Tigers Jaw Move Forward
Pennsylvania emo outfit on their forthcoming record, collaboration and guitar solos
We don’t have live shows, but soon we’ll have a new Tigers Jaw album. Titled I Won’t Care How You Remember Me (out on March 5, 2021), it encapsulates the energy of a circle pit, the thrill of headbanging until your glasses fly off, the invincible feeling of crowdsurfing over people’s greasy heads. With “Can’t Wait Forever,” the fifth and most exhilarating track, you can imagine stage-diving at Brooklyn’s Market Hotel, not caring about whether you fall or slam into that poorly placed pole.
Tigers Jaw are at the forefront of the emo revival movement. They hail from Scranton, Pennsylvania, a hotspot for noisy bands like The Menzingers, with the neighboring Title Fight from Wilkes-Barre and Balance And Composure from Doylestown. Tigers Jaw, though, are known for their 2008 self-titled record with pizza as the album art. It’s the middle of November when I call the founding members Ben Walsh (vocals, guitar) and Brianna Collins (vocals, keyboard) along with newly-permanent drummer Teddy Roberts. Colin Gorman is on bass now, also recently promoted from a touring member to a permanent one. This new lineup contributed to the grittier sound because they would “meet up every other month or so and just spend a ton of time playing through everything and refining everything,” Walsh tells SPIN. “For the last record, we didn’t have the luxury of really playing the songs over and over again and really finding what felt right and what felt good.”
Five weeks, six days a week, 10 hours a day—that’s what it took for the 11 dynamic songs of I Won’t Care to record at a Philadelphia studio. They describe the process as “throwing out the rulebook” and “hitting the refresh button,” but this approach yielded results that echo the band’s earlier days. A number of tracks, especially “Body Language,” sound as if they were taken straight from their third studio album Two Worlds; the sporadic instrumentals are back, as well as the organ and energetic guitar parts. “Everyone’s favorite parts on the record are guitar solos,” Roberts says after praising the outro of “Never Wanted To,” which is a poignant whirlwind. “Can’t get enough of ’em.”
Even at the album’s slowest and most vulnerable points, there’s an element of loudness to it, or at least one around the bend. The title track is a peaceful acoustic ballad, until it transforms a little over two minutes in—in a similar fashion to the beloved “Never Saw It Coming.” Walsh loves that moment of metamorphosis, calling it “a big, cacophonous introduction to the record,” one that’s emotional, he adds, and sweeps the listener into the drama of Tigers Jaw.
And the drama of Tigers Jaw is, as always, low stakes in reality, but life or death in the context of these songs. “You fell asleep in my car / And I was worried I was boring,” Walsh sings urgently on “Can’t Wait Forever,” and somehow this image is as intense and quick as a lightning bolt. Another memorable lyrical moment is the chorus of the fuzzy “Lemon Mouth”: “Saw you in a recurring dream / Spoke to me through clenched teeth / If I don’t write it down I won’t remember / If I don’t say it now it’s gone forever / Start looking for answers in a psychic mirror.” There’s a fleeting nature to everything on this record; the four-piece aim to immortalize what they can in a world where everything comes and goes.
And music is also a way for them to process life. The main theme of the record is “about realizing that there’s certain things that you have control over and certain things that you don’t,” Walsh explains. “When there’s a relationship or a friendship that’s come to an end, you can control how you grow from it and you can control your perspective on it but you can’t control the other person’s. Once you let go of that, then you can maybe start to move forward from it.”
I Won’t Care watches Tigers Jaw reflecting, accepting and moving on from past personal turmoil. Walsh adds: “It’s about confidence, it’s about knowing who you are and how to move forward from things. It’s about not carrying too much baggage and being able to be present and be in the moment.”
The buoyant “Anniversary,” wraps up the album; the last line, which sounds dispirited but it is actually more optimistic than anything, ties the bow: “We all fall apart in the same way,” a sentiment that allows life to take its course.