"Good music has got me through some fucking dark times, and I want to pay that forward."
Tigercub are on the cusp of releasing their long-awaited new album 'As Blue As Indigo' via Blame Recordings.
The band's full-length in four years, they have more than made up for their absence with a record as dense and distorted and it is delicate and sparse. Jumping from head-mangling riffs to quiet passages of stark vulnerability, it's an album made to prodded, poked and pondered. It's also the result of frontman Jamie Hall's personal journey to better understand his more fragile of feelings.
We sat down with him to dissect the process that has led us to this point and what he has learned along the way
What was your time away from the band like and what was it that made it seem the right time to come back to Tigercub?
“Tigercub started over ten years ago now. In 2014, the band began to pick up attention more, and we started on the touring circuit from there. We daisy-chained tours together from then through to 2017 in the old school manner. Back of the van, £70 a night, desperate to make it happen. In the middle of that, we were trying to cobble together the songs and the resources to make music that we believed was better than what we did last. That cycle blew us out by the end of that period of the band. We could feel the dial was starting to shift in the right direction, but we were just so blown out. So we took six months out to get ourselves in a position where the next thing we released had a big push behind it.
“In the interim, I did my project, Nancy. There’s something inside of me that always drives me to write songs. I love it, and it makes me happy. So there are always songs lying around, and some didn’t fit into the Tigercub world. They spoke to my love of David Bowie and The Beatles. It accidentally went well and was all over Radio 1 and everything. My focus with Tigercub started to slip, and it began to stagnate.
“But then finally, at the start of 2020, when I started my own label, it felt like we could finally do Tigercub for real and in the way we wanted to. It was the right time. I didn’t want to leave it this long, but I think we left it long enough that people could still remember us. Culture had moved on a bit, but people were still hitting me up, asking, ‘Is it dead? Have you broken up?’ The thing is that we all wanted to make this record. We just knew it wasn’t meant to be until it was.”
That encouragement must be nice as well. Knowing there are people as invested in this story as much as you...
“That’s cool, isn’t it? They wanted it, and they were asking about it. It’s easy to forget about how things like that feel when you’re in the thick of it. It’s interesting because I then started to think about what Tigercub means to people who have had it in their lives for long enough that it’s a part of them. When you start with a formula of something that people are into, they get defensive when you try to change it. I started to realise that I had a responsibility to give people what they expect from us. So I had initially written this all-out pop record, pulling Tigercub up into the middle class of bands and getting us to more people. But it was the wrong move because I was making pop for pop’s sake. It wouldn’t be the music that I would want to listen to, so I thought, ‘Fuck that’ and rewrote the whole thing. It became about recapturing what makes us excited about music. That’s big fucking riffs, loud distorted shit and cool chords. Get back to basics.”
You’ve got to think back to what that version of yourself in 2011 would think of what you were working on…
"Yeah, and I have an image of what a Tigercub fan looks like in my head. So what will make them go, ‘Wow!’ I’m trying to write to get that hypothetical reaction as I go along. It’s so easy to lose that. Music is about everyone. It’s about people. As you start to get older, you begin to reconnect with the semantic of things like that. It all starts to make more sense again. So I want Tigercub to be a place for people who don’t fit in. I want our gigs to be a meet and greet for people to know that we are all here for music and that we’re all fucking weird. I don’t want to lose that.”
Alongside that musical journey, there is also an emotional one to be had too, and this album feels very human within that. There’s a lot more of you as a person within these songs. How have you gone about making it a reality?
"As I’ve been getting a little bit older, I’ve started to reflect on who I want to be and where I came from. With the time out, it gave me the chance to reappraise the answers to those questions. When I was younger, I wouldn’t be willing to put anything strictly about me on the table when writing songs. It was all through this borrowed alt-rock persona that I could tap into. That was a safer way of expressing anxiety and self-doubt and my place in the world. That’s fine, but it wasn’t me. With ‘As Blue As Indigo’, I’ve realised that I have to fucking risk something. I have to allow myself to be discovered by people if they choose to go that deep. Then we can all feel the catharsis together in the sadness and shit we are processing.
"As a man, I was taught not to show emotion. I take responsibility for that, but I also realise that stoicism can be a toxic thing that can lead to miserable lives. It can lead to you going to some dark places. It’s so important to express yourself and how you feel. I find songwriting as the most emotionally purifying process that I have that helps me purge all of the poison in me. I’ve wanted to do it in such a way that if someone wishes to, they could go on the journey of purging their own emotions as well. Music does that so well. It’s not up to me to decide if I have managed to do that or not, though. It’s down to the listener. Good music has got me through some fucking dark times, and I want to pay that forward."
To create something that feels that way and that will then be in the world forever is even more reason to dive that deep as well...
"That’s the thing. It’s a record of how you were feeling at that time. I find it hard to even really know how I think about something in the moment. It’s only in hindsight that it starts to show itself. You can go back to an old song and know exactly what it was about, but also know that you didn’t think that way at the time. Your mind is a puzzle. It’s a maze that you’re trapped in with this mix of conscience and automatic neurons firing around."
What do you feel as though the central core was running through this collection of songs when you had them all together?
“When I went in initially, I was fascinated by the idea of subjectivity and the ways that people see colour. I felt it was a good jumping-off point in terms of a place to start exploring feelings of sadness and alienation. I’m not an expert on colour theory and don’t understand it profoundly; it felt reachable enough to use to tap into some of my deeper thoughts and feelings. I like the idea of subjectivity and the fact that all of our experiences are truly only our own. There is not true collective consensus. We are alone in how we feel.
“So the transience between blue and indigo, where you can’t tell whether it sits in either camp, felt true to life. I felt like it was accessible and could give a deeper meaning to these tracks if you wanted to dig deeper than the riffs.”
There’s something about allowing yourself to indulge in those things that are a little bit less positive than you may want to explore. But if you don’t experience the dark, how can you find your way to the light?
"Melancholy is a part of all of this. You have to allow yourself to be sad. It’s a shit feeling, but it will pass. If you just block it, you can end up getting yourself into a fucking bad place. You’ve got to confront things, and that’s something that I’m starting to understand and respect. Once you’ve purged that poison, you’ll find some endorphins, and you will feel good. And once you’ve experienced that colour, you can experience other colours as well. It’s all linked together, and it’s the reason we write songs and paint pictures and make things in the first place. To express the feelings you can’t put into words."
Taking all of this in, how does it feel for you to express it with this band that you started over a decade ago?
“Overall, it feels satisfying. To know that something is of good quality and that you’re happy with is so lovely. I’ve been on a road of learning how to trust my instincts and back myself. In the past, I’ve been a studio, and it’s all just felt like flashing lights, and I’ve expected someone with a degree in engineering to make the science. But through other things, I’ve learned everything and know that it’s all about your ears and whatever you think sounds good. So going into this album, I knew I wanted to make it the heaviest, most distorted, wrong sounding record ever. Nothing is allowed to be by the rules. I enjoyed being able to be coherent enough to make those decisions and make sense of it all. I just wanted to come back strong, and what we have is the full realisation of everything we wanted to do in the past but didn’t know how to do."