BAND BIOGRAPHY - 2004
Nick 13: Vocals, guitar
Geoff Kresge: Stand-up bass, Vocals
Fred Hell: Drums
It might seem like hyperbole to label the release of the new album from Tiger Army nothing less than a triumph – it might, unless one were familiar with the circumstances leading up to the release of III: Ghost Tigers Rise, the trio’s latest offering on the Hellcat/Epitaph imprint.
While the band’s history has often centered around overcoming adversity and succeeding despite the odds, they faced their greatest challenge yet when drummer Fred Hell was shot four times in March 2003 in a brutal home invasion robbery.
The other members, singer/songwriter/guitarist Nick 13 and his longtime friend Geoff Kresge, the band’s stand-up bassist, had resolved that Hell would recover and play on the new album, but the band was confronted with yet another difficult situation in late September; shortly after commencing the recording process when it was realized by all that Hell’s recovery was not yet as complete as it had seemed after months of practice. After much deliberation, the band decided to continue on with the help of friend and A-list drum tech, Mike Fasano (who incidentally had worked on both previous Tiger Army albums). Hell’s continued presence and coaching in the studio insured that the band’s arrangements were preserved in the recording.
"When we were in the middle of working on the new songs in preparation for entering the studio, Fred was shot and everything came to a halt,” notes Nick 13. “Somehow, miraculously, his life did not. To this day he literally has a bullet in his brain, which the surgeons informed us posed less of a danger than would an attempt to remove it."
Incredibly, within a matter of months, Hell was behind the drum kit and the band resumed practice the summer of that year.
Several months of work in the studio later, stopping only to tour the States supporting Rancid (marking Hell’s victorious return to live playing), the finished result is nothing short of amazing.
With III: Ghost Tigers Rise, Tiger Army has created 13 songs that are startling in their subtlety, power and originality. Self-produced by Nick 13, the album takes the band to a new level sonically, where meticulously crafted vintage tones meet modernity in a reflection of the band’s overall vibe. III: GTR represents musical growth rather than departure, as subtle new threads emerge in songs like the beautiful “Rose of the Devil’s Garden,” which hints at the influence of 1980s darkpop à la the Smiths, the Cure and Depeche Mode. Tracks such as “Wander Alone” lean toward a more muscular midtempo rock’n’roll approach, while others combine all the elements known to fans of Tiger Army. “Ghostfire” features chilling melody that combines an almost gothic country flavor alternating with punk intensity.
With III: Ghost Tigers Rise, Tiger Army show the world just why they’re the leaders of the burgeoning psychobilly movement in the United States, a subculture and musical genre that, while having existed since the early eighties in Europe, has only recently enjoyed increased attention and visibility in the US after almost total obscurity in North America just a few years ago.
With the 2004 release of their new album, a reinvigorated Tiger Army will again hit the road with a vengeance: headlining the second “Punks vs. Psychos” tour and playing a month on the main stage of the 2004 Vans Warped Tour just for starters. Many bands wouldn’t have lasted through the situations Tiger Army’s faced, but Tiger Army’s not just any band. Listen to III: Ghost Tigers Rise or see them live and find out why.
A deceptively simple description of the psychobilly style could also be applied to Tiger Army itself: a musical mélange of punk aggression and fifties rockabilly twang, with an infusion of the macabre. If you think you’ve heard it before, don’t be so sure. The band’s sound is dark and brooding without being cartoonish; aggressive and energetic without being dissonant; beautifully melodic without being saccharine. Most importantly, it's a sound all their own. The band embraces the psychobilly tag, even as they redefine the genre with a level of songwriting that somehow accomplishes the seemingly contradictory task of stretching the style's limits while remaining true to its roots. Their spectrum of fans includes everyone from diehard psychobilly loyalists to those who’ve never heard of the genre, as well as representatives from just about every rock’n’roll subculture one can imagine.
Formed in California’s East Bay in 1996, Tiger Army’s founder and sole original member Nick 13 faced numerous difficulties in finding dedicated members interested in committing full-time to playing a style of music which was then almost completely unknown in the U.S. underground. He circumvented this problem by “borrowing” members from friends’ bands for however many gigs or recording sessions they were available for before going back on the road with their respective bands. Through this “better-than-nothing” approach 13 was able to record a demo (later to be issued as the Early Years EP) that made its way into the hands of Rancid frontman and Hellcat Records co-founder Tim Armstrong, who was impressed enough to sign the young songwriter, despite his lack of a band.
After the Autumn 1999 release of Tiger Army’s self-titled debut album (recorded with a studio line-up that included old friend and first Tiger Army drummer Adam Carson of AFI), the pieces of a permanent lineup began to fall into place. First came the invaluable addition of Geoff Kresge in late ’99 (Kresge dove headfirst into the process of mastering the stand-up bass after departing from AFI where he’d played electric bass for two albums and several years). Kresge and Nick 13 (along with Jade Puget, later of AFI) were alumni of seminal early-nineties Ukiah, CA punk band Influence 13. Drummer Fred Hell first played with Tiger Army in the summer of 2001, shortly after the release of the band’s second studio full-length, Tiger Army II: Power of Moonlite, thus completing the long-hoped-for lineup of band members who shared Nick’s dedication.
cThe band toured relentlessly the second half 2001 and the entirety of 2002 crisscrossing North America numerous times with bands such as Dropkick Murphys, Reverend Horton Heat, The Damned and many more as Tiger Army built its following show by show. Headlining portions of Hellcat’s first “Punks vs. Psychos” tour, a stint on the 2002 Warped Tour, a tour of Japan, multiple trips to Europe and slots on various psychobilly festivals rounded out the band’s live experience as they racked up hundreds of shows during this time, while their ever-growing following in their adopted home of Southern California allowed them to sell out increasingly large venues there.
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