Tigerbombers have been making waves in Asia since the band formed July last year and have been described as stomping surf wax cool with smoke-damaged growl vocals. The band is made up of fiesty drummer, Jas, raunchy red-lipped bassist, Nat, and Arthur who is frankly sickening on guitar, but in a good way! Their sound is hard to define as they are influenced by multiple genres which is a mix of punk rock, blues and rockabilly.
I spoke to the trio about drumming in heels and their special tigerbrownies at HKXO (Hong Kong Cross Over) – a project created by Joe Hastings that aims to stamp out the divide of local bands and expat-based bands in Hong Kong by bringing them together at Hidden Agenda on a monthly basis. Tigerbombers kicked ass and made their mark at HKXO with Arthur taking quick swigs from a wine bottle between songs and smoking cigarettes while he played the hell out of his guitar. I joined them afterwards to find out more about their album and discuss the dynamics of the trio….
The album release was 26th May and your last gig was at The Wanch on 4th July, what have you guys been doing since then?
N: We wrote 2 new songs.
A: Started a label.
N: Yeah, Arthur started a whole new label and I started a new band.
TMB: What’s the band called?
TMB: And what’s the label called?
J: I haven’t done jack shit.
N: That’s not true! Jasmine’s had an awesome career change. Right after Tigerbombers album, I think like there’s been some really positive changes happening.
TMB: That’s cool, so you guys have been moving forward!
J: We’ve had a lot of life changes, yes.
A: Life changes and writing new songs. That’s pretty much it.
Lets talk about the album. How do you feel the album launch went? Successful?
A: Yeah, sounds great. A Lot of people who went to the launch are here at Hidden Agenda. People watched the video and checked out the record, so there was a sense of anticipation.
TMB: I got that feeling.
A: Yeah, it’s cool because we’ve played Hidden Agenda and we went to another gig, me and nat – The Rockabilly Rumble last week? 2 weeks ago? And again, it was a totally different scene from what we’ve played for and they checked out the record too.
N: I think that with the gig leading up to the release, we were so excited because we created this album within what… 7 hours in Arthurs method of playing live, and then doing some vocals on top and that was so much fun to do with the amazing Koya Hisakazu.
Did you really make special “tigerbrownies” for the launch? I tried one and it tasted pretty normal, but I was skeptical!
A: Well, no-one really trusts us [laughter]. We were making brownies and they were spiked.
TMB: I really wasn’t sure, it was hard to tell!
A: No, they were really good, we had a bottles of Jameson’s in it.
How did the title “Bogus Journey” come about?
A: Um… we went through like 50 fucking titles and we couldn’t settle on one, so we had a meeting which was over nice food and champagne.
N: And breakfast!
A: Yeah, we were just talking about stuff that was going on and Keanu Reeves was here at the time. He was just visiting Hong Kong and we were tripped out about that.
N: And I love Keanu Reaves. I named a plant after him called Keanu leaves. It’s a good plant.[laughter]
N: Actually, I think I name all my plants Keanu leaves.
A: I think the conversation we were having was like, “yeah, I wish he’d do stoner movies again” and we talked about Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.
N: I think Bogus Journey just, y’know, really struck a chord with us.
A: Yeah, keep in mind we played our first show like a year before the album came out, so the name kinda stuck with us and meant something to us.
Explain why you chose to make the album downloadable and free? Was it convenience? Cost? Giving something back to the fans? Or keeping up with the times?
N: So many different things.
A: A lot of things. I was in a band before that and did a CD and truth is, it did okay, but I still have like a couple of hundred of people laughing at my ass every time I go home. So I think with this one, we didn’t see the point in making a CD. Another thing is, we did the math and if we had one show where people can donate us the money from a night at The Wanch, then we can use that to make a CD, so we had a little fundraiser and had a little bake sale and basically had no costs to cover.
TMB: Was it tigerbrownies?[laugher]
N: No, we made tiger jam which was a special blueberry and strawberry… with a secret ingredient. You’ll have to find out next time when you come to a cakestarter.
A: It’s cool because we arranged with the bands that we’d have a table to sell cakes and CDS, which gave them a little incentive to bake.
N: We really like going to gigs and supporting and buying CDs if we can, but at the end of the day we put them right into our computers. I really appreciate music and the CDs and the artwork that comes around with it, but I think a lot of people these days also really appreciate having a free download and hearing the stuff. Especially as it’s our first album and being able to give it to them for free, it was really exciting to give that.
TMB: So it sounds like a bit of everything then?
A: We made it super accessible to everyone. The website came together pretty quickly and very easily. It was very cost effective, quick and easy, and accessible to everyone and keeping in mind there are people overseas as well. Friends who had travelled and people who wanted to check it out… it was accessible for them.
TMB: I’m a fan and it works. It makes sense to have a download.
N: I don’t think we really care as Tigerbombers about album sales. We really care about, here in HK, to get the music out there and to play and to have a bit of fun. Right now Hong Kong is in a bit of need of having a thiriving music scene and to keep it going and not for us just to make album CDs.
A: We didn’t make a record to have some sort of profit basically. We weren’t concerned with how much we can make from it.
N: We’re proud of it. It was fun to make and we don’t want to limit it to anyone else. Everyone that comes in is part of it and everyone that has been coming to our shows are a fun group of people. We wanted to actually give it to these people.
A: Every aspect of putting out that record was kept between us and a extremely small circle of very talented friends. The artwork was done by Ben Appleby from Cloak and Dagger. It was produced by Koya Hisakazu, who is a friend of ours. The venue that we had the launch at was courtesy of Chris Giblin.
Moving on to gender, Arthur, how do you feel about being the only guy in the band?
A: Okay, truth is me and Jasmine were in a band before where it started off the two of us and then we got other people in the band and then there were six of us. three guys and three girls. Then two that left were the guys, so I ended up being the only guy in an all girl band. I’ve been in bands with guys and the whole thing is getting drunk and trying to watch out for people trying to kick you in the balls.
TMB: So how is it different with Tigerbombers?
A: It’s very different, but at the same time, anyone who can sort of drink, dance, fight and play, I’ll be in a band with.
N: He doesn’t get kicked in the balls, he gets asked to buy hair spray.[laughter]
A: Oh yeah. That happened one time and at the time I had no hair on my head, so the person at the store was looking and asking what the fuck. Nah, it’s not an issue. I’m happy to be in a band with anyone I get along with. Who I can party with and who shreds.
TMB: So gender isn’t an issue at all for you, it’s about playing.
A: I didn’t even consider it initially. Yeah, I’m in a band with two girls, but I’m in a band with Jasmine who’s been my best friend since I was like 14, so that’s part of it.
N: Jasmine actually has a thing with that because she’s been wanting to play in a band with Arthur.
J: Yeah, it was kind of a quarter life crisis and I went out and bought the drums when I was 15 and was like, “hey Arthur, you said you’d start a band with me if I started an instrument.”
A: Years later…
J: So I started learning the drums and we started a band after 2 weeks!
A: So yeah, it’s generally it’s not an issue.
TMB: You guys are going with the flow and it fits?
N: Arthur is a huge part of it. We’re all equal, just the 3 of us and we all depend on each other and we are all working together. I don’t feel like there’s drums and bass, and that’s the rhythm section. We work with Arthur SO much.
Do you think there’s more focus on Nat and Jas? Having said that, with Jas being the drummer, there’s that “everyone ignores the drummer” stereotype.
J: Well I guess in terms of personality I am the quietest, so I don’t talk to as many people, but I think when it comes to the band as a whole, I don’t think I really get ignored and I think people do notice that I’m there.
A: The shoes.
J: Yeah, I think people notice the shoes a lot. My drumming heels. I have a special pair of heels I wear for drumming but they’re broken, so I’m wearing flats today and they’re actually harder to use.[laughter]
N: It’s easier for her to play in heels. Natural pivot.
J: People notice that and I remember we played a gig and I threw my back out the night before and I just jacked up on painkillers, so I had to wear flats, but when I was playing drums I put my heels on just for that.[laughter]
J: Being a female drummer, I’ve noticed that sometimes it’s great when people are like, “yeah, you’re a really good drummer, that was awesome! You bashed the shit out the drums” bla bla bla, but then sometimes I’ve had one or two comments that were like, “yeah, you’re really good for a chick drummer” and I’m like, “oh, thanks?”
A: One of the surprising things is the fact that you’re a girl and the fact that you beat the shit out of your drums.
TMB: I can vouch for that. The set tonight, I watched you annihilate the kit. I loved it.
A: What I’m trying to say is that you’re not just a chick drummer, but you play way harder than other people.
J: Those were one or two passing comments that I didn’t really take to heart, but I was thinking, “you don’t even play drums, asshole.”[laughter]
Nat, I’ve overheard you talk about slo-mo bad boy before, care to elaborate?
N: It’s about that boy you might have seen and that song is really about fantasizing about that guy, meeting that guy and you’re just young and you’re jailbait and what you would say to these guys, basically.[laughter]
TMB: Tigerbombers is getting a bit filthy!
N: It is a bit filthy and I think Hong Kong needed a bit of filth.
TMB: I like that about Tigerbombers, there’s an element of filth!
N: I really enjoyed putting that song together, because it really is about that filthy mind you have as a teenage girl and no one expects you to have that filthy mind that you do.
Do you think HK bands are predominantly male or female? and do you think there’s a shortage of female musicians in HK?
N: No, I don’t think so.
TMB: Arthur’s shaking his head.
J: I think no.
N: Well personally, these guys have been in Hong Kong for some time, but for me, I’m finding a lot more and meeting a lot more females and I get so excited, I’m not thinking about gender. I’m just thinking, “wow, there’s a lot more females”. Even at the last Clockenflap. There were a lot of females singing from all around the world so I thought that was brilliant. I know there’s male dominated I SUPPOSE, but I’ve never noticed.
A: Okay, I wouldn’t say dominanted, I’d say predominantly. I think generally there has been a shift in recent years where people are asking their girlfriends if they know someone who they can start a band with. They weren’t asking if they knew a guy who played bass, they’re asking their girlfriend now, which is good.
J: There is a shift, but I still feel there is more room for more girls to start playing music in HK.
TMB: That sounds accurate. Not a specific change, but a shift.
The band has been described in numerous ways, including surfer-billy, riot grrrl, raw, indie rock??? Have the Tigerbombers ever received any strange names or descriptions?
A: It was a review for The Vivian Girls show when we opened for them. I mean it’s tough because it’s not inaccurate but doesn’t cover everything. There’s a lot you can call us and it wouldn’t be wrong, so there’s not a lot that’s been totally weird.
J: I mean we sometimes have a hard time defining ourselves.
A: I’d describe us as a rock & roll band in the traditional sense… just one that exists at a time where Phil Spector and Ramones and punk rock has happened and you can’t just shake that stuff out of your skin.
N: We really do like to mess with awkward sounds and we also like to make sure everyone’s dancing.
A: That said, we went to a rockabilly show and there’s a scene of people who appreciate straight-up bluesy rockabilly and swing bands. A lot of them checked us out and friends in those bands liked us, so we’re hoping to play some shows with them too.
TMB: So there’s stuff in the pipeline!
Is this your first time playing HKXO, how do you guys feel about that?
A: We’re pretty stoked about playing at Hidden Agenda.
N: Yeah, it’s a great venue, but what Joe is doing for HKXO is brilliant because I was talking with one of the other bands, Metafog, and we haven’t come across each other and we were so excited to meet each other. We’ve heard of each other and they want to play with us in another show. It was so cool. We got together and played tonight and we wouldn’t have known about them, but Joe has set us up and his whole goal has been to merge local Chinese and Hong Kong expats. Jasmine and Arthur have grown up here, but it’s totally different from some of the locals scenes that are around.
A: I think generally, it’s grouped together but not in terms of genre.
N: Exactly. He’s done a great job and so HKXO’s been brilliant.
J: I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself tonight. Like the local bands… oh my god.
Well, you guys have done well for yourselves! Had a really successful album launch, and I’d say have a pretty large following! What’s on the cards for the bombers in the future?
A: We have talked about traveling a bit more. If we could somehow make that happen.
J: Hopefully. That would be fun.
A: I’d love to make Manila an annual thing.
N: I think that we’d love to play Manila and we’ve all discussed this and what’s really important to us is getting connected to other Asian bands. I mean I really love having international bands come out to Hong Kong and we’ve been so lucky to play with Vivian Girls and Electrelane. Just to be around them was amazing, but when Bembol Rockers came out to play, I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is Asia’s gem”. It’s really about just building the scene in Asia.
A: Going back to when we were started the band, one of the things we discussed was to try have as many different experiences, which is why we’ve pretty much played everywhere once at this point, except for The Wanch. We play there all the time; it’s home base.
N: That’s like our home kitchen where we can hang out and play.
Lastly, describe each other in one word that relates to the band.
A to N: Fashionable.
A: I’d say that’s the aesthetic.
A: I’d say you’re the aesthetic.
J: Hey, what’s that supposed to mean?
TMB: Shit, I’ve started something now.[laughter]
A: A lot of your culture references comes out in the band and I think that’s really cool.
TMB: You don’t seem impressed, Nat.
N: To be honest, I actually hate fashion.
TMB: Moving on, what would you guys describe Jas as in one word that relates to the band.
TMB: Okay, Jas what would you describe Arthur as in one word.[pauses and laughter]
A: We’re all thinking drunk.[laughter]
J: That’s the first thing I thought.
N: He called me fashionable, you can call him drunk.
TMB: That’s a good one!
N: Beast is it. That’s definitely it.
TMB: Okay, Arthur, what would you describe Jas as?
J: Really? That just sums it up.
TMB: Oh come on, she kicks ass as well.
A: Yeah, but that’s two words.
The Modern Bitch had so much fun interviewing these guys and there’s some plans in the pipeline, so keep an eye out for upcoming shows! If you haven’t heard of Tigerbombers, then check out their website for a free download of their album.
Like them on Facebook for awesome links, and follow them on Twitter if you’re a hardcore tweep! I can’t recommend enough checking Arthur’s label, Artefracture and Nat’s band, Shatalene as there’s plenty of new and exciting things to lookout for.
If you want more information on HKXO, then click the tumblr link here or above, or listen to the bands who have played at Hidden Agenda on bandcamp. Lastly, don’t forget to check out Tigerbombers video below of The Holy Smoke!