If you haven’t heard of Miniature Tigers, chances are you haven’t been paying attention. The four-piece indie band that has been generating blog buzz for the past two years just released its sophomore album, “Fortress,” this summer, and has been touring nearly non-stop since.
In a few days, Miniature Tigers will embark on yet another month-long tour with Freelance Whales, but not without making a quick detour this weekend back to Arizona to play a show with The Roots. And at the outset, the lineup will be different for those familiar with the band, as drummer Rich Schaier recently broke his wrist.
“He was breakdancing,” lead singer and guitarist Charlie Brand said, explaining how Schaier hurt himself. “He was drunk on his birthday. It was actually really perfect.”
Luckily for the band, the current tour manager used to play drums, so the past few off-days in their native Arizona have been spent with him filling in on rehearsals in a rush to learn the songs.
This is nothing new for the band, which is separated when not on tour. Brand “fell in love” with New York and moved out there in January with guitarist Algernon Quashie, while Schaier and bassist Alex Gerber remain on the West Coast. But the bi-coastal nature of the group is conducive for them knowing how to get things done in a short amount of time, as evidenced by the fact that they get together the week before a tour and have rehearsals then, as opposed to a normal weekly thing in a practice space like many other bands do.
The distance doesn’t have much of an effect on the songwriting process either, as it is Brand himself who writes most of the songs. And although fans and critics have the tendency to overanalyze Brand’s intention both musically and lyrically, he insisted there isn’t much to it.
“I just kind of started writing what was coming out and didn’t really think about it too much,” he said of his process.
And while Miniature Tigers have often been hailed for having a sound unlike any other band, Brand knows differently.
“There’s no real original music when it comes down to it. I think everyone’s influenced by someone else,” he said. “It blows my mind that people can still write songs.”
In fact, Brand admitted that at one point, any time he wrote a new song, he’d get a nagging fear that it was possible he’d accidently ripped off another band subconsciously. But as any mature artist knows, imitation isn’t just the sincerest form of flattery – it’s also the way true creators learn their art, with that eventually giving way to a voice and style unique to the artist.
Now, Brand insists that he follows his gut instincts about music and realizes that being a musician is about “doing what feels right to you.“
But of course, there’s no denying that the rapid growth of technology has drastically transformed the way music is both created and received by the masses. Brand himself was born in the mid-80s and recalled how different things were back when the Internet was just "a series of tubes”.
“I was in the Apple store today getting my computer fixed,” Brand said. “[And] I was just thinking back to the early days of dial-up AOL and my cyber girlfriend.”
And while he thinks that overall, technology is a good thing, he still lamented the fact that the fast-paced nature and immediacy of it has changed the music listening experience.
“[People buy] MP3s as opposed to buying a CD and listening to an album cohesively,” he said.
Which is sometimes unfortunate for bands like Miniature Tigers, who orchestrate their albums to have songs with various levels of interplay that work together to create a more intensive and intricate musical experience.
“We really stress over the sequence of it,” he said.
Yet he said that the music itself on a song-by-song basis is much more organic, because his songwriting approach strives to be devoid of over-analytical facets, instead focusing on the music for its own sake. Additionally, Brand is a believer that art is first for the individual creator, and second for the masses.
“I just write for myself almost,” he said.
He made mention of a friend who once asked him if he were on a desert island with a bunch of instruments and no one would ever hear the music he wrote, if he still would, to which he answered yes, a no-brainer for him.
“I love to [make music],” he said.
And even when fans misinterpret what the songs are about, it doesn’t bother him. He admitted to sometimes going on Twitter “just for curiosity” and searching to see what people are saying about the meaning of the band’s songs. And even when they’re totally off base, he still doesn’t mind.
“People hear it and make their own meanings,” he said. “I feel like you can learn different meanings from your material.”
Yet at the same time, he said sometimes knowing that meaning can ruin it for you, like when your favorite love song turns out to be about a dog, for example.
“When you know too much about a song that kinda sometimes ruins it, ruins the mystery, [and you think] ‘oh shit, that just ruined the whole song,’” he said.
This is something he knows first-hand, as Brand admitted he is the type of person to “obsessively listen” to songs or albums, sometimes to the point of researching the history to find out exactly what a song means. Currently though, he can’t stop playing the new Kanye West album, which he said is not so elusive for the listener to figure out what Kanye is about.
“He’s this egomaniac and he does all this crazy shit,” he said. “But the album almost embodies him to where you understand why.”
Brand and his bandmates and the new Kanye album will take to the road in a couple days, as Miniature Tigers play the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco this Friday with Freelance Whales and Pepper Rabbit.
“I love playing shows and playing music and I’m on tour with my best friends, which is a plus,” Brand said. “The worst is pretty much everything else: the traveling and the lack of sleep and eating really bad food.”
Still, in spite of a rough life on the road, Brand said at the end of the day, it’s all worth it.
“I’m pretty content with how things turned out for us,” he shared.