There are many bands on the indie circuit: the cool ones, the mysterious ones, the ones you like. And then there are bands that you simply love from the first note. It`s so good to be a music obsessive – as Steve Lamacq says – you can fall in love at least twice a week! So yeah – here we go again being head over heels with a new band. They are Tiger Mimic, they are based in London and they will headline Vandian Avenue first showcase on April 27th at the iconic Nambucca.
We cannot tell you how excited we are and how grateful too. We sat down with Jess Rhodes of Tiger Mimic to speak to her about the band history, their excellent debut EP and even video games.
This is the band you need to know. No excuses!
Official bio: Tiger Mimic is a London-based band with a sound that ranges from bitcrushed anthems to sinister bass grooves to rapid-fire rock poetry and more. Their debut EP, “Elephant Skeleton”, was recorded with Grammy Award winning producer Matt Lawrence at London’s Livingston Studio. Released in January 2019, its five songs showcase their diverse range of styles and influences.
Jess Rhodes (vox, synth)
Bram Johnson (guitar, vox)
Ben Willis (bass, vox)
George Latham (drums)
You named the band after a butterfly that mimics appearance of its poisonous cousin, but you are one of the most original bands we have heard this year. Please introduce yourselves to the readers of Indieterria.
Jess Rhodes: Ah, thank you so much. That’s a very kind thing to say. We’re Tiger Mimic, we’re based in London, and usually we say we’re an “indie rock” band just to keep it simple, but we do have a lot of different influences. Jess sings and plays synth, Bram sings and plays guitar, Ben plays bass and sings back-up, and George plays drums.
You may have just released your debut EP, but the band has quite a history – including a relocation to another continent. Jess and Bram started out their respective projects while living and working in NYC. They met Ben and George after coming to London. Do you think that having musicians from both sides of the Pond helped to forge your unique sound?
Jess Rhodes: I was actually born and grew up (mainly) in Europe! I was exposed to music from every genre. My mom loved Arabic and Kurdish music (I didn’t really) but sometimes people tell me my melodies have a middle-eastern tinge to them, so it’s funny how you can get influenced by what you get exposed to growing up.
Moving from NYC to London was the best decision ever, and the fact that we met Ben & George was crazy lucky. We all have diverse influences and grew up listening to so many different things, but there is also a lot of overlap, so it’s hard to say how much effect geography had. Each member brings their own style to the band, though, and it has definitely given us a sense that nothing is off limits when it comes to writing songs.
When preparing to this interview we have found information that Jess is classically trained operatic singer. Can we confirm if this is true? We interviewed some amazing and unique artists on the blog but a soprano with a degree from Italian music conservatoire would be a first!
Jess Rhodes: I was indeed classically trained. I studied with amazing teachers in Paris, Italy, and NYC. I actually only did 6 months in Milan, and then decided to move to NY. I then went a different route and studied theatre. I love singing opera, I haven’t practiced in a while, but it’s something I really enjoy singing at times. However, I didn’t have a deep passion for it, and if you’re not 100% dedicated, you can forget about it. I wanted to write my own songs, and so I did. Once you’re trained to sing a certain way, it’s actually quite hard to break that, and so I really struggled to find my voice for a while. I always felt I needed to be as loud as when I sung opera, and then I realised I really didn’t.
Your EP “Elephant Skeleton” was released in January 2019. For this record you worked with Matt Lawrence, Grammy winning producer known for helping Adele. The story is that after hearing your demos Matt wanted to work with you and most of the material was written in his studio. Were you scared to collaborate with such a big calibre name?
Jess Rhodes: We were a little anxious before meeting him that we wouldn’t be a huge priority for someone with a CV like his, but he put that to bed immediately. It was amazing to work with him! He’s such a nice, talented, humble person. We actually didn’t write much in the studio, though, most of the songs had been written in NY and Paris right before coming to London. There were a few little flourishes and lyric tweaks and things like that, but the songs were pretty fully fleshed out when we went in.
Matt did give us some great guidance in rehearsals before heading into the studio, but he always posed it as a question, such as “Well, would this song be better if you added a bridge?”, or “What would it sound like if this part had a slightly different groove?”
One of the things we really appreciated was that he liked the music and didn’t want to change what we were already doing, but he would put forward these questions that made us consider whether we had explored all the possibilities with a given song. It was good to be challenged like that and I think we came out of that process with a much more critical ear for our work.
The EP is promoted by two singles – “Don’t Cover Up My Eyes” and the title track. We want to ask you about the video to “Elephant Skeleton”. It shows a 8 bit point and shoot game where an animal tries to recover his bones while the band members serve as evil bosses. Where did you get the idea from and who directed it. Also – will there be a continuation?
Jess Rhodes: The video game idea started sort of accidentally. Bram made a really short video of a dandelion seed floating over some hills just as a short promotional video teaser for Elephant Skeleton and it had that sort of lo-fi, video game look to it. We started talking about turning it into a full length idea and that’s when we decided to make the story about the elephants.
After one night of goofy brainstorming, we drew a little storyboard and then Bram put the whole thing together. He’s not trained in animation, so it was a huge learning curve and took quite a while, but it was fun watching it come together bit by bit. We sometimes think about cooking up a sequel video, but Bram is still a little traumatised from staring at a computer screen for months, so it’ll have to be for a future song.
The band just played first major festival – Cro Cro Land, taking to the stage next to such established acts as Bang Bang Romeo and The Lovely Eggs. We imagine it must have been a lot of fun and a lot of nerves in equal measure. Did you like it?
Jess Rhodes: Oh my God. It was the most incredible day ever. We would’ve gone to Cro Cro even if we hadn’t been invited to play, because the lineup was absolutely sick. I can usually get quite nervous before a gig, and although that was our biggest gig, I wasn’t as stressed as I thought I’d be! Maybe it’s because there was such a huge supportive community feeling going on the whole day!
Bram, on the other hand, had non-stop nightmares the night before about getting bumped from the show or something else going wrong, so it was a huge relief for him when we actually walked out on stage. Seriously, though, everyone involved was incredible. Angela Martin, Julia Woollams, the bands, journalists, photographers, event staff, engineers (sound and light), just everyone was so wonderful.
Your music has been described as a mix of guitar based indie, ska and 1960s pop bands. But outside how the music critics see you – do you have your own term for your sound?
Jess Rhodes: It’s like you say, we get a lot of different reactions to our sound, so we actually struggle a bit to settle on a genre when people ask. Indie Rock has been our go-to, since it’s a fairly broad category, but a lot of people have really specific (and sometimes angry) opinions about what Indie Rock actually is, so we have yet to find a term that satisfies everyone. Any ideas?
Tiger Mimic will headline iconic London venue Nambucca on 27th April – what can we expect from your live shows?
Jess Rhodes: Oh man, we can’t wait! We’ll be playing with the awesome Lower Loveday and Memes, and we already know it’s gonna be a great night! Nambucca is a really great venue, too, and we’re so happy to play there again. Our live show has a lot of dynamic shifts, trading vocal parts, harmonies, and riffs. One thing we’ve always appreciated hearing after a show is that each song sounds completely different from each other, but they all still sound like us. That’s about as cool of a compliment as we could hope for.
We want to ask you about the story behind your song “I Took Off My Body”. It is probably the saddest song on the EP lyrics wise. At points it feels traumatic especially in the age of Me Too movement.
Jess Rhodes: I Took Off My Body was actually written a few days before we went in to record it. Bram had this really cool instrumental guitar part and was playing it for fun, and I just started improvising over it and insisted we take it to the studio. It tells the story of someone removing the many layers of their body in an effort to find themselves inside (waiting in the dark, waiting for a light).
It’s a reflection on the world’s tendency to make judgements with their eyes, while ignoring whoever is inside that body. It is definitely a problem that’s been going on for a long time. It’s really sad that we live in a world where we have to be on our guards at all times.
For instance, I went to a gig a few days ago and a man kept bothering me, so I moved to the other side, and talked about it to a friend who was there too. Turned out he had also touched her and another woman inappropriately. So in the span of 5 minutes, he managed to make 3 (or more) women feel extremely uncomfortable. He was just seen by everyone else as the “annoying drunk guy” but his behaviour should be seen for what it is: completely unacceptable and absolutely disgusting. The Me Too movement is incredible, I think it shows just how powerful victims can actually be when they get together, and also shows how there should be no stigma or shame around the word “victim”. The only people who should feel shame are the perpetrators, harassers, and abusers.
In one year you have accomplished more than many bands in their whole life span: working with top producers, releasing EP, playing festivals. What else have you got planned for 2019 and beyond?
Jess Rhodes: Aw, that’s nice of you to say. We definitely try to work as hard as we can on this, it’s our dream and the main reason we came over to London. We’ve been lucky to connect with a lot of awesome people, there are so many unsung heroes around town who are so supportive of the scene and that’s been incredible.
As for 2019, we’re heading down to Brighton for the first time in May for the Brighton Mix-Up festival, which is super exciting. We’re hoping to get back in the studio in May too, if we can swing it, we have a lot of new songs ready to go. After that we’ll see what comes up. There are a few exciting rumours floating around, but nothing we can share yet, so hopefully we’ll have some big announcements soon.
Last question – if Tiger Mimic could become characters in a video game what title would it be? Final Fantasy? Tomb Raider? Mortal Kombat or would you have your own title. You can pick any game.
Hmmm… aside from the Elephant Skeleton video, in which we’ve already been game-ified, here are some nerdy answers for you:
Ben Willis: I’d be Commander Shepard from Mass Effect. I still remember my first inter-species love affair with fondness.
Bram Johnson: I’d be Manny Calavera from Grim Fandango. He’s a grim reaper in a crime noir version of the Mexican Land Of The Dead who spends years going to any lengths trying to save a soul that was cheated out of their rightful afterlife. I always liked that he was a regular guy, no bulging muscles or guns or anything, just tenacity.
Jess Rhodes: I’d be Sindel from Mortal Kombat. I’d love to be able to kick ass just by whipping my hair!
George couldn’t be reached for comment, but we’ll ask him next time we rehearse. Important information to know.
You can follow the band on socials:
You can purchase the EP “Elephant Skeleton” at the link below:
If you fancy a bit of extra reading – here are some fantastic articles about the band from other independent blogs:
Tiger Mimic will headline the Nambucca on April 27th in London. The entry is free. You can find the info for the event on socials:
We hope you enjoyed this little blog. We will be back