Interview with Tigers That Talked

Leeds has really got something going on at the moment, the music coming out of the city is top notch and long may it continue! Tigers That Talked formed back in 2006 and after releasing a single and an EP the band let unto the world their debut album ‘The Merchant’ in November of last year. Cat On The Wall’s Jo Whitby caught up with bassist Owain Kelly via email and discussed the making of the album and their ‘mature sound’…

Cat On The Wall: First up, for those of our readers who have yet to discover Tigers That Talked could you introduce yourselves and tell us how you all met?

Owain Kelly: Of course! We’re a four piece art-rock band from Leeds – Jamie sings and plays guitar, Glenna plays the violin and synth, Chris plays Drums and I’m Owain, the Bassist. We all met quite haphazardly through friends and the Leeds music scene, started playing music together, and, well, just haven’t really stopped…

COTW: Your debut album ‘The Merchant’ is quite a mature sounding record and is very accessible, was this intentional or just a natural progression from your EPs?

OK: We’ve been told that quite often since the release, but for our part I don’t think there was ever any specific intention to make a ‘mature sounding’ record as much as there was to just make a great record that we all loved. I think the EPs certainly gave us the opportunity to experiment with our sound and grow in both experience and confidence, so that when it came time to record ‘The Merchant’ we had a much firmer grip on exactly what we wanted to commit to record and how to go about achieving that.

COTW: How did you choose the songs and running order for the album?

OK: We really had very few preconceptions about which tracks were going to fit where, or even which tracks would make it on to the final record before we went in. A lot of things come to light during the process itself, and we found our opinions changed pretty much daily. All we knew is that we wanted to release a 10 track album so we went in and recorded 13 songs, and then it was just a case of isolating the 10 that flowed together best, and in which order. That was a long process of trial and error really. There’s still about 34 different ‘possible album’ playlists on my computer…

COTW: Who did you work with on the album and where was it recorded?

OK: We recorded with Adam Noble, who, amongst other things, was responsible for both Guillemots’ albums. We spent 3 weeks in a wonderful residential studio in Lincolnshire called ‘The Chapel’, which is a converted… well, chapel… in the middle of nowhere. Being so isolated, throughout a snowy, dark January, for the entire 3 week session was a very intense experience that actually lent itself quite well to the process. I think you can definitely hear some of that balance between the idyllic landscape and the intense claustrophobia on the final record.

COTW: Can you tell us about the album artwork? Is there a story behind it?

OK: Yes, it was designed by a good friend and great artist Nick Scott who we met through Wild Beasts ( We had a lot of conceptual meetings with him about the nature of our music and the message we wanted to convey with the record; about how we really admire bands that can completely submerge the listener in their own little world, how we wanted to emulate that delicacy and detail. Then he just picked up the ball and ran with it, showing us developmental stages every few weeks. The final outcome was perfect; incredibly intricate without being overly complex, and very arresting as an overall image. You get lost in the beauty and detail of the world, and that’s exactly what we aim to achieve with the music.

COTW: What is your creative process when writing songs as a band? Does everyone have their own specific role?

OK: Not really, no. Jamie is the songwriter, but the process itself tends to vary depending on the song. Sometimes, he’ll bring us a song that is fully formed, with structure, lyrics and melody all mapped out, and sometimes he’ll just play 2 seconds of a riff before we all get stuck in. No matter how complete we think it is though, we always rip it apart in order to build it back up, and somewhere along the line something sticks.

Apart from lyrics, which are handled by Jamie, no one really has specific roles, and we try to keep our rehearsal space as open and limitless as possible. No one is precious about their parts, and everything is up for scrutiny if we think it can be better. We solve most things by democracy, and when it’s a 2-2 tie, we tend to just bare knuckle box. Glenna battered me the other day over a backing vocal harmony…

COTW: You’re often compared to Arcade Fire which is quite a compliment but having listened to ‘The Merchant’ you’ve definitely found your own sound. Would you say your influences musically are quite eclectic as a band? What have you been listening to recently?

OK: Haha Cheers! Good music is good music regardless of genre, and our music collections range from Sleigh Bells to Shostakovich so we’re pretty eclectic in our tastes. The only way to make music interesting and challenging is to draw from as wide a range of influences as possible – if you only listen to one kind of music, you’ll only make one kind of music.

All having slightly different musical tastes within the group is also great as we’re constantly introducing each other to new bands. Having said that, everyone needs a base that they all agree on, and for us that would probably be bands like Radiohead, The National, Pixies, Sigur Ros, Smashing Pumpkins and Queens of the Stone Age.

COTW: Do you enjoy performing live? How do you know when you’ve had a good gig? Any memorable live experiences you could tell us about?

OK: Absolutely, performing live is great! It’s very fulfilling to be able to just stand on a stage and deliver your music directly to fans, and great fun too. We always find that the best gigs are the ones where we don’t actually think too much about the gig, but instead focus on the songs themselves. If the music in your ears is good, then nothing else really bothers you or throws you off. However, this means we sacrifice our own perspectives of how a set is going, and we often wander off stage asking each other “How was that?” because we literally have no idea how it went down. It’s only once you get off stage and see people’s reactions that you know it went well… or not!

COTW: Finally, what are your plans for the near future?

OK: At the moment we’re just starting to put the second album together, so will be working pretty hard at that in the coming months. We go back on tour on Jan 27th, when we go to Hull, before heading to London and then back to Newcastle for starters. We’re also really excited about our USA Debut this March at SXSW in Austin, Texas, which is going to be incredible.

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