If Tigers Jaw decided to call it a day, no one could blame them. The long-running Scranton pop-punkers lost 60 percent of their band after their last album, dropping from a five-piece to a duo. It’s fair to say that most bands would probably opt to pack it in after being decimated like that. But Ben Walsh and Brianna Collins still had something to say and they needed Tigers Jaw to say it.
In fact, the loss of three members only led to an album that sounds bigger and more lush than anything the band had done previously. The only thing small about their new album spin is its intentionally all-lowercase title. Everything else is the sound of two people refusing to let logistics stop them from making anthems. The swirling guitars and crashing drums coming from Walsh and Collins sound like a cornered person holding up their arms and puffing out their chest to trick the outside world into thinking they are bigger than they actually are. It’s an album-length to ruse to convince the forces around them to leave them be.
With their new album dropping next month, we spoke with Ben and Brianna about how their new album came together, what it was like to work as a duo and what they believe is the future of Tigers Jaw.
How did you all start working on spin? Was the process any different from your previous albums now that it’s just the two of you?
Ben Walsh: My writing process has always been pretty solitary. So, that didn’t change on this album. With my background of playing drums, I’m able to map out a song and plan how everything should go. And that’s a pretty solitary process. I don’t show it to anybody until its formed, until the key parts are in place… Pre-production and the work before we started recording remained the same as it always was. The first day in the studio we re-demoed the songs. We looked at the songs as a whole and really thought about the structures of them, but otherwise it felt pretty similar.
Brianna Collins: I had some solid ideas formed and I made these bare-bones demos. Then, we all worked together to flesh them out. We got into the studio and started working with [producer and Black Cement label head] Will [Yip]. It was definitely a working collaboration.
You trade off vocal duties throughout spin. How did you decide who sings what? And did you write songs with each other in mind?
Walsh: As I was writing, I heard parts where I felt like her vocals would fit. There’s a song called “Blurry Vision” on the album where I sing first with Brianna singing harmony and then we switch on the second verse. Honestly, that was Will’s idea but it gives the second verse a completely different feel.
Collins: Well, I knew Ben would be singing harmony on whatever I wrote. So, I went into the songs knowing that either way we’re both kind of singing on every song.
Brianna, I saw that one of the songs on this album was your first-ever that you’d written. Were you nervous about trying out this new lane?
Collins: Oh, I was definitely nervous. Everything I was doing, I was doing for the first time. That’s a big part of the reason why all of my songs on the album ended up being so collaborative. I needed that help, to fill in for skills that I didn’t necessarily have. But I was really having fun just pushing myself and making myself try new things.
Do you feel differently about this set of songs knowing that you had more of a hand in their creation?
Collins: Going from being in Tigers Jaw and not being the primary songwriter to making this album… it just shifted the way that the band is. It allowed me to do something that I never thought I’d be able to do. I think all of the songs are strong, Ben’s especially. But now, with this album, it’s not just me loving songs that other people have written that I get to play.
The role of relationships and mental health issues seems to be pretty large on this album on songs like “June” and “Guardian.” Were you going through some particularly rough patches with your own personal relationships while this was being made?
Walsh: I was dealing with a relationship that required a lot of attention to this person’s mental health. So, I was putting all of my attention and energy into helping that other person. And I think it definitely came through in a lot of the lyrics I was writing. If you spend all your time being supportive, you don’t think to take your own advice. And your own mental health can suffer in those situations.
Collins: Relationships definitely had an impact on the album. The song “June” is about my friend Nicki and a relationship that she was in that was emotionally abusive. It shows the way that our group of friends all came together to support her and get her out of that situation.
On this album and Charmer, the band seemed to get lusher and prettier even as the band got smaller. Is that your influences having a larger effect on the band?
Walsh: It’s really just that we were allowed to have a little bit more time in the studio. We could experiment and expand the sound. We had the time to put acoustic guitars on every sing song, to add piano parts and vocal melodies. It’s a lot more more than just two guitar tracks and it allowed us to fill out a little more space sonically. Also, when we started tracking, we did it song-by-song instead of instrument-by-instrument. So everything we did just really fit the vibe of the song. Since we had the time to do it like that, every song is very much its own. And because everything sounds like that, there’s a cohesion on the album that really comes through.
Do you ever see Tigers Jaw expanding again?
Walsh: For us, we’ve always done things in a way that felt comfortable and felt natural. We’re just doing what feels right. And this, what we’re doing right now feels like Tigers Jaw.
spin is out on May 19 via Black Cement. Listen to “Guardian” below and pre-order a copy here.