With a career spanning beyond 6 years, four albums, and more than a few tours, Miniature Tigers have achieved a status in the world of alternative rock and pop- that of the relentless underdog, ceaselessly reaching for the stars from a residency in the clouds. From their first major tour opening for Ben Folds and supporting their first album, Tell it to The Volcano, to touring with post blow up fun. the Tigers are no strangers to the stage. Beyond that these boys have always been in exceptional company, earning an often overlooked stamp of approval from talented and successful musicians who like the Tigers work hard and put in their time.
Bands like Phoenix, fun., and Future Islands have all experienced this brand of delayed recognition. They’ve all somehow glided under the surface, touring and creating high quality music while widespread adoration lied in a different sphere. But there came a moment for all of them that led to an awakening, whether it was a particular break out single, a new label, a memorable performance or phenomenal branding. Miniature Tigers have the potential to join these ranks, proudly boasting a consistently characteristic, relatable, and extensive collection of indie pop. With their latest record, Cruel Runnings, the band has embarked on a new engagement with the elusive phenomenon that is quality hook laden pop, and paired with a recognizable brand and an upcoming tour (kicking off tonight in New York City at The Westway), the Tigers are crouched, ready to make an incredibly catchy run for your ears.
Stylistically their latest release is a colorful conglomeration of all of the Tigers’ previous work in a new light. From the surf poppy melodies of Tell It To The Volcano to the more experimental Pop albums FORTRESS and Mia Pharrow, The Tigers have evolved their pop sound through experimentations in mood, style and lyricism, spanning 60s Americana to psychedelic electro disco pop and everything in between. It’s no surprise then that Cruel Runnings reads as the output from an artist well versed in pop and in the melodies that have crafted the Pop canon for the last half century. When asked about defining their style, songwriter and frontman Charlie Brand doesn’t sell his creative output short.
“It’s never in my intention to track down a signature sound, it’s about evolving and trying something different while working within your own sound. I think that we have definitely evolved over the last three albums, and this latest album to me is probably the closest we’ve come to a signature sound, whatever that may be- we just wanted to write songs that felt natural and felt like us. We visit some of our roots but we’ve never had that moment where we want to capture nostalgia of what we’ve had in our own music, even if we have been around for a while”.
Another major evolution in, and criticism of, the band’s sound has been Charlie’s vocal choices. In the 2010 review of FORTRESS Pitchfork warned that his vocal restraint and careful footing could wash the record out. Throughout his career though Charlie’s voice has gone from mild mannered shy boy to pop rock yell singer. “On FORTRESS there were many vocal effects, lots of reverb- when I listen back I’m like ‘oh man I was so into reverb’ but I think that maybe comes from Tell It To The Volcano, where my voice was super dry and up front. Upon listening back to that I just cringed at my voice. That’s why FORTRESS has so much reverb. But I’m also falling in love with pop music again, and people want to connect to a voice. In order to have a real connection you can’t hide the vocals in reverb.”
Speaking of Pop records that establish strong connections with an audience, Charlie has also expressed an admiration for contemporary Pop juggernauts, “I love Beyoncé and Kanye is a huge dude for me. I love how simple Yeezus was- he didn’t clutter the songs and had every part be more meaningful. I was really into Frank Ocean as well, super inspiring and a very clean record.”
For an indie artist, Charlie’s favorites and the wells of much of his stylistic inspiration are artists at the top of pop totem pole. Is this the record where The Tigers reach for that kind of recognition themselves? “As much as I love Pop I love songwriting as my art form, so I have to be pleased with it. There are just certain things I wouldn’t do to achieve that level of success, but what’s fun is the challenge and the art of writing a great pop song, while trying to figure out what people would like. I don’t live or die by that, but it’s exciting to think about it. You put everything into an album, and everything else that happens after that is out of your control. So for me its like I feel very happy with this, it’s my favorite album we’ve ever made, I’m proud of the songwriting, I love it and I hope it does well. “
There you have it. Cruel Runnings isn’t only Charlie’s favorite Miniature Tigers record, but Kaiotic’s too. And while he denies nostalgia, the record reeks of it, not only in Charlie’s teenage love and angst stories, but in the unmistakable and inescapable melodies. The Tigers also manage to take modern instrumentations and make them seem old school; like a pop song with a 60s filter, the electronic elements blend into the texture of the tracks and expose a universal side of independent pop music- the one that draws on an audience’s emotions.