),” vocalist and guitarist Ben Walsh said in an interview with Highway 81 Revisited. “It was an inferior copy and had a few songs missing. So we then planned with Run For Cover to make all the preorder download codes active and put the record up on Bandcamp for a $5 download.”
Calling it “more of an annoying situation,” the group – which some thought would cease to exist just last year after three members left – is excited that “Charmer” will finally be heard.
“Absolutely. It feels great,” he said. “It was an unfortunate thing that somebody did that, but we’ve been sitting on the record for so long. It’s my favorite thing we’ve done.”
The current full-time members – Walsh and Brianna Collins (keyboards, vocals) – will perform at a free, all-ages acoustic show and pizza party this Friday, June 6 at Gallery of Sound in Wilkes-Barre. Fellow Scranton band Esta Coda will open the Wilkes-Barre show. On Saturday, they’ll play another free in-store at the FYE on Avenue of the Arts/Broad Street in Philadelphia, and on Monday June 16 Tigers Jaw will play its official album-release show at Union Transfer, also in Philadelphia. The lineup for the full-band shows will be rounded out by Elliot Babin (drums), Luke Schwartz (bass) and Jake Woodruff (guitar).
“The closest that our tour gets to our own hometown is Philly. It’s unfortunate, but it’s what had to happen,” Walsh explained of how the Gallery of Sound event came to be. “We wanted to do something with the release closer to home, so people didn’t have to go all the way to Philly.”
Tigers Jaw’s fan-friendly approach to shows extends to making every attempt to play all-ages venues.
“We really try to make it a point to do all-ages shows,” Walsh said. “We come to a town once a year, we don’t want people to be held back from seeing us. Sometimes it’s 18-plus or 16-plus, and that’s like a citywide curfew that we can’t control.”
This is the most complete album-release promotional campaign Tigers Jaw will have undertook to date. Beyond the tour dates and in-stores, Hot Topic and Newbury Comics will carry special vinyl editions of “Charmer.” In addition to streaming the record in full, Pitchfork debuted the single “Nervous Kids” in March. In April, The A.V. Club premiered another single, “Slow Come On,” and in mid-May, a video for the “Charmer” song “Hum,” directed by Alex Henery, was released.
The band started when its members were teenagers, and Walsh and Collins are now firmly in the post-collegiate part of their lives – Walsh working on earning a speech therapy certificate from Marywood University, and Collins student teaching in Northeastern Pennsylvania after graduating from Temple University. So it’s safe to assume their sound has changed in the time it took to finish high school and college, record several albums and EPs and tour the country and even overseas. But not as much as one might expect, and a listen to the albums does reveal a constant thread of catchy, post-punk anthems often centered on relationship drama.
“I started out as a drummer, so things have changed quite drastically for me,” Walsh said. “Learning to play guitar, and getting into amps and pedals, a couple years ago I couldn’t have cared less about it.
“Songwriting, I don’t think much has changed for me. I don’t really try to fit any set structure, I just try to make it genuine and honest as possible. Skill-wise, I’m playing guitar and writing better parts because I’ve been playing for a while.”
Walsh’s influences on guitar have remained pretty constant as well.
“I’ve always been really, really inspired by Okay Paddy and their guitar work, not that we really even sound like them, and The Sw!ms, too,” he said, referring to the two former Scranton bands. “I just love guitarists that don’t try to do too much when they write a guitar part. I’m a big fan of Tom Petty, and their guitar player (Mike Campbell) knows how to write a very simple riff or poignant riff or guitar solo.”
Walsh said the greater attention being paid to Northeastern Pa. bands like The Menzingers, Title Fight and Tigers Jaw is not only positive, but hopefully just a start, as well.
“I’d say it’s great. It’s great that people are paying attention to our area,” he said. “And even beyond our bands, there’s a lot of great bands that haven’t had their turn in the spotlight, like Esta Coda and Shorthand, that are super-talented, with really good musicians. And two others that just released great albums: Three Man Cannon and Kite Party.
“It’s going to be tough to pick an album of the year.”