Indie rock band Tigers Jaw recently celebrated the 10-year anniversary of their sophomore self-titled album just three days before the start of a supporting tour. The act, which hails from Scranton, Pennsylvania, is set to make a stop at Club Dada on Sept. 24.
Comprised of guitarist Ben Walsh and keyboardist Brianna Collins, who both take on vocal duties, Tigers Jaw has been together for roughly 13 years since its formation in 2006. Originally, Walsh started the group with then-member Adam McIlwee when they were in high school, Collins joining later while in high school, too. Collins became more involved with the band once they started working on the self-titled album, which is why she considers it to be significant in the band’s overall career.
“I would say it’s one of our most important records out of the five that we have,” Collins says. “When I joined the band, the first record, Belongs to the Dead, had already been out. It wasn’t really until we did 'self-titled' that — mind you, we were juniors and seniors in high school when we did that — but it was the first time that we were starting to play shows a little bit outside of Scranton. We were starting to see people from different countries acknowledge the existence of our band and say that they liked our band. I think that there’s just something about the 'self-titled' that seems to resonate with people.”
Listening to the album today reminds Collins of fun and special moments that occurred throughout the record-making process. Looking back at the time, she recalls doing artwork for the album and being in a recording studio, which were both firsts for her.
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“I could think of my first time ever singing in a vocal booth,” she says. “I was so nervous. I’m just behind the glass, everyone else is on the other side, and I could see them. I tried to sing and my voice just shook because I was so scared. I sounded like a grandma trying to sing something.”
As teenagers, Tigers Jaw members took on an unconstrained role when making music. There wasn’t a specific sound they wanted to mimic or match, Collins explains. Instead, they let the sound flow without direction.
“We didn’t have any idea of what we wanted it to sound like or who we wanted it to sound like or where we wanted to record it,” Collins says. “We just went to a recording studio that was recommended to us by a friend’s band. The songs were written, and there wasn’t a producer telling us things we could add or change. It was just very pure to be between the ages of 15 and 18, writing music at that time of your life.”
Since the album’s release, Tigers Jaw has gone through various lineup changes. There were three other members who took part in the making of the self-titled album, but they left the band in 2013. Although they won’t be reunited with Walsh and Collins this time around, Collins notes that this tour should be celebrating the album itself more than the people who made it, though she clarifies that this is not to discredit any ex-members.
“Tigers Jaw, from its conception, had been Ben and Adam [McIlwee] — and then I joined, she says. “But if I couldn’t play a show, somebody else had to play a show. We always had, in a sense, a little bit of a rotating lineup. When we recorded ‘self-titled,’ we had five people who were all playing together that made up the band, but I think the idea of having our friends play with us — just so we can continue to play the songs and the music — is the most important part. Not to take away the importance of those guys in the band, cause obviously, ‘self-titled’ wouldn’t have been the same without them either, but I think we’re all on the same page that the way that ‘self-titled’ has resonated with other people is something to celebrate, not necessarily the people that were playing at that time.”
Besides this tour, the band will also celebrate the album by coming out with a deluxe-edition reissue, which will include a booklet with old photos, testimonies from close friends who were impacted by the album, a 7-inch flexi with an alternate version of the song “Chemicals,” and, most importantly to Collins, a cover combining the original cover and the Run for Cover label reissue cover.
“I drew the heart [of the original album cover] when I was in art class, screen-printed it myself, scanned it and asked for use of the original artwork," Collins says. "But I think the more popular version of the artwork is what people like to call the ‘pizza album.’ When we put the record out with Run for Cover, we wanted to do something different for that to signify the fact that we were on this label that we really love and putting out 'self-titled' with them. But I wanted to bring it back to the original artwork in a way, and just kind of homage to the actual 10 years, being 16, and doing art for the band — which is still my favorite thing to get to do. So the deluxe edition has the new cover that actually flips over the one of pizza cover artwork, so you get both. It’s like a mix of the old and the new.”
The "pizza album" refers to the self-titled album’s cover showing a band member holding a plate with a slice of pizza, which was taken at Buona Pizza in downtown Scranton in 2010. The photograph symbolizes the importance of pizza to Tigers Jaw, which Collins admits was always around when the band generally hung out or practiced.
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“It’s one of my favorite pizzas,” she says. “Now being a vegan, it’s a sad thing because I can’t eat it. I used to be able to eat a whole large pizza by myself; it’s that good. [Buona Pizza is] just where we would go, because, mostly, everyone was from Scranton proper. Some of us were from tiny towns outside of Scranton, so being able to be in the city and hanging out and getting pizza, that was just like — my mom used to drop me off, because I didn’t drive. It’s very nostalgic and specific to that time in our lives.”
The band has never played the album front to back before, making this their first time doing so. However, Collins ensures her audience that while some songs might diverge from the original sound in the album, each song will remain the same in every other aspect when performed.
“I don’t think it’s possible to have them sound exactly how they sounded on the record just because, you know, it’s 10 years later; your voice changes,” she says. “So there are some songs that are different in that way, but the songs themselves are not going to be different. It’ll be very true to the record, literally in order.”
Tigers Jaw plays Sept. 24 at Club Dada with openers The Sidekicks and Cave People. Tickets are $16.