Interview: Ben Walsh of Tigers Jaw

Tigers Jaw

Tigers Jaw’s new album I Won’t Care How You Remember Me serves as a re-introduction to the Scranton, PA band. For starters, guitarist Colin Gorman and drummer Teddy Roberts were made permanent members, solidifying the band as a quartet once again. But the biggest wrinkle was including Gorman and Roberts in the songwriting mix with original members Ben Walsh and Brianna Collins – fostering a more lively and collaborative setting for the record and resulting in Tigers Jaw’s most ambitious and personal album in their discography. Tracks like “Can’t Wait Forever” and “Lemon Mouth” showcase the new writing dynamic while the title track serves as an all-time highlight – a song that uses its slow build and Andy Hull guest vocals to set the tone of the record. “I think having a group dialogue about each song, and what ideas we had to make each one special and have a distinctive place on the record, was super beneficial to creating something that sounds fresh but still feels authentically like Tigers Jaw” says Walsh. Below, we discussed working with Will Yip, how the Andy Hull collaboration came about, and I Won’t Care How You Remember Me’s writing process.

At this point Will Yip is a de facto member of Tigers Jaw – what kind of presence does he bring to the band now that you’ve worked with him so many times?

Will is incredible in that he doesn’t force anything upon the records he works on, he figures out how to seamlessly become one of the members. He does his homework, and learns about what makes each band (and band member) tick, so when he does give an idea or an opinion, it comes from an informed place. His role on this record was to challenge us and encourage us to make it the best it could be. There were a few times that he told me straight up, “I don’t think you’re done with this part yet.” which was jarring at first, but actually pushed me to write something I loved even more. Will and I met up early on, way before we started tracking, and we were very much on the same page about how to approach the production on this record. We wanted to make sure it captured us and our live energy in an authentic way. He kept things very positive in the studio, even on the longest days, and motivated us to get great performances.

Andy Hull contributes some guest vocals to the opening track – was there mutual interest in doing something together and how do you fit an unique voice like his into the sound of Tigers Jaw?

We toured with Manchester Orchestra in 2017 and have remained friends ever since. Sometimes Andy and I will text each other demos that we’re working on, and the title track “I Won’t Care How You Remember Me” demo was one I shared with Andy the day I wrote it. Later on, in the studio, I knew I wanted the lower harmony in that song, but didn’t want to add another layer of my voice. I thought of Andy’s connection to the demo, and knew that his incredible lower vocal register would add such a cool texture to the track. His voice is so versatile and distinct, and I’m grateful he was willing to share his talent with us for this song.

The music videos released over the past few months have been very cool – did having this record finished a few years ago allow the band to focus a little more on the album’s visuals?

Living through the pandemic and releasing an album in such a strange time has caused us to be creative in new ways. We can’t put the record out and immediately go on tour, so we channeled that energy into making music videos with our friends. The “Cat’s Cradle” video was done with a production company, and we wanted that video to capture the class and vibe of the album cover. The other 3 videos were done in a very DIY sense, enlisting some very talented friends from our hometown to help us build the sets, develop the wardrobe, write the treatments, direct, film etc. We were more hands on with these videos than ever before, and it felt great to build them out from the idea stage to the final product.

It’s well-known that you and Brianna wrote separately during the spin sessions but on this record Teddy and Colin joined and brought in their ideas as well – that had to bring a different energy to the writing process that hasn’t been there for a few years.

The four of us have been touring and playing shows nonstop for the past 6 years now, essentially, so we’ve developed really strong friendships and a lot of trust for each other as musicians. It definitely felt like the natural evolution of things to have Colin and Teddy join in an official capacity and also to approach this record as a unit. For me, in the past I would demo my songs out as fully as possible before I would show them to any other band member or producer. This time around, I was able to be less precious with the demo process, and bring things to the table at an earlier stage, allowing for more collective input and collaboration. It was great to have new energy and new ideas brought to the table, and it really shaped how we approached this record from a production standpoint. Whereas “spin” is a dense, lush, and sort of dreamy soundscape, we wanted I Won’t Care How You Remember Me to showcase the energy and vibe of our live performances. We took a minimal approach to the mix, pretty much only doing as many tracks as we have during a live show, and it created room for everyone’s musical personalities to shine through in the performances.

Photo: Rebecca Lader