Miniature Tigers are: Charlie Brand, Rick Schaier, Algernon Quashie, Brandon Lee
Hmm, where should we start here? The part where Miniature Tigers stay up all night with Neon Indian, fine-tuning the laser-like synths of their new single, “Gold Skull?” Yeah, that sounds about right.
“I won’t forget that experience,” says frontman Charlie Brand. “I remember the sun coming up and everyone in the room singing along. [Drummer] Rick [Schaier] was almost asleep on the floor as he did harmonies.”
While that part was captured during the Manhattan-bound mixing stages of Miniature Tigers’ second album (Fortress, out July 27 on Modern Art Records), the rest of the record was tackled at Dreamland, a converted 19th-century church that’s hosted everyone from Beach House to the B-52s. As you might imagine given its location—deep in the woods of Upstate New York—this led to some other late nights, ones that involved abject terror. But hey, that’s what happens when you decide to watch The Shining in a place that could double as a Friday the 13th set.
“That movie put us in a weird headspace,” explains Brand, “so we decided to go nuts on ‘Mansion of Misery’, starting with the drums. We also wailed on the guitars, making everything as loud as we possibly could.”
The result is one hell of an curtain-raising cut, as heavenly harmonies and tension-building effects segue into a sudden explosion of crushed cymbals and powder keg chords. So while it’d be easy to draw the usual reference points here (the two B’s: Brian Wilson and the Beatles), something’s a little off about Miniature Tigers’ indie pop presentations, whether we’re talking about the delirious chorus lines of “Bullfighter Jacket,” the hooting and hollering of “Lolita,” or the ’shroom-munching waking dream of “Coyote Enchantment.” And reigning in all the chaos, why, it’s none other than Chris Chu of the Morning Benders, applying the same widescreen approach that worked wonders on his own Big Echo LP.
“We like to push what doesn’t work sometimes,” says Brand, “and he helped balance that out for us. Chris is also very organized, focused and serious, which is nice, because we aren’t at all.”
That’s not totally true. After all, the band’s come a long way since Rolling Stone named them one of MySpace’s 25 best artists in late 2006. For one thing, Brand and Schaier finally have a steady lineup now, rounded out by guitarist Algernon Quashie and bassist Alex Gerber. The band played over 200 dates last year supporting their debut album Tell It To the Volcano with the likes of The Morning Benders, Bishop Allen, The Spinto Band and then there was the Ben Folds tour where Brand figured out what not to say onstage in front of their biggest crowds yet.
“I made a weird joke about being on acid at this college basketball arena,” he says. “I don’t even remember what I was talking about. I was dying up there.”
He won’t be any longer.