Today is an exciting day as, in two years of running GigRadar, I had yet to interview any band that included someone with the surname as me. But now the wait is over, thanks to London via New York City indie rockers Tiger Mimic.
Drummer George Latham completes the quartet alongside Jess Rhodes (vocals and synth), Bram Johnson (vocals and guitar) and Ben Willis (bass and backing vocals). And we’re not just including them because of the Latham connection, Tiger Mimic are an awesome up-and-coming independent indie rock band.
Tiger Mimic – a butterfly that mimics the appearance of poisonous butterflies, if you were interested – started out when Jess and Bram left New York for Paris for a few months, visited London on holiday, fell in love with the city and stayed. As Bram tells us: “I had been living in NYC for a long time and it was just time for a change. There was a lot of cool music happening there, but it didn’t seem to have the same sort of ‘scene’ feeling that we’ve found here.
“There seem to be strong feelings of support and community here (London) between the bands, and excitement from music fans too, so we’ve been loving it. There’s also so much cool music happening right now, it really feels like you could go out seven days a week and see incredible music. We’ve really had nights where there were three different shows we wish we could have gone to, which is an excellent problem to have.”
While Jess, who grew in Europe, adds to that: “I’m also genuinely amazed by how supportive artists are toward one another, I find there to be a stronger sense of community between artists here than in other places.”
They’ve honed a dynamic, diverse sound that they tell us often leads people to surmise it as “sinister,” which of course piqued our interest immediately. And it’s easy to see why.
Latest track Elephant Skeleton opens up with a light guitar lick that drops into Bram’s cool jumpy vocals “And then the icy cold raindrops fell so fast, And you counted them, The amount of them, As they passed as though you just expected the math to lay it out and then explain it all at last.” Jess’ vocals join in through a second verse that drops into Jess’ delicious more laid-back vocals supported by eerie synth sounds.
A brief guitar lick bridges us into Bram’s vocals kicking off with the awesome line “And soon the wounds became too big to ignore, Like an elephant skeleton at the door, And no-one knows what it was put there for, Or what it means and how could we know for sure.” Jess’ delightful vocals flow back in over the synths once more, then it suddenly switches up with palm-muted guitars and synth noises under dual vocals “The dandelion whisp floats ever further from their lips forgetting in a passing instance where it’s been.” I have no idea what that means, but I love it. Jess’ vocals over stabbing guitar chords, then take us to a chilled out ending to an engaging little singalong track. Check it out in the awesome retro video game-themed video below:
While there’s a rockier edge to their infectious debut single Don’t Cover Up My Eyes, which opens up with a lone bassline that continues under Jess’ opening vocals. The pace gradually builds then explodes with a chorus of more powerful, delicious vocals “Don’t cover up my eyes, I promise I won’t look, Please untie my hands, I promise I won’t run” then cool floaty vocals over heavier guitars.
On the Tiger Mimic sound, Bram explains: “The short answer is: ‘indie rock band with a lot of influences,’ which is to say, we don’t really rule anything out when writing a song. Quiet folk elements, big stadium guitar riffs, blues elements… so it’s indie rock with an asterisk.
“I grew up admiring bands like The Doors, who could take different styles and elements and completely Doors-ify them. They could have a blues song, a flamenco song, a jazz song, and a psychedelic rock song all on the same album and but you listen to 10 seconds of a song and it was unmistakably them.”
And Jess, who apparently loves cats and believes they are ‘basically little imitation tigers,’ expands: “Bram comes up with those really amazing and catchy guitar riffs, George adds such cool, different sounding drum parts, and Ben adds bass lines that I feel not many other people could’ve come up with. I feel really lucky to be in a band with those guys.
“Several times I’ve been told some of my melodies sound a bit foreign/middle-eastern, which is totally accidental on my part, but it also makes sense because I grew up to Kurdish and Lebanese parents. I guess what I’m trying to say is some of our songs might surprise you in how many different elements are in them!”
The diversity of their sound also comes from the wide range of influences, taking in everything from Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Queen, Leonard Cohen and David Bowie through to Radiohead, Nirvana and System of a Down, as well as vocalists like Angel Olsen and Elza Soares.
While on their lyrical influences, Jess tells us: “My lyrics can sound very personal, but they’re generally not. I only have a couple of truly personal songs, but I doubt anyone would be able to figure out which ones they are. I like to improvise a lot and create characters and write from their perspective, the majority of my songs have been written that way. I would say a recurring theme for me is running away, leaving, but never feeling like the new place is the right place.”
And Bram adds: “Jess and I write totally differently, which creates a contrast that I really like in our music. For me, I tend to start with a central image and build the lyrics around that. Like Elephant Skeleton was originally one of my suggestions for a band name but it didn’t catch on, so I just wrote those words down in my notebook. I think a couple of weeks later the rest of the lyrics started growing around that, and I ended up with this little mysterious story about a fading garden.
“There are almost always nature/animal elements in my lyrics, I grew up in the woods with a lot of animals around, and usually there’s something surreal about whatever I’m writing. Their actual meaning is quite personal but obscured by imagery so people can take whatever they imagine from the music.”
The band will release their debut EP in January, on which Bram tells us: “We’re super excited! It was a huge dream come true to get into a professional studio (Livingston) and spend 12 hours a day just working on music. We’ve put out two singles so far and people have been incredibly supportive, so we really hope everyone likes the other songs. We really tried to make an album where all the songs sound distinct and different, but still like Tiger Mimic.”
While Jess adds: “Agreed, super excited! After we play gigs, there often are people telling us how the songs are so different from one another, but we still manage to sound like the same band. That’s how I feel about the EP! The last song on the EP we’ve never played live because it’s a slower, mellower, sadder song, but it might actually be my favourite.”
Tiger Mimic have some exciting gigs upcoming through the rest of the year, including at The Finsbury in London next Tuesday (6 November). That’s ahead of an official EP release in January for which they tell us they have “something cool planned.” More info on their gigs is here.