Greg Roberson is many things: drummer, label owner, radio personality, scarf-wearer, producer, and self-starter. To that last point, when Tiger High — his band with brothers Jake and Toby Vest — finished their new album, Inside the Acid Coven, I contacted them about an interview. As my sleep patterns are a perfect negative to those of the band, we settled on email. When Roberson sent back the answers, he added several questions to the list. Whether this is OCD or a willingness to outwork other musicians doesn't matter. Toby runs High/Low recording studio, where the record was made. Jake recently finished a solo record and moved to New York. With side gigs and plenty on their plates, Tiger High shows no sign of slowing down or cooling off. The new record demonstrates mastery of the pop chorus and of the Fender amplifier. Also in evidence is a love for Phil Spector by way of the Jesus and Mary Chain.
Flyer: Who writes your songs?
Toby: We all do. Any one of us is capable of crafting a song or producing a musical moment, but Jake is certainly the catalyst.
Do you record live or assemble things through overdubs?
Greg: We cut, mixed, and mastered two complete full-length albums, a single, and an EP all at once. We cut a total of 27 songs during the sessions that produced Inside the Acid Coven. Eleven of those songs ended up on the LP. Unlike the songs on Inside the Acid Coven, the 14 other songs from the sessions had been part of our live show for some time. Ten of those songs are on the following album, Tropical Illusion, and two songs will be on a single, both due summer 2015.
Toby: The first two records, Myth Is This and Catacombs After Party, were both written and recorded quickly as a three piece with me engineering. Then we'd develop the songs through overdubs afterward. There was a focus on destruction on those two records. A lot of harsh guitars, cassette loops, and running sounds through huge pedal chains. The Inside the Acid Coven tracks weren't rehearsed a lot, but we consciously spent time arranging them before we cut them. We always remain open to things changing in the moment. This is also the first recording where I've been able to track live with the band because we brought Pete Matthews in to man the controls during tracking. Having Pete there really allowed me to focus on my playing and the sounds we were creating as opposed to the technical stuff. Of the two records we cut during these sessions Acid Coven is really the most straight forward. The other, Tropical Illusion, is much more spacious and psychedelic, longer songs and such. That one was developed through performances and had ever-shifting arrangements that we let evolve over about a year of shows. So there's no real cut and dried way in which we approach each record. We try to keep it fresh and try new things.
Jake: Inside the Acid Coven was a complete concept that was conceived and recorded all at one time. It's also the first record of ours where Toby truly used his studio as one of his many instruments, crafting and shaping the sound. When we mixed Acid Coven, Pete, Toby, and I were extremely meticulous with tones and atmospheres. When we mixed Catacombs, we ran the whole thing through a Fuzz War pedal and called it a day.
Greg, you have experience in radio and promotion. What's important after making a record?
Greg: With Trashy Creatures Records I have put together a great team, and building the right team has taken some time, but we are all happy with the crew. The first thing after Toby and Pete mix a record is mastering. Brad Blackwood does all my mastering. So many people neglect this step; it's the final step that really completes a record. Real mastering is important. I have good distribution for hard product and digital, as well as good PR firms for radio, blogs, and print. All of those are key to spreading the word.
What Memphis music influenced Tiger High?
Greg: A ton. I was born here and raised here, we all were, in fact. This city is it musically for me. I have been lucky to have had players like Paul Burlison, Roland Janes, and Jim Dickinson as mentors. Just being able, over the years, to go around the corner and see everybody from Rufus Thomas, Grifters, Oblivians, B.B. Cunningham, Jay Reatard, Alex Chilton, to Lee Baker has been like a dream.
Toby: I feel the influence is huge, and that's not to say that we're actively trying to recreate a sound or pay homage to anyone in particular. I just feel that this city is a magnet for creative people in general but musicians specifically. The unbelievable wealth of talent in this city is often ignored because we don't have the flash and notoriety of other "music" cities. But I've had the opportunity to work with a lot of people at High/Low, and I'm constantly amazed and thankful to call those people my friends.
Y'all haven't played since 2013. Why not?
Toby: We took time off before we even started to look for a replacement for Greg Faison. Time off was a strange concept because, in that period, we all worked together on side projects, all of which feature all of the members of Tiger High. We had to reconfigure Tiger High, but that didn't stop us from being productive.
Who is the new addition to the band?
Greg: Our new bass player is Leo Ramos. He is a really creative guy and a great player. He's super easy going and enthusiastic. He's a great fit. He was the first and only guy we auditioned.
Toby: Leo has great taste and is musically adventurous. Qualities we admire. He's been great.