Tigercub wanted their debut album to be great. They also wanted it to capture a moment in time. With the absolute state of things surrounding them, the Brighton trio had their work cut out but somehow, from out of the darkness, they’ve made a record not only to stand by but to stand for. ‘Abstract Figures In The Dark’ is a beacon of light.
Expanding on the world introduced by 2015’s ‘Repressed Semantics’ Tigercub’s debut sees a band that know what they want. From the destruction of ‘Burning Effigies’, through the purge of ‘Up In Smoke’ until the beautiful resolution of ‘Black Tide’ that washes it all away, ‘Abstract Figures In The Dark’ is a complete revolution. “There’s a world you can get into now that’s been set up by the last EP,” explains guitarist Jamie Hall. “People that like it seem to really fucking love it and if you want to, you can totally immerse yourself in it.” The band’s music might not spit an all-out political fire but Jimi Wheelwright, James Allix and Jamie have made sure there is enough literature and ‘zines that cover their political leanings, if you want to dig deeper and invest. Tigercub are already more than a band, there’s an ideology that’s bigger than the sound. “It’s all there for you to read and align yourself with, if you choose to. It’s whether people want to adapt with us because we’re constantly changing and trying to figure out where we’re going to go next. But the ideology is always going to stay the same; Karl Marx with a dash of nihilism. If people want to find it, they will. If they don’t fit in or they feel anxious all the time or insecure or not confident, there’ll be something for them in the record. If they read The Guardian, hate the Tories and are switched onto that world, there’ll be a lot to find in there especially with the refugee crisis and humanitarian issues. There will always be pops at the Tories and the fucking right wing because I hate ‘em, but I don’t think there’ll ever be a record when I’ll just come out and say it. A lot of my opinions are quite strongly represented and I only try and say things if I think it should be put out there.”
“Have you ever put political things on Facebook?” he asks. “Or responded to something, maybe your mate’s dad from back home, has said? It’s a fucking nightmare. I see things on my computer and get upset about them and don’t have an outlet unless I want to be Social Media Warrior Guy.” The world at large feels “a bit hopeless now. There are loads of amazing things, we are in The First World after all and it’s not that bad but things aren’t really looking up. I’m fascinated by the sea and if the tides would turn, it would just wipe everything out. For the past couple of years there have been all these massive floods and horrible tsunami’s and it’s all to do with climate change and nobody’s doing anything about it. It plays on my mind, so I put those anxieties into song. It does all feel a bit grim but cathartic that can be a nice way to at least organise and process it, at least for me.” It’s why the record starts with fire and ends with the release of ‘Black Tide’. “It’s like Noah’s arc, wash away the debris and all your rage. It’s an emotional cycle. Your temper explodes and you get more introverted afterwards. You then collect yourself and get sad about it because you did something horrible. I’m half tempted to just keep it all to myself sometimes because it’s so futile trying to argue with some people. It can be so demoralising but there are good things as well. I’d like to think that about the record, I wanted it to resolve in a couple of places.”
Tigercub have been together for a few years but it’s only now they’re really figuring it out. “We’re not going to be a popular, A-list Radio 1 band anytime soon,” offers Jamie. “So just accept that, do what you do and hope that other kids can find something in it. Or that the people that like it, enjoy it. It’s not that we’re not ambitious, we want to play big rooms and reach as many people as we can but, when we first came out we made a lot of compromises with our sound because a lot of people were telling us we had to do this to do that and we slowly realised that was all bullshit. The bands that we like still get popular, they just do it their own way. They’re the bands that mean something. We decided we’re going to be that band.” ‘Abstract Figures In The Dark’ sees Tigercub lighting their own path.
Despite a public teething period and a development that’s been very much in plain sight, Tigercub’s debut isn’t the story so far. It pushes it forward. “I’m hoping that when people check out the record” – an idea that seems “quite scary and intense” – “they won’t really be expecting a lot of the things that are on it.” There are no jarring reggae tracks or a sudden exploration of silence but there are a lot of moments that surprise. “I’d like that to be a general precedent for how we create records going ahead, constantly changing something, never standing still. I wanted to leave enough room on there so we could plant thing that we could grow into, like when you get hand me down clothes from your brother or sister.” There are experiments with synths and textures, little nuggets of sound hidden away that can be later developed if the band want to, if they feel like that’s a path they want to go down. “Not that we’re going to become a Kraftwerk tribute band. We’re trying to carve our own little niche out and find a little place that sounds like us and nothing but. You could probably pick out our influences but it’s not totally dominated by them. Obviously it’s still really derivative, it’s hard to not be with drums, guitar, bass and shouty vocals, but we’re just trying to build on that. We were just trying to move things along and develop themes.”
Tigercub are very self-aware. From trying to pinpoint exactly why music connects (“at one point I tried to make charts tracking my favourite records. It was so trite, but it helped in a weird way.”), to talking about what sort of record they wanted to make, ‘Abstract Figures In The Dark’ is a very considered record. And with every rotation revealing a little more and dragging you a little deeper, it’s time well spent. There’s a poetry in its motion and an intense revelation to the many textures at play. “We recorded the sound of the studio before we did a take just so we could get the world at that time captured on tape. That day is there and you can hear it. It almost becomes this biographical thing, that’s who we were at that age and it’ll be there when we’re dead. Probably no one will listen to it but it’ll be there.”
As eternal as the album is, it’s also a knee-jerk reaction to the events defining today. Head and heart offering confrontation, comfort and contrast in perfect harmony. The band “went in with a plan of how we wanted to sound and stuff we wanted to say,” but they wanted to avoid the blatant. “It’s weird when bands come out wearing shit firmly on their sleeves. It’s not necessarily a bad thing but for me, it’s way too far. I don’t want to slap the interpretation on people and give it to them on a plate. My girlfriend writes a lot of stories and there’s this thing she always says, ‘You’ve got to show not tell’. That’s the right way to go about it. You can implant the message of the emotion further in peoples mind. It’s got more impact. It feels more rich.” That said, ‘Abstract Figures In The Dark’ is Tigercub at their most upfront. Their most incendiary. “I was trying to peel back the layers, trying to talk about things that I’m a bit scared to say, more about myself than anything. I was trying to put things across lyrically a little bit clearer rather than trying to be a pretentious git about it constantly.”
There are subtle hints to “the refugee crisis and the whole right wing, white suburban response to these people fleeing persecution as well as the rise of the right in politics. It’s not Billy Bragg, but there are potshots.” More than just a political record, ‘Abstract Figures In The Dark’ is an intimate exploration of the individual as the world tears itself apart. There’s doom and gloom aplenty but there’s a peace in that feeling. A togetherness in realising that even on the brink, you’re not alone.
“There’s part of the record that’s quite immediate. There are a couple of tunes that are a bit lairy so if you want to just bang it on, you can. I would like to think it serves a couple of purposes. It can be this deep fucking pretentious thing if you want it to be, but there are times where it doesn’t take itself that seriously so you can enjoy it in passing. Maybe,” Jamie questions before adding: “It’s a record for everyone.”
“It’s a hard thing to fit into a sentence without going off on one,” he continues. “I want it to feel cathartic and that it has come full circle. It’s done a full revolution. You end where you began.” You might finish back at the start but you’re no longer alone. “To be cliché, it’s going to take you on a journey. Or something like that.”
Taken from the November issue of Upset – order your copy here. Tigercub’s debut album ‘Abstract Figures in the Dark’ is out now.