London quintet Tigercats pays homage to East London in their debut; an album that offers up a journey through three decades of indie music, with stops in jangle pop and post-punk.
Tigercats is the latest sensation in East London, a band formed by brothers Giles (bass) and Duncan Barrett (voice), Stefan Schafer (guitar), Jonny Evans (drum) and Laura Kovic (voice and keyboard). Their music summarises three decades of indie pop in a pleasant, refreshing manner, with a few stops in jangle pop and post-punk. Often compared with Orange Juice, Violent Femmes, the K Records troop, Hefner and contemporary groups like Los Campesinos! and Vampire Weekend - but they would like for people to have drawn parallels in their songs with Chic, an influence shared by the five of them. In fact, this thing about references is something that they don’t exactly hide - proof of it is “Stevie Nicks” and “Kim & Thurston”, two of the songs on their debut album, “Isle of Dogs” (which is released by Acuarela and on sale from Monday).
This debut, arriving after three advance singles, was recorded in the reconstructed Soup studios, below the legendary instrument shop and ukulele mecca The Duke Of Uke, next to a ramshackle railway bridge in Hackney. The production work was handled by Giles Barrett, Simon Trought (Darren Hayman, The Wave Pictures, Television Personalities) and Ian Button (guitarist of Death In Vegas). They were the ones entrusted with transferring the energy of Tigercats to the album, providing spontaneity and recordings made in just a few takes. “Isle of Dogs” is said to be an LP that reflects the lights and shadows of East London.
Below, Giles Barrett shows us the ins and outs of this LP with a song-by-song commentary. This is what they sound like.
1. Coffin For The Isle Of Dogs
“One of the last tracks we wrote, and it sets the scene for the record in a way that we didn't really predict when we start writing the songs. The song is actually about when the Isle of Dogs declared independence in 1970. The area was being severely neglected as the docks were beginning to close, so they pulled up the bridges, declared their own state and paraded a real coffin around the island. They got a letter from the president of Mexico, welcoming them to the world. It's full of glittering towers now but for the people who live there, it's still the poorest borough in London”.
2. Konny Huck
“This was the first song we did that sounded like Tigercats, and it's still one of my favourites. You can't have favourites, really, it's like having a favourite kid, but I still like this one every bit as much as I did when we wrote it. The week after we recorded, Konnie Huq got engaged, so it probably looked like we were jumping on some kind of bandwagon, but it's really just a kind of tribute to her and how difficult it is to carry the Olympic torch without falling over”.
3. Full Moon Reggae Party
“So this is one of those songs that sound like one thing when the lyrics are another, like those black metal bands that sing sweet long songs, and you'd only know it if you read the lyrics”.
4. The Vapours
“A song about love in record shops and canals. You've got to be careful when you talk about one-hit wonders though, because everyone gets upset when their favourite one-hit wonder gets called a one-hit wonder. ‘No way - Jona Lewie's got hundreds of songs!’ So Duncan changes the lyrics to this one a lot to keep ahead of the game. It's not supposed to be a diss, though, I love one-hit wonders. Jyoti Mishra, who had a massive hit as White Town in the 90s, is my favourite, but he's not really new wave so he probably won't make it into this song”.
5. Stevie Nicks
“I fell in love with Fleetwood Mac about the time we started Tigercats. They seem to be sneaking into indie discos a lot more these days too, which is obviously excellent. We're covering ‘ Everywhere’ as the B-Side for ‘ Full Moon Reggae Party’ and our friends Jen and Hannah, who sing together as Owl and Mouse and are really, really good, came and sang backing vocals with us. It's a Christine McVie song and Laura was singing her part, so we had two Stevie Nicks singing with us, which I think a lot of people will appreciate as a dream come true”.
6. Harper Lee
“This is a punk song with a really long guitar solo in it. Duncan likes to draw it out on stage because he knows it breaks Jonny (the drummer) and I, physically if not emotionally. He's a real authoritarian. Fines us if we're late for practice and stuff like that. I'm more worried it's gonna break him actually, you can see his veins popping out when he sings it, he really goes for it, like Kurt Cobain or someone”.
7. Limehouse Nights
“If you had to guess which one of our songs was recorded in a railway arch I don't think you'd pick this one, but it was. It's more Tom Tom Club than punk, and we like playing it a lot. I was expecting more people to ask if we've actually committed furniture arson, but people seem to be taking us at our word so far”.
8. Kim & Thurston
“I don't want to say anything about this except that we love Sonic Youth”.
9. Easter Island
“Most of our songs are about London, but this is about as far away as you can get. When we were kids though, London seemed about as far away as you could get, so you never know how things might change. Duncan and Laura sing this together; you've got to have two perspectives on a break-up. I think of it as our Prince song”.
10. Banned At The Troxy
“I'm pretty sure Crass would hate this, but it's our tribute to them, in its title at least. I love Crass, founders of the punk vegetable movement. You can't be a revolutionary unless you control your own food supply, you know? Anyway, this song is about looking into the past and the future at the same time, and about dancing”.
“A love song, sung by Laura. Some people think we've got this whole Fleetwood Mac thing going on with Laura and Jonny, but it's not true. The song was actually written by Duncan”.