When you’re a particularly beloved band with emotional, heartstring-pulling lyrics and forever catchy melodies, you tend to have a devoted fan base.
For Scranton, Pennsylvania-born, emo-tinged indie rock duo Tigers Jaw, those fans have stayed by their side through thick and thin, from the band’s 2006 debut, Belongs to the Dead (Summersteps Records), up through last year’s full-length Spin (Black Cement), produced again by Will Yip, known for working with a wide array of talent from Lauryn Hill to Title Fight.
“It’s really cool to know that there are people who have been with us and continue to support our band after all these years,” said vocalist-guitarist Ben Walsh by phone as he prepared for Tigers Jaw to set out on yet another tour, this one including a stop in Camarillo at Rock City Studios on March 9. “We’ve been a band for 13 years, so almost half of my life, which is crazy to think about. There are plenty of people who have been, like, ‘I’ve seen you guys a bunch of times.’ But then it’s also really exciting that our music is reaching so many new people all these years later.”
“It shows us that there are a lot of people who stick with us,” he adds.
The major thing that’s changed over all those years is the band’s makeup itself. Tigers Jaw began as a teenage pop-punk five-piece, but thinned out considerably when three founding members left in 2013. The sound has matured since. The cracking open of a long-running band would be a major shakeup for any musician. And yet, the departure meant that Walsh was able to take center stage as songwriter along with fellow founding member vocalist-keyboardist Brianna Collins. Collins has stepped up to the plate for songwriting duties just in the past few years, creating an even richer sound for them both. Collins’ voice is swoon-worthy, and the blend of her sound and Walsh’s made for a new era for Tigers Jaw.
“Once we started writing for Spin, Brianna started writing songs,” says Walsh. “She had never written songs for the band, or I’m pretty sure ever, so it’s been amazing to watch her fully step up, and she wrote some really incredible songs that made it onto the record.”
He adds, “It’s been really fun having that dynamic change and having her take the lead on more vocal parts and seeing her write great melodies and great lyrics.”
It’s given the band new life, a refreshed version of itself, if you will, after so many years together as a band. One exceptionally memorable track off Spin, “June,” sees the invert reality of a revitalized existence in its lyrics and music video, which tells of a decaying love story. The video juxtaposes vintage commercials for kitschy honeymoon resorts in the Poconos — not far from where Walsh and Collins grew up — with the far grungier, modern, decayed version of one such hotel.
“It’s part of the lore of northeastern Pennsylvania up in the Poconos. There are a bunch of these honeymoon resort-type places,” explains Walsh. “They used to be these extravagant honeymoon destinations where they’d have all these hilarious fixtures like heart-shaped tubs and romantic cabins. But they’re just sitting there decaying like a weird, rotting version of what they used to be.”
“So we came up with that as an idea of a location to shoot; and the director we brought on board did some research and found those old commercials, so we used those as a weird, very visual way to show the juxtaposition of how bright and shiny it used to look and how inviting it was — and then all of sudden it pans to the swimming pool filled with trash and a disgusting-color water. It was pretty cool to be able to shoot there.”
Now a year since Spin was released, Tigers Jaw is getting back on the road, doing what it loves most: playing to devoted fans, new and old.
During this tour, Tigers Jaw is hitting a lot of cities it has never played in its 13 years as a band, including Camarillo. Given all the new stops, the duo has put together a set list that was an even interpretation of all the albums, with a bit from each. Walsh and Collins will be playing older songs like “The Sun” off Belongs to the Dead; some tracks from 2010’s Two Worlds, including the title track and “Return” (says Walsh: “It’s one we haven’t played in a while and we’re bringing back”) along with a handful of songs from 2014’s Charmer (Run for Cover) and some from Spin.
Whatever the venue or crowd, Walsh is just excited to be back out in front of fans. “There’s something really special about super-energetic shows.”
Tigers Jaw performs with Yowler and Looming on Friday, March 9, at 7 p.m. at Rock City Studios, 2258 Pickwick Drive, Camarillo. For tickets and more information, call 383-3555 or visit www.rockcitystudios.net.