he indie-pop foursome known as Tigercity hasn’t even released its first album but is already being compared to Talking Heads, Prince and The Police. The up-and-coming band will perform with The Headset at 8 p.m. tomorrow in Barton Hall at Cornell University. Contributing Writer Steven Terrezza spoke to bassist Joel Ford about the band’s origins, how it got its name and what the band has in store for this year.
ST: Why do you call yourselves a pop band?
JF: Well when we started and the band reformed over a year ago, we had a live drummer … . We’re all big fans of pop music from the ’60s, we love the Beach Boys. [As for] ’70s, David Bowie’s stuff, pop music too. Talking Heads, but we weren’t going to necessarily make Beach Boys–type music or anything specific, a specific reference to that. We just wanted to try to write good songs, songs that people could dance to or sing along to, songs that we could enjoy playing, versus some sort of [scene] based on some sort of thing that was not necessarily not music. We didn’t really want to try to fit into anything specific. We wanted to do whatever came to us as far as writing good pop music. I don’t think Tigercity is pop music in the sense of TRL, Britney Spears or whatever, but at the same time, we’re not trying to be exclusive.
ST: Could you tell me a little bit of the band’s history?
JF: The band originally was formed in Massachusetts and it was myself and our old guitarist Tim. We originally set out to do a dance-rock band. We didn’t have a drummer and I had been working, doing my own stuff. That was more electronic and sample based. We took my sequences sampler, made some beats, started writing songs along those beats. … So we were doing that for a little while, then we met Bill [Gillim, our vocalist] playing basketball, and that just totally worked out so he started singing with us. And we played some early shows and that was working really well. One of the first shows we played … was really cool. We had a huge crowd. Then we decided to move to Brooklyn because we have friends here and we’ve been hanging out once in a while on the weekends coming down from Massachusetts. We just thought it would be a better place to try and grow the band. Actually when we first got here it really did not work at all. We were struggling, super poor, weren’t playing any shows, weren’t writing any songs. It was really frustrating.
ST: Why did you decide to call the band Tigercity?
JF: It wasn’t really intense significance or anything about the name. One of my friends, Colin, in college used to call me Joelcity and would refer to other friends as their names and city on the end of it and it was kind of like a funny inside joke … . It was kind of like a joke at first and then it just stuck … . It has nothing to do with tigers or anything, which is fine. That’s why we like to just spell it as one word because it has nothing to do with tigers at all.
ST: What other bands did you play in before Tigercity?
JF: I was in a band called the Debras … . It was a really good idea, It didn’t necessarily work. It was myself playing drums, my friend Dan who’s … an electronic composer guy. He was playing keyboards, and my friend James was the front man. He was kind of like hot rock dude … . That was kind of me getting back into playing rock music, sort of different things. Then Bill was in a band called Farris, really awesome and kind of undiscovered.
ST: Where have you toured?
JF: The only real semblance of tour we’ve done so far is we did two weeks down to Austin … and then we went up through the Midwest and played in Chicago, Detroit, Indiana, which was really fun. … We just knew that we needed to do that all the time. We had a lot of fun. We’re really tight, we’re all really good friends and it was really awesome playing every night. Actually we’re probably going to confirm in a couple of days a West Coast run that we’re going to turn into a month worth of touring.
ST: What kind of music did you listen to growing up?
JF: My parents are both classical symphony orchestra musicians so there was a lot of classical music in my house. I didn’t really stick to that. Early on, I started playing guitar because … . I listened to ’90s grunge stuff but nothing like intense or very much different from mainstream media channels and then as I got older I got into more improvisational music, I listened to a lot of jazz. I got into electronic music sort of in the mid to late ’90s … I went to college listening to a lot of post-drama, also a lot of hip-hop. I was pretty much solely listening to hip-hop for a couple years until I went to London and found rock again and came back. … Then Tigercity happened.
ST: What bands have influenced Tigercity?
JF: Well we like to list the influences, older influences like David Bowie, Talking Heads, Prince certainly, Steeley Dan, Hall & Oates, Chic for sure. There was a period where all we were listening to in our house was Chic and Chic-related music, all the music they had produced. … We listen to newer music too.
ST: What are you working on now?
JF: We are working on a new album right now. Actually we’ve been recording for the past week or two. It’s going to be six songs most likely, although we’re recording seven. It’ll probably be a six-song EP, in order to self-release it. It’s tentatively titled “Vapor Tin.” We’re hoping to have it next semester within a month or two. It should be out mid summer.
ST: Did you ever think you were going to be in a band?
JF: I would say definitely. I started playing so on … I’ve been a bunch of bands. Most of the time people are preoccupied with doing other things, whether it’s college or whatever. But we’re all on the same page right now, trying to get Tigercity off the ground. We really want to play in Europe. … All of us have wanted to do it.
Tickets to the concert are $3, and can be purchased at the door. For more information on Tigercity, visit www.tigercitymusic.com.