Even though they haven't put out new music since 2007, Tiger Army continue to draw fans from all genres and backgrounds. The band’s fusion of psychobilly and a variety of other types of music sell out their local Halloween show, Octoberflame, year after year. They scatter concerts and large festivals throughout the country on occasion, and they even headlined the OC Fair in 2011.
But that’s all about to change, as the trio prepares to release their long-awaited fifth studio album, V •••–. The record still sounds undeniably like Tiger Army, but as singer and guitarist Nick 13 points out, their latest work is more influenced by acts like Roy Orbison, Del Shannon, the Ramones, and Johnny Thunders.
“Every album is a step in the evolution of Tiger Army,” Nick says. “This album is the classic Tiger Army sound meets classic ‘60s rock and roll. The punk side is still there, but it’s more the New York City punk of the ‘70s.”
For Nick and the rest of Tiger Army, the key to any record is avoiding falling into a rut. They could release albums similar to their previous work and fans would still buy them, but with just about every song being churned from Nick’s mind, the chief songwriter wants to keep things fresh. After all, during Tiger Army’s period of inactivity, Nick took on a solo career in a very different genre.
“I was playing solo, playing country and Americana music for a while,” Nick says. “Through the years, I’ve been waiting for the next musical step and inspiration for Tiger Army. When I found it, I started working on it, and now it’s about to come out.”
With the new album out on May 20, Tiger Army will be back as a full-time band for the first time in over half-a-decade. A world tour follows the release of the record (and an in-store performance and signing at Fingerprints in Long Beach on May 21), and there’ll be plenty of diehard fans at each and every stop. For Nick 13, Tiger Army’s popularity is just a byproduct of doing what he loves.
“It was never something I expected,” Nick says. “The goal is always to write songs I want to write and play what I want to play without compromising to any external forces. I never necessarily saw it being anything other than an underground thing. It still is an underground thing in some respects, the popularity in areas like Southern California is a nice surprise, but worldwide, we’re still smaller than Justin Bieber.”
Although he may not be the Biebs, Nick 13 saw a good amount of success during his solo career. As the general of Tiger Army, Nick's built a big enough fan base that he’d never really have to return to the band if he didn’t want to, and that’s how he likes it. Rather than trying to grab as much cash as possible, the songwriter simply goes with whatever he’s feeling at any given moment.
“Playing solo for me was a way to explore some new musical directions,” Nick says. “In the long run, it helped Tiger Army because it kept me from ever getting jaded or burnt out. Fortunately, I’m in a position where I can do whatever I want musically whenever I want. I’ll never be touring with Tiger Army when my heart’s not in it, and it’s the same thing for touring solo. I came back to Tiger Army when my heart was in it – and I’ve never played when it wasn’t – I just needed some time to explore and see what was next.”
But when it comes to a live Tiger Army show, Nick 13 certainly doesn’t seem like the country type. Even for the slower tunes, every second of their performances are filled with an energy and honesty not often seen in bands using an upright bass. It’s what fans have come to expect, particularly now that they put the time and effort in to focus on their live musicianship as well.
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“Our live approach has definitely changed and evolved over time,” Nick says. “We came out of playing punk rock where the live performance was all about energy. Sometimes, that energy came at the expense of musical side. It’s more about balance now.”
Considering their significant lack of recorded music over the last several years, Tiger Army’s live shows have played a huge part in keeping the band relevant after all this time. Armed with their brand new album, fans shouldn’t expect that to change anytime soon.
“Every live performance is important,” Nick says. “We try to give as much as we can every single time, because it could be somebody’s first show they ever see or the last show they ever see. You never even know when your own last show is going to be. We’ve seen all these talented musicians pass away recently before their time, and that’s a reminder that you should never take anything for granted.”
Admittedly, it seems a little strange for Nick 13 to be pondering his own mortality. He’s got a long way to go before he gets to the ages of Bowie, Prince, and Lemmy. And as any fan would explain, Tiger Army never die.