Rocking with Tijuana Bibles

tijuana-bibles-interview-at-king-tuts-wah-wah-hut-1Andy (AD) and I (AG) are at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow to see a varied cast of support acts from Dirty Diamond and the Gunslinger’s filthy Bluegrass to the heavy rock two-piece The Dead Raven and all of this via the high-pitched synth-pop sounds of Kirsten Adamson. It’s looking like a very diverse gig crossing multiple sections of the musical spectrum and that’s just the support because tonight it’s all about headline act Tijuana Bibles and they mean business.

Joining us ahead of the gig to chat about new material, onstage near-misses and other shenanigans are three of the four lads who make up Tijuana Bibles. Tony (T), the man who fronts the outfit with his snarl, swagger and commanding stage presence. Mikey (M) the tall, baby-faced drummer and James (J) the quiet, somewhat shy member who’ll transform into a guitar-weilding maniac in a few hours time. We can only assume that Behn the bass player had other commitments today, like some form of ‘immaculate beard’ trimming. We’re certain that thing requires a fair amount of effort.

Having seen Tijuana Bibles share a stage with Skaters and Deap Vally towards the end of 2013 we knew that we could expect some dirty, sexy rock n’ roll with a massive scoop of attitude and noise but we didn’t know much about the individuals themselves and their aspirations for a year that’s started out with a headline gig here at Tuts and a second EP in the making…

AG: Is there anything you can tell us about the impending single?
T: At the moment we’re still mixing. It’s between two songs just now so we haven’t actually chosen one just yet. One is quite a melodic, psychedelic sounding thing and the other is more like a rock n’ roll song. It might actually come to the point where we need to toss a coin because we keep changing our minds.

M: Basically, for me it’s the recording process and mixing the stuff, you don’t know what’s gonna come out better in the end so..

T: ..I think it’s more that it would be good to throw something a bit different out there but either way, we’re gonna release both of them so it just depends what one we want to put out there first. As I say, there’s one that people maybe wouldn’t expect from us, it’s still quite hard-hitting but it’s a bit different.

AG: In saying that, the four tracks on the Wild River EP are quite varied, is it similar to any of those?
T: We purposefully tried to do that with the firs EP to kinda to show what we can do, so we have various songs that are in the same vein. This particular song is probably a bit more left field than any of them but as far as the next Ep goes, what we’re going to try to do is actually have it sounding like a mini-album. Songs that string together very well and there isn’t that definite line between what sort of genres or influences are in those songs.

J: Have it sounding consistent all the way through.

AD: So where do you do your recording?
T: Rubbergum Studios which is just round the corner from our flat. We all live together so we just jam away in the flat – the neighbours love us… (haha). Honestly man, we’re the most hated people on the Southside of Glasgow. We’ve got two floors of a tenement flat so if you’re on the top floor it’s fine because it’s us beneath that but downstairs, they hate us so much it’s unreal. Across the hall, she hates us and through the wall, that wall nearly comes in every night. We’ve never seen this guy but he sounds MASSIVE. We do try to keep it acoustic, do lot of the structuring in the flat then head down to the studios and crank it up a bit and record.

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AG: If you all live together, is there any scraps or fights?
J: Not yet, no…

T: It’s got the point where we don’t really realise what a scrap is, where it’s kinda the norm, it’s all good and there’s always somebody being a dick. We all take turns at being a dick but it’s all in equal measures.

M: We’re good at it as well. Apart from me obviously…

T: Aye, you’re permanently a dick!

AD: Is it all over big things or is it sometimes about who ate the last digestive.
T: Naw, it’s more like the last digestive. You know, if you’ve got a jar of Nutella and you go to get it out the cupboard and you can see all the chocolate round the jar but you look in it and it’s just James has smeared the chocolate round the outside to make it look like there’s some left, that kinda thing.

AG: James, it looks like you’ve been sculpting some serious facial hair since we last seen you, is this in direct competition with Behn?
J: No, not at all. Me and Behn are just lazy as fuck and can’t be bothered shaving.

T: It’s a pet.

J: This is as big as it gets.

AG: So you don’t fancy a modelling gig from it like Behn then?
J: Naw, not anytime soon.

T: See that’s what’s shit about doing photo shoots. I want to get photos where we’re all sitting down. Cos’ Mikey’s like six-three and Behn’s about, what? six-four, something like that and I’m easily about five foot eight… and a half. James is about five-eight and three quarters, I’m not giving you five-nine!! So there’s a lot height and beard envy in there.

AG: For tonight’s gig here at King Tuts, what’s the plans? You got a setlist in mind? How did you prepare?
T: We had a rehearsal yesterday. We’ve mainly been concentrating on the new songs we’ve been writing so this week we’ve been rehearsing as normal and polishing off the set.

AD: Where does that inspiration for the new material come from? Do you know straight away, that’s a Tijuana Bibles song?
T: It just happens, we’ve all got some sort of characteristics as musicians and writers and the mix of that, it can’t help but sound like our band. It just so happens that it will have a distinctive sound to it. Whenever you write a song you hear it in your head and you know what you want it to sound like or you know what it’s going to sound like and there are moments where you do try to chase that sound that you have in your head. Whether that’s different effects or ways of recording. As far as the composition goes, we do also have our own style in how we want to approach the overall sound as well as the structure of the song. We just do our thing.

AG: Does one of you take a lead or is it a collaborative effort?
J: We kinda just take it in turns.

T: Generally, one of us will have an idea and take it to the other guys and tell them “this is what I’m thinking” but we don’t need to instruct people. We know by now what we’re all looking for within that. One of the best things is that when we’ve got an idea for a song and you think you’ve got it pretty much down, you’ll hear what somebody else brings to that and you go “woah, right okay, now that’s the song!”

J: We find that if you need to force it then it’s just not worth doing, it’s got to be effortless.

T: If I was to ask James “can you play something along the lines of this on the guitar?” then he’ll already know what it is I want and there’s no way I could imagine being better at what he does in the band so I know it’s in safe hands and he’ll make my idea better.

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AG: How do you take what you’ve created in the studio onto the stage?
J:We were talking about this the other day. It’s always going to be the rawest interpretation of what you’ve done in the studio. You know, the studio is where you go and you do your craft and your art and the stage is just, as I say, the rawest representation of that.

T: It’s a different thing entirely. When you record there’s layers there, things your ear may not even pick up unless you’re really trying to hear it whereas when you play live, the thing that you want to do most is affect the audience. The songs take care of themselves when we play them.

M: First and foremost that’s what we are, a live band anyway, so you don’t really take it from recordings to live, you take it from live to recording. So it’s always like live is the thing we do first and then we can record it. Live is what we’re always about.

T: The main thing we try to do is make sure we shake up the audience. That is our remit for every gig that we do.

AG: The gig at Oran Mor, you were on very early and the crowd was a little sparse at that time. You came across, to me, as if you were a bit pissed off, was that the case?
T: Well, you just need to see that as a challenge at the time. I’m hesitant to use the ‘one man and his dog’ patter but it doesn’t matter. You’re not there to play for people that aren’t there. The people who have come out to see you, you owe it to them to really put on a show so that’s what we do all the time. I don’t think we were pissed off, it’s just our stage persona.

J: The thing with that gig was that we were the last confirmed for that so we were always going to be on first for that anyway but maybe we shouldn’t have been on at that time. We did really well with that. A lot of people came to see us but it’s just the way it was, we got booked late on but we went out there and did what we do every time and played it the same way.

T: You can’t really control things like that anyway so it’s not something we really thing about too much.

AG: Andy saw you at The Barras, I was surprised you didn’t mention that…
J: I think because it wasn’t our gig. I mean, it was brilliant!

M: The Barras is one of those places that we’ve always wanted to play and it would be amazing doing it but it wasn’t ours.

T: I think if we start patting ourselves on the back for playing The Barras at this point then we’re not going to end up headlining the place ourselves. We want to headline The Barras one day and at that point it will be our favourite gig, but not yet.

AD: I saw it and loved it. You had the guitar malfunction midway through, how do you cope with things like that when you’re onstage?
M: Well, how we cope with it is Tony shouts through the center vocal “Danny (guitar tech/roadie), fuckin’ play it!!”

T: See, the reason I had to go to the mic to do it is because I threw him the guitar and I had to run back over to the mic for the second verse and I’m turning round and going “play it, just play it” and he’s just smiling and sticking his thumbs up. So after the 3rd or fourth time, that’s why I had to go “fuckin’ play it” through the mic then he started playing it. I think it was the 3rd song we were playing as well. I had the tambourine and I fucked it off the ground as I turned the other way and the for the next song I was thinking “I need that tambourine” but I didn’t know where it was so again I’m over to Danny, my brother, and I’m saying “I don’t know where that tambourine is” and it was almost under the stage. I didn’t find out until after the gig that it had just missed Mikey’s nose. It bounced up, went “pheeeeewwww” past his head and ended up back there. The thing is, we’re always going to be a bit unhinged onstage anyway so you just get up and crack on.

J: We’ve had guitars cut out and stuff like that but you just get on with it.

T: One of the very first gigs we ever played, the very first song I pinged a string, the top ‘E’ which takes a bit of doing, that was away. James had a spare guitar so I took his as we started the next song, but James plays very low and he doesn’t need to sing into a mic so I was hunched over trying to stretch my neck up to the mic until I tried to adjust it and broke the strap on it. Then you (James) pinged a string on the other guitar and that was all in the space of two songs. So after all that we can kinda roll with the punches.

AG: Before you go out onstage tonight, are there any rituals?
M: The Lion King theme! We always do that.

T: We go into a bit of a huddle and we do sing the Lion King, you know that “himmanana-hummanumananna….” (Tony belts out a rendition of the intro to ‘The Circle of Life’).

M: I don’t actually think there is words to that?

AG: What can we expect on the setlist tonight? Any covers?
T: We sort of avoid covers. We’ve got nothing against them you know, there’s plenty of good songs out there.

M: The thing is, we’ve not even got enough time tonight to play our full set never mind somebody else’s.

T: We’re going to chuck in a new song from the forthcoming EP. That’s really all we had time to do with the allocated slot.

tijuana-bibles-interview-james-brannigan-awesome-beard AG: Is there anything you can tell us about your support acts for the show later?
T: Well, Dirty Diamond and the Gunslinger. I’ve known about them for a year or so and I checked them out online. I liked their sound and the way they carry themselves. I love that blues thing. They’ve got a similar kinda attitude if you want to put it like that.

M: A lot of influences are the same but they don’t sound like us.

T: It’s a different style of blues. They’re more of a blues band than we are.

M: The Dead Raven. I seen them in Broadcast once and they were a good two-piece. I’ve not seen a lot of them, about 20 mins but they were good so I’m looking forward to seeing them but I’ve never seen Kirsten Adamson so I don’t know what she’s going to be like.

J: I really like her. I’ve been checking out tons of her stuff online. Her old band had really good kinda country stuff, really nice.

T: I listened to one of her songs on her Facebook and she’s got a really good voice.

AD: So it’s a good start to the year, headlining King Tuts. What’s the plans for the rest of the year?
T: We’re going to be touring a lot. We’ve already got a Scottish tour planned for March/April and we’re hoping to hit London as well as another few spots in England on the way back up. After that I think we’ll be heading to Europe in the Summer.

AG: What countries you hoping to take in across Europe?
T: Well, the women are pretty nice in Italy…

AD: I’ve been hearing that Germany is a very receptive place to play…
T: Aye, I’ve got a couple of mates who live over in Germany and they’re doing really well. They got a much, much better response in Germany than they did over here. It happens quite a lot. There’s some really talented bands and musicians that need to go out with where they’re based to find their niche at times. They’re in Berlin and absolutely loving it. Berlin’s meant to be one of ‘the’ places just now.

AG: When is the EP likely to be released and how many tracks will there be on there?
T: Right now we’re probably looking at early summer. We haven’t made our mind up yet.

M: We’ve recorded a few things but we’re going back in [to the studio] later on so it depends on how we get on in that time.

T: The last EP was 4 tracks but we put a wee secret, more chilled-out, electro-sounding thing on it. So this EP won’t be a straight up 4 songs, there’ll be a wee bit of a twist on it.

M: We like surprises, we’ve got a few of them up our sleeves.

AG: We’re sitting here in King Tuts, there’s a lot of famous band names on the steps. Will you be hoping to get your name up there sometime?
T: Aye, we’ve already drew it on in Biro. Over Snow Patrol.

Alan Gray

Senior Writer at Musicscramble. Listens to a wide range of music. A sucker for a heavy bass line and a thundering guitar hook. Loves getting his gig on but also loves to walk up mountains and climb big-ass boulders.

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