BAND BIOGRAPHY - 2005
Nick 13: Vocals, guitar
Jeff Roffredo: Stand-up Bass/Vocals
James Meza: Drums
Whether speaking of the latest album III: Ghost Tigers Rise or Tiger Army in general, the story can be summed up in one word – perseverance. Members shot, members changed, situations that would have finished other bands a thousand times over and still the band has recently delivered its best album to date under the guidance of singer/guitarist/songwriter Nick 13.
III: Ghost Tigers Rise is the band’s most distinguished work yet, and while it rests comfortably within the “psychobilly” style that Tiger Army is credited with bringing to the attention of the United States underground, it also transcends genre with its intoxicating mix of vintage punk, rock’n’roll and bittersweet melody. One might hear strains of 80’s darkpop or postpunk (think Smiths, The Cure, or Depeche Mode) or a hillbilly pedal steel guitar, but the emphasis is squarely on songwriting, never on novelty or gimmick. Atmospheric and dark, vibrant and beautiful, songs like “Ghostfire” or “Rose of the Devil’s Garden” show a band that is connected with the lineage of the past’s great rock’n’roll and pop, but the band is no “retro” act – 13 has crafted a sound that is both distinct and unique, no simple feat in a time where rehashing without innovation is the order of the day.
The road to this point has been anything but easy. The band came together in early 1996, where they played their first show at the legendary 924 Gilman in Berkeley, CA (the punk collective where bands such as Green Day, AFI and Rancid got their start), opening for longtime hometown friends AFI and in fact borrowing their drummer Adam Carson. Local gigging on a variety of musically mixed bills and recording demos (later released as the Early Years EP), the band quickly came to the attention of Rancid frontman and Hellcat Records co-founder Tim Armstrong, who contacted Nick 13 and asked him to record an album. Overjoyed but chagrined, 13 had to inform him that he didn’t currently have a lineup! In a remarkable display of artistic confidence, Armstrong suggested going forward with a studio lineup, knowing that 13 was the sole songwriter.
The eventual result was the band’s self-title debut, released in late ’99. It was an album that was to announce the long-overdue arrival of the psychobilly subculture (born in early-eighties England) to the North American continent, introducing countless fans to the style that had gone unnoticed here for so long. In 2000, Nick 13 moved to Los Angeles, intent on finding a touring lineup for the band.
With the release of Tiger Army’s second full-length II: Power of Moonlite in the summer of 2001, the band began a relentless period of touring that lasted eighteen months, taking the band across the States several times and over the oceans to Japan and Europe. Now consisting of Geoff Kresge and Fred Hell in addition to 13, the band cut its teeth on the road, touring with Dropkick Murphys, Reverend Horton Heat and The Damned in addition to various festivals and headlining dates.
In early 2003 as the band rehearsed material for the album that was to become III: Ghost Tigers Rise, tragedy struck as drummer Fred Hell was shot four times in a home-invasion robbery. Despite waiting several months for his recovery, he was ultimately unable to record with the band and friend and longtime drum tech Mike Fasano stepped in to handle drum duties in the studio. Despite a seemingly miraculous recovery and returning to the road with the band for a tour supporting Rancid and some regional headlining dates, lingering heath issues would crop up again and sadly prevent Hell from continuing on with the band.
After two sold-out record release shows at the House of Blues Sunset Strip in July to mark the arrival of III: Ghost Tigers Rise, Mike Fasano once again returned to fill the drummer’s seat as the band embarked on the second month of the 2004 Vans Warped Tour, playing 28 shows on the main stage. Stand-up bass player Geoff Kresge, with the band since the second album announced his departure from the band after returning home from the Warped Tour.
What would have been the end of most bands was just another new beginning for Tiger Army. No one would deny the band’s sound and vision belonged to founder Nick 13 and when he found himself back at square one, he did what he always did – he picked up the pieces and moved on. Enter Jeff Roffredo and James Meza, stand-up bass and drums respectively. A longtime acquaintance of Nick’s, Roffredo was in seminal West Coast psychobilly band Cosmic Voodoo and later a founding member of Calavera. Part of the same tiny tribe of musicians playing psychobilly in California in the 1990’s, 13 had even discussed playing on the first Tiger Army album with Roffredo at one point. James Meza was already a friend of 13’s and had spent time in a number of local Los Angeles psychobilly outfits, including one with Roffredo as well as drumming for labelmates the Nekromantix on a U.S. tour.
This was to be the new Tiger Army as they embarked on their longest tour yet, a nine-and-a-half week, 46 show odyssey supporting the legendary Social Distortion on a full U.S. tour -- a trial by fire, to be sure. Despite the odds, the new lineup has a chemistry all it’s own and is said by many to be the band’s tightest and best-sounding line-up live to date!
2005 has already seen a full tour of the United Kingdom and Ireland, with numerous sold out shows and amazing crowd response. While there, the band had the honor of recording live at the BBC for broadcast on Radio One. In March the band travels to Australia for their first-ever visit and headlining tour. Shortly after returning home from down under, the band begins the “Dark Romance Tour,” Tiger Army’s first-ever full headlining tour of the United States, starting on the last day of March and ending in late May with three successive shows at the House of Blues Sunset in Hollywood. Despite limited radio or video play to date, the band’s live performances in Southern California are capable of drawing thousands of people. Touring and word-of-mouth have also built the band a strong following elsewhere and various cities around the world are catching up with the enthusiasm and energy that Southern California has shown the band from day one.
Nick 13 is a man with a mission, Tiger Army a band with a vision. Listen to the latest album III: Ghost Tigers Rise and see them live on the “Dark Romance” tour this spring to hear the passion, energy and originality that is Tiger Army – if you haven’t yet, you need to find out what you’ve been missing.
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