Dancing Cats in a Dog’s World

Tigercats Bring a Bit of Joy to British Indie Pop

Tigercats performed songs from their debut album Isle of Dogs last Saturday at Tavern L’Inspecteur Épingle.

There’s something irresistibly charming about a band with a barefooted lead singer.

It makes a performance that much more comfortable and inviting, and when East London’s Tigercats played at Taverne L’Inspecteur Épingle this past Saturday (yes, with one barefooted member) they were both those things. The band gave an attention-grabbing first impression as they performed songs from their debut album Isle of Dogs —with the keyboardist even donning a bicycle necklace, a good sign that they’d fit right in here in Montreal.

The impression didn’t change once the music started. The songs had an immediate energy that, put simply, made you smile. Most importantly, the band seemed excited to be there and pretty soon everyone else was too. Bassist Giles Barrett brought a considerable amount of energy to the stage which, given the unspoken rule of sulking bassists in the background, was quite refreshing.

During the performance, Tigercats created a relationship not only with the audience but with each other. They showed a cohesiveness even more impressive so by the fact that the guitarist was not their own. Stefan Schafer was expected to join later in the tour, but guitarist Ola Innset from the norwegian band Making Marks took the stage tonight. The performance appeared seamless from the crowd’s perspective, but the change threw the band members for a bit of a loop.

“Everyone has different types of flares, and there were little things that I was waiting for to come in that Stefan would usually play” said keyboardist Laura Kovic after the show.

Duncan Barrett, lead singer and Giles’s brother, agreed that the change was noticeable.

“It’s no better or worse, it’s just a bit more unexpected,” he said. “Some of the songs we’ve played so many times that playing with someone new is suddenly really fresh. It’ll be really great to have Stefan back, but in the interim it’s really good having Ola, he’s a great guitarist.”

Part of what made the performance special was the strong keyboard presence. There is a frustrating tendency for the keyboard to sink into the background, but Kovic was not only audible but added a crucial layer to each song.

Her vocals were also a beautiful counterpart to Duncan’s. Their voices blended together as if they were always meant to, harmonies coming in both unexpectedly and fittingly.

This was the band’s opening show on their first North American tour, and they had barely enough time to fit in a visit to Schwartz’s before performing. They’ll be moving all over the east coast before finally ending up in New York City for Popfest 2013, where they’re sure to make even more waves.

As various reviewers have noted, indie pop you can dance to is rare, and yet Tigercats has managed to do it. It’s difficult to put a finger on what keeps the body moving, but the subtle alterations in the melody and well-placed tempo changes do a good job of keeping things interesting. Whatever it is, it’s impossible to keep still listening to these guys.

If you do manage to sit still long enough to listen to the lyrics, though, you’ll notice that they haven’t been abandoned in favour of the beat, and actually offer quite a bit of wit. However, don’t read too much into the song “Jonny.” Tempting as it is to wonder, they swear it has nothing to do with their drummer Jonny Evans.

“We were sitting in a pub in London,” explained Evans, “and Duncan for some reason says ‘Guys, I’ve got something to tell you. I’ve written a love song called Jonny.’ At first I laughed and we were all pissing ourselves, but then as it turns out, he had written a love song, called Jonny.”

Jonny —Tigercats

The humour behind the song’s story fits well with the whole album’s upbeat feel. However, their identity as a primarily fast paced band might be changing as they make moves toward their next album.

“We feel like we can take our time more,” said bassist Giles. “In our first album we were rushing everything out, and we were playing shows at 100 miles per hour. Now sometimes we want to be able to breathe a bit on stage.”

They can make any changes they want, as long as their unique sound goes untouched. It’s a sound that has been well received all over Europe, but it’s inspired by their homebase in London.

“We could go to another city with a completely different scene, and they wouldn’t necessarily know where we’re coming from,” said Duncan. “Which isn’t to say they wouldn’t enjoy it, but in our own city we’ve got our own place and the music fits in with all the different bands that we play with. So more than the place itself [the biggest influence] is the bands that we play with.”

As much as a second Isle of Dogs would be welcome, Duncan made it clear that growth can be expected as the band moves away from their first album.

“You’ve got to put a distance between yourself and the stuff you’ve done before. Otherwise you won’t ever do anything better than that.”