When Tigercats first made themselves heard on the indiepop scene some four years ago, they were instant hits. With catchy tunes about east London, record shops and young love, they were the perfect label mates for Allo Darlin’ and the rest of their new Fortuna POP! pals.
Isle Of Dogs came out in April 2012 with a burst of lusty enthusiasm, but they left us hanging for nearly three years for its follow up, Mysteries, which came out this month. It represents a real turning point for the band; a more considered, sophisticated sound, there’s not a lot of pogoing to be had here.
Instead, it’s a more confident sound, which showcases singers Duncan Barrett and Laura Kovic’s rather lovely vocals. Intense in places, it drags you along through Barrett’s darker moments, and soothes you on the other side. They now include Allo Darlin’ guitarist Paul Rains as one their number, which adds another layer of warmth to their sound.
We caught up with Duncan ahead of their album launch gig at Peckham’s Montague Arms, on 13 February, and the release of the album…
How does album number two feel?
It was a difficult record to make and I think we’ve all had quite an uneasy relationship with it. Now that it’s done I vacillate between feeling proud and being unable to listen to it. It feels strange.
Mysteries sounds very different to your debut – was this a conscious decision?
I think it was. When I’m writing songs I’m not able to make conscious decisions about how I want things to sound. You’ve just got to go where the song takes you, and then decide whether it’s a song that’s going to stick around or not. But once the song is written – once you start recording – then it’s time to make those sort of decisions.
The new album isn’t as upbeat as your first – is there a different reaction to the new songs? How do you deal with that?
I suppose it isn’t, but that’s hard to judge from the inside. Reaction to recent shows has been great. It seems to me that people are paying closer attention. But that could be my imagination, or it could be the fact that its been a while since we went out and played to a crowd who don’t know our music at all.
Laura is much more prominent in this album, is that a natural move or her voice suited the more laid back sound?
Laura joined the band when we were finishing off the first record, so naturally she played a much bigger part in this one. It’s hard to remember if I wrote those songs for Laura to sing, or whether that decision came later. I do know that the lines take on a different meaning when they’re sung in a beautiful voice. I probably realised at some point that Sleeping in the Backseat deserved to be sung better than I could sing it.
London features in a lot of your lyrics – is the city a big influence on your work?
I don’t notice the references until they’re already in the songs and by then its too late. It’s what makes life bearable – being able to take the same streets you walk down every day and put them into songs. I mainly write about Limehouse and Stepney. They’re not glamorous places. You have to work to find the magic.
You chose to unveil the new songs at some very small venues – do you prefer small shows or bigger ones?
Wherever people clap the loudest.
You’ve been planted firmly in the indiepop camp – did you grow up listening to that sort of music? What’s on your stereo now?
Yes, but never exclusively. I remember discovering Belle & Sebastian, The Smiths, Hefner, Tindersticks, The Wedding Present and dozens of others as a teenager, and with each band the horizon seemed to expand in all directions. Life suddenly seemed to have a lot more to offer than I’d previously realised. When we started Tigercats I was very, very bored with the sound of a guitar being strummed, and I was desperately trying not to strum if I could help it. Right now I’ve relaxed a bit and I’m listening to a lot of new bands making music I would’ve enjoyed as a teenager. Trust Fund, Martha, Joanna Gruesome, Fever Dream, The Drink and Allo Darlin’ of course.
You have some great artwork – is that important to you?
Thank you, and yes – how could it not be? The cover is your first introduction to a record, and once it’s been seen it can’t be unseen. It’s the only reason people buy vinyl, isn’t it?
Tigercats play at the Montague Arms in Peckham on 13 February 2015, before heading off on a UK tour in April. The album Mysteries is out now through Fortuna POP! Further information can be found here.