Tiger High: The Best of What’s Next

Music Features

Hometown: Memphis, Tenn.
Members: Greg Roberson (drums), Jake Vest (vocals/guitar), Toby Vest (keyboard/guitar) and Greg Faison (bass)
Album: Catacombs After Party
For Fans Of: The Oblivians, Nuggets, early Stooges

Recently, at the Poplar Lounge in the band’s hometown of Memphis, Tenn., Tiger High singer Jake Vest peeled off a savage guitar solo at a point in a song where such a thing usually doesn’t occur. At that moment, drummer Greg Roberson thought to himself, “Fuck, this is why I play music.”

“It was joyous,” Roberson says.

Indeed, if all you know of Tiger High is their reverb-doused debut album Myth Is This—which sounds like Phil Spector manning the faders for a crackling indie band—this Memphis four-piece is much toothier onstage. “Myth Is This was recorded before we ever played live,” Roberson says. “Live, we’re really…brutal.”

Accordingly, Tiger High’s sophomore album Catacombs After Party is a lot nastier than its predecessor. The LP, a release date for which will be announced soon, begins with “So Long” which is goosed by sheets of fuzzy clang. “Coral Castles” wiggles with Bolan-meets-Iggy attitude, while “Lightspeed” traverses languid verses and an LSD-vibration chorus before collapsing into tremolo-feedback crescendo.

“Between the first record and the second record we started playing live, so that affected the sound of it,” Roberson says. “And we recorded a lot of [Catacombs After Party] live on the floor.”

Vest’s spidery guitar lines echo the work of Can’s Michael Karoli, unsung Memphis hero Lee Baker and even Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia. His lusty vocals are often in the red, and the lyrics are birthed from both experience and observation. “I see stuff all the time I think is bat-shit insane,” Vest says, “and I answer to it in this music in one way or another, but I don’t like preaching on social issues and that kind of stuff.”

The simplicity of Tiger High’s rhythms is actually super effective. At times it’s hard to determine where Roberson’s sounds end and bassist Greg Faison’s begin. “Faison is a drummer as well,” Vest explains, “so he plays his bass like he would want a bass player to play to his drums—in a way that someone who isn’t a drummer might not think of.”

Vest’s brother Toby weaves his own guitar work into the mix, as well as the occasional vintage-tone keyboard flourish. Toby also owns High/Low Recording, where Tiger High cuts all their material.

Roberson, whose resume includes time with Reigning Sound, Jack Oblivian and Arthur Lee’s Love, wears his hometown pride on his rolled-up sleeve. (Tiger High isn’t a drug reference, it’s a derogatory term for the University of Memphis that students at other area colleges use to describe the school.)

“Memphis people weren’t on the same highway other folks were. They were driving on the back roads,” Roberson says. “You can hear it from all the bands coming from Memphis in the last 75 years. ‘We don’t give a shit what you’re going to do. We’re going to eat some more friend chicken and do what we want.’”

And part of what Tiger High wants to do is issue alternative versions of their albums. Catacombs After Party will be available as a 12-song CD or download, 10-song vinyl LP or 15-song cassette. Jake Vest offers a possible explanation for the unexpected reemergence of the latter format.

“Everybody says it’s because people in their 20s, the cars that their parents bought them had tape players in them, so they still use tapes,” he explains. “People get mad at us for putting stuff out on cassette, but I don’t think any format can be dismissed. It totally comes down to the song.”

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