Smile Politely

Insert Tiger Woods sex joke here

After an afternoon of Record Store Day shenanigans, Bentley’s offers an excellent value for your music dollar on Saturday night: three bands (Chicago’s Tiger Bones and The Runnies, and C-U’s My Werewolf Diary) for three bucks. The show starts at 10 p.m., and it should be an excellent rocking evening.

Although Tiger Bones are based out of Chicago, guitarist Nick Hagen (who’s also in Jorge and Thee S-Words) lives in Champaign, Jonathan Burden is originally from Bloomington, and drummer Mike Renaud went to the U of I, no they’re no stranger to this neck of the woods (prairie). Burden took some time to answer some questions by email about Gay Baby origins and Joy Division/Harry Nilsson mashups. Enjoy.

Smile Politely: How did Tiger Bones get started/come about? Who plays what?

Tiger Bones: Well, we started a few years ago just me, Mike and Jay as a way to sort of let off steam every week and stay musically involved, but also not really taking ourselves all that seriously. We’ve all been playing in bands for years and with this group we also wanted to try something new–Jay has always been a drummer and had never played guitar before, Mike had never played drums before and though I’ve always played bass, I’ve never really been up front singing before. We were having loads of fun doing it so we just kept playing and writing new songs and eventually we started playing out.

Smile Politely: Is there truth to the rumor that you used to be know as Gay Baby? If so, and granted that Tiger Bones is a good name in its own right, why would you ever not want to be known as Gay Baby?

Tiger Bones: Yep. Actually the thing of it is is we took several months off from playing out over the winter of 08/09 right before we recorded our split 7 inch with France Has the Bomb, wrote a bunch of new songs and added Nick to the mix (although he’s not on that recording). We just felt like we were a different band at that point and so then we took on a new name prior to us releasing anything. Gay Baby was sort of just the first phase of what we’ve ended up doing over the past year or so.

Smile Politely: What’s the best and/or worst live show experience you’ve ever had?

Tiger Bones: I’d say one of our best shows ever was a release party for a book called Scorch Atlas at this storefront art gallery/experimental literary space called No Coast here in Chicago. It was a tiny little place and right before we played there were poetry and prose readings so we didn’t really know what to expect from the crowd. We played right on the floor, no stage, and the energy was great. I mean, for a literary event people were completely rowdy and jumping off tables by the end of our set. It took us all back to our days playing basement shows.

Smile Politely: Have you played in Champaign-Urbana before?

Tiger Bones: I think we’ve all played down there in different bands, but this is the first show in Champaign-Urbana for Tiger Bones. Nick and I grew up in Bloomington and the band we were in high school played there a few times. Mike went to U of I and spent time playing in bands there as well. We’ve all got some connection to central Illinois, so we’re comfortable downstate. We’re looking forward to it.

Smile Politely: I dig the songs on your MySpace. They have a nice, lo-fi garagey groove to them. How is your live show different from your recorded work?

Tiger Bones: Thanks. I think it all translates pretty well. Some of the newer stuff we’ve recorded is a little more produced I guess and not quite as “lo-fi” but I still think there’s a quality that pushes through that’s our own sound. Our influences come from many different places and we’re constantly working on what we want our songs to sound like.

Smile Politely: How does the songwriting process work for you? Music, then lyrics, or vice versa, or some combination. Who writes what? Can you walk us through a typical song in development?

Tiger Bones: We’re pretty collaborative…lots of ideas start spontaneously in our space and we typically like to go from there. Jay and I are the primary songwriters and we’ll also come up with bits and pieces at home and then later put them together when we rehearse. I think Jay’s songs are a bit more fully prepared when he presents them to the rest of us. For me, it’s more fragmented and the same goes for my lyrics, which never come first. I do get lyrical ideas independent from the music but rhythm and melody are usually more important.

Smile Politely: How would you describe your sound for someone who’s never heard your music before?

Tiger Bones: Always a tough question…but like I mentioned before we all have a ton of influences and we’ve all been listening to music and collecting records forever so I think it all bleeds through to some degree. I would say we come from a punk/post-punk/garage rock aesthetic but there’s also a bit of surf, shoegaze, soul, R&B, indie rock (whatever that is)…and other: some psych, some folk, some electronic, some African music, we like to make weird mix tapes for each other. We love music and we’re turned on by all kinds of new and interesting finds.

Smile Politely: Was there a moment when you realized that you wanted to be a musician? How did that come about?

Tiger Bones: I think we were all pretty young when we started playing music. Something must have stuck so we’re still doing it low these many years later.

Smile Politely: What’s a singer or band that you’ve been compared to that you don’t think is representative at all, and why not?

Tiger Bones: For me it’s not what I thought didn’t seem representative but it’s what surprises me…I do love hearing other people’s comparisons. I’ve heard everything from Suicide, The Sonics, Joy Division (which doesn’t really surprise me as we pretty well wear that influence on our sleeves), Interpol (as if they got their musical cues from Television) and other bands. Maybe the covers we’ve played could shed more light on this. We’ve done Guided by Voices, Devo, Broadcast and Wire but we’ve also done a Loudon Wainwright song and for the EP that we just finished with our buddy Jered Gummere, we did a mash-up of Joy Division and Harry Nilsson.

Smile Politely: What was your favorite band when you were in junior high?

Tiger Bones: Personally, I was listening to a strange mixture of mix tapes that included Misfits, Dead Kennedys, Dead Milkmen and Depeche Mode and my parents’ albums from the Sixties, like Pet Sounds, Beatles, Hendrix and the Doors. I think we were all turned on to “Skate Rock” back then and punk stuff and that kind of thing.

Smile Politely: What do you like to do in your spare time? Are you all full-time musicians or is this an on-the-side-type deal?

Tiger Bones: We all have various day jobs and in the meantime we like to eat and we work on this as much as we can.

Related Articles