Interview: TIGER BEAMS


Words: James Frostick


In this article written in 2011, Jesse Hawkins talk about Tiger Beams and their first album, In Your Dreams

Everyone has heard the notion of big things that come in small packages and that size doesn’t matter. Parables like David versus Goliath all resonate in some way or another with people. A grass roots following is sometimes more meaningful than a large scale endeavour and while dreams are usually big, the steps towards best fulfilling them are usually small. Similarly, there is a basic appeal that comes along with scrappy, exuberant two-piece rock outfits.

The progenitors of early garage rock encouraged many of these aggressive ideals, which was most likely why it became such a successful movement in music. Youthful and unexpected bands such as the White Stripes seem to have more resonance, because there aren’t too many faces to keep track of.

Tiger Beams was formed as a brainchild of two sci-fi enthusiasts who perhaps desired a return to a more organic state of music production. For those who are unaware, their style can be described as blissfully simplistic, a style which does away with embellishment and establishes its point in a bombastic fury that belies their numbers. This is in no way a bad thing. Their brand of sharp, short and sweet music is instantly satisfying, with an intensity that is remarkable from the outset.

Jesse Hawkins and Jeremy Neale are the sole components of Tiger Beams. After jamming together for a few years and collaborating in other projects (most notable of all being the contrarily gargantuan Velociraptor) the draw of stripping back their approach to music became too great. Thus, Tiger Beams began its evolution.

“I’ve always wanted to start a band,” Jesse mentions when we spoke late last year. “It just seemed right, what was meant to be, if that makes sense.”

Over the course of a few drinks that afternoon, Jesse educated me on the genesis of Tiger Beams and the inspiration of the direction they have taken since their humble beginnings. Jesse himself, a typically mild mannered individual, excitedly waxes lyrical about the importance of imagination when beginning a project like this; in fact, in his opinion it is almost essential. While distinctly serious about his music, his sense of humour shows through from time to time.

“Half are music influences for us and the other half is from really strange stuff, or things other people would find strange. I don’t know what it is, but heaps of movies influence me, take Alien for example. You could say Sigourney Weaver is a third member of the band in a sense.”

After more discussion, it is apparent that the influences are varied across the board.

“I’m influenced heavily by I Heart Hiroshima; they are definitely a major influence for me. Even Kylie Minogue would be an influence for me. I’m not even kidding.”

At the time of the interview, their first album was still in development, yet Tiger Beams were a seasoned outfit, playing more than a handful of shows in a short period of time. They were quickly building a reputation that would start to bear fruit.

Their debut album, In Your Dreams carries much of the momentum that the duo has collected over the past year and a half. Previous releases extended to lovingly crafted, hand distributed mini-EP’s while Tiger Beams increased their array of songs. The guerrilla style distribution has so far combined well with their relentless performances across Brisbane, and has only helped to build the swell of interest from punters.

The surrealist nature of the album title gives little away of the true nature of the work. The album art further enforces the dream-like theme until the first percussive wave of ‘Beams of Light’ plays.  This jarring contradiction isn’t the only one surrounding this album (what the hell is a Tiger Beam, anyway?), but it is probably the most significant.

The eclectic mix of songs that comprise their first full length release feature compositions that draw from the influences of both members. Despite this, each and every song carry a similar intensity that remains constant through the entire album. The pounding drum lines, choppy guitars, and vocal cord wrenching howls come together in what is a remarkably coherent piece of work. In live performances this set has been honed down to a fine point which, if you will excuse my desire for a simile, pokes and prods you like a spear, but in the right way.

This live transition is where the band truly shines. While Jeremy gyrates and contorts on stage like the sounds coming from his guitar, Jesse menaces like a caged animal behind his drum kit, emitting his rapid fire verses while relentlessly hammering his instrument apart. The ability to control the stage is a talent that comes from years of performance experience, yet unlike Velociraptor; where the band can’t help but fill a stage, the Tiger Beams duo seem to fill the same space with the same amount of ease.

The writing and recording of these songs is thankfully harmonious, Jesse enthuses. No doubt, a key result of starting a band with a close friend is the ability to immediately gel thanks to common ground already discovered.

“I think me and Jeremy work well, strangely. We both know what we like and are open to things that we have to share; I think we both love the freedom that comes with stripping it all back.”

Perhaps the key ingredient for the majority of the songs on their debut is a sense of mystery and, dare I say it, a little bit of fun added as well.  Rocket ships and intergalactic voyages aside the, at times, vague subject matter only adds to aesthetic. Taken literally, songs about girls cutting bus stops (?!) and men on wires may seem a little strange, however the lack of pretension makes this excusable and in the end, a hell of a lot more fun to dance to.

“People seem to like what he have going,” Jesse said. “But a lot of people I think are still unsure about us. I remember at our first show, we played a song called ‘Kiss’ and I hear a guy in the crowd say, ‘What the hell was that?’. I think that is pretty awesome in a way.”

One of the more endearing aspects of Tiger Beams is their unwillingness to compromise when others seem to misinterpret their work. It is becoming readily apparent that both Jesse and Jeremy are intent on keeping it that way.

“I love pop, I love writing songs, but there are definitely always going to be elements that are off the wall.”

Jesse assured me that most of the songs have a particular meaning or significance to him. Despite this, he is perfectly happy to keep those stories a secret.

“It really doesn’t bother me to be honest,” Jesse said to me, with a slight tone of amusement. “It’s easier this way, and people can listen to the music as a whole. Only I know what they are about, I think it feels good to write this stuff to get it off my chest.”

“I couldn’t give a crap,” Jesse freely admits. “I like to keep it real, but please don’t quote me as saying ‘keep it real.’”

Regardless of the topic, each song lends itself to a particular vibe that is largely anthemic and rebellious.  It is an enduring sound, one that plays favourably every time you hear it.

Tiger Beams wear their hearts on their sleeve. Unashamed of their influences and proud of their achievements, it’s hard not to picture them as the underdog in some life affirming 1980’s teenage ‘dramedy’. Since their album launch, Jesse has only become more confident in their progression. While they may not have figured out where they are going yet, it’s not hard to imagine that their destination will be easily within reach.

“I think the possibilities of Tiger Beams are endless,” Jesse puts forward. “We will probably bring in new elements, but I think it will still remain just the two of us for the foreseeable future.”

For this exciting two-piece, as far as size goes, it is safe to say it’s not the size that counts, but how you use it.

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