Interview: Carbon Tigers
Apr 2nd, 2014
By Mallory Turner
Category: Austin, Carbon Tigers, Interviews, SXSW
Interview w/ Carbon Tigers
This past SXSW we were fortunate enough to chat with a four piece indie rock band from Chicago,Carbon Tigers. They were very happy to escape the sub zero temperatures of Illinois and head to Texas to play at and experience their first SXSW as a band. They first started playing together in summer of 2009 and released their latest EP “The Wars at Home” last November.
You guys are from Chicago – how did everyone end up there?
Chris: I think school brought everyone to Chicago, Nick is from New York, Aaron is from San Antonio, and Darien and I are both from Chicago. We all went to college in the city; Aaron and I met in a class. He had been playing in a band with Nick and some other people and they needed a new singer, so I joined then. We eventually lost the drummer we had, and got another and another and then we got Darien.
Were you all musical growing up?
Nick: I started out playing piano when I was six or seven years old; I played percussion in the school bands when I was in 4th grade. In middle school I just wanted to skateboard, and was really into punk rock and the piano wasn’t vibing with me anymore so I put that down, mowed a bunch of lawns and bought a guitar. I always wanted to be a guitarist. I had started a band before I even bought a guitar at the time.
How would you describe your song writing process?
Chris: Democratic. Everyone comes up with their own part. As we’ve gotten older and been together longer now we contribute more and more to each other’s ideas, we kind of know how to talk to each other. [Initially] sometimes you would get that wierd tension when you’re trying to tell [another band member] “I don’t think that sounds good” It’s hard to say that without them getting pissed off. But now that we’ve developed as a band we know how to handle that communication.
Is the lyric writing democratic as well?
Chris: I guess it’s like everything else, I’ll start and write a set of lyrics or write some melodies or ideas – starting with The Wars at Home, the last EP we did, and the current stuff we’re working on. I’ll get a rough draft going, and then sit down usually with one person. It’s kind of hard to do lyrics with multiple people.
Nick: Sometimes we’ll brainstorm an idea – like with the first track on our album, ‘Everybody Else’, we talked about how it’s about those moments, when you wake up you got this huge idea and are like “I’m gonna do this on a daily basis, I’m gonna do this!” Big picture thinking – and then you start doing it and dive into it, and end up being like “Man, this is really difficult” and just go back to the moment beforehand.
Other bands or songwriters you admire or draw inspiration from?
Chris: Everybody, even when I hear songs that I don’t like I still take stuff away from that, even if it’s just that I never want to sound like that. We all have a lot of influences.
Aaron: We all just kind of found Arctic Monkeys. Their new album – we just stumbled upon it, I think CHVRCHES covered a song from it.
Nick: We’re really into big hot riff porn, so Arctic Monkeys is kinda like that.
Chris: [at SXSW] We were really excited to see our friends Hydra Melody, and I’d like to see Soil and the Sun. Nick’s been talking about them.
Nick: I’ve heard them online, and that their live show is incredible. And they have a tour baby!
Production wise do you have any collaborators you really like working with?
Chris: We worked with this guy named Jon Alvin, who totally changed our lives, the way we think about music and write, and the way we critique ourselves. He kinda came in and just served up a massive dose of reality to us, and got us into a really good mindframe
Nick: He’s like a record producer meets spiritual chakra.
Any words of wisdom of his?
Aaron: You’re not Radiohead! (laughs)
Chris: I would have these one on one meetings with him to go over new ideas, and he used to blow my mind. We would read books together and talk about stuff. One thing he said; that’s been very applicable in my life – I’m turning 25 next week. He told me when you get to 25 you hit that that age you really have to start walking the earth in your own shoes more. Figure out who you are and reject everything that your parents taught you, and the church and all that stuff growing up. How to decide who you are – are you going to be a musician, or an artist and a songwriter, or are you just gonna half ass it? That has stuck with me since we had that conversation.
What are your post SXSW plans?
Aaron: We have a few shows lined up. Milwaukee and Chicago, figuring out some Ohio stuff and may go further east. But come May we want to get back into the studio, record three or four songs and press that to back with our last EP.
I was lucky enough to catch a couple sets from Carbon Tigers after meeting them and even got a few photos!
Huge thanks to Riley Carithers for helping me out with this interview!