New/Old: Latest release from local rockers features a vintage look and feel
The members of hometown favorites Drunk Tigers aren't prolific–- although their latest release, the mixtape Drunk Tigers versus Andrew Cedermark, released by Harrisonburg label Funny/Not Funny, is their third release of new recordings in a year's time. Rather, this local rock band, savvily noting how timing can be everything in entertainment, has drawn out its presence with occasional EPs. And, like many fine things, this is one band that grows better with age.
Four out of the five songs featured on the mixtape are "vintage" Drunk Tigers, according to dual front men Zach Carter and Matt Bierce. The guitar and vocals team note that only one song, the album's single "Matchbook Tricks," (which has also been played live under the moniker "Shark Fight") is newly written.
"If you listened to us in 2008, [these songs] are what you think of when you think of Drunk Tigers," explains Carter. "We weren't planning on releasing these, but they were a good fit for a tape, thematically."
These are staples in a Drunk Tigers live show–- and they don't lose a bit of that sloppy yet biting live feel when recorded. The essence of the Drunk Tigers lies in the mixture of anti-establishment, punk-influenced lyrics and a disheveled, devil-may-care live show. Sometimes, their guitar strings break and they can't finish a song with a full ensemble. Sometimes drummer Mike Parisi hits the snare really, really hard. But through it all, the music is aggressive and raw, "punchier" in a vulnerable way according to Bierce.
"Our live show has always been fun, but as performers, we've kicked it up a notch," says Bierce.
"We're getting better at telling stories," says Carter. "It's easier for us to evoke a scene, moments of dramatic tension, snapshots."
Last February, during the last of the winter's major snow falls, the quartet went into Adam Smith's studio and recorded "everything we had in a finished state," says Carter. When Funny/Not Funny approached the band to do a mixtape, they were in luck–- the "Adam Smith Sessions" were the right fit for one side of the tape. In a moment of intuition, they asked Andrew Cedermark offhandedly to record for the other side. And sparks ignited.
"It is complementary, although his live stuff is way more rock 'n' roll," notes Bierce. Carter agrees.
"When recorded, it's bedroom folky, and he's pulling a lot from the 60s, 70s, rootsy people," says Carter. "It sounds folksy, bluesy, earthy–- but I'd never accuse him, or us, of writing pop music."
Although Cedermark declined an interview, due to his role as the music editor for C-ville Weekly, his presence on the tape adds a sharp, yet dreamy perspective. Cedermark plays powerful live shows, with energy that permeates the audience. Recorded, he is folksy, or "jangly" as Bierce aptly terms it. He plays intimately, with each guitar strum accentuated, each changing pitch of his voice notable.
The synergy of Cedermark and the Tigers make for a well-rounded experience: when the delicacy of Cedermark's dream-rock becomes too dream-inducing, you simply flip over to jolt into consciousness from the very first punch of drums and the throb of dueling guitar melodies Drunk Tigers are known for–- or vice versa.
Funny/Not Funny releases Drunk Tigers vs Andrew Cedermark Tuesday, June 8. Both bands plan to play a four-day release tour July 1-4.