Tigercub: “This is our goth, Robert Smith make-up, heavy metal record”

TIGERCUB are back! Back!! Back!!! But this time, things are a little more… dramatic.

The last time we saw Brighton rock trio Tigercub, the band looked inward to assess mental health through a colourful and distorted lens that offered quaking drops, dynamic sounds and an overarching melancholy on their second full-length, ‘As Blue As Indigo’. Looking at their new project, ‘The Perfume Of Decay’, the artwork alone clues us in that things are going to be a little different this time around.

“I always like to pivot a bit with each release, offer something a bit different; a contrast to anything we’ve done before,” Jamie Hall shares, and the opening riffs of the record quickly establish the weight of sounds on the table. “This is our black album. The last record was all about colour, but this is our goth, Robert Smith make-up, heavy metal record.”

Where they might have previously danced around those deft tones for the purposes of dynamics, thematic or otherwise, these 12 tracks are extremely focused on causing overwhelming, joyous chaos. Amidst the darkness, a silver lining is hidden in plain sight; the title itself was inspired by 2021 drama film Memoria, which hit an immediate chord with the frontman. “As I get older, I’m better able to process and deal with problems, and ‘Perfume of Decay’ represents that quite nicely. It’s an oxymoronic title, but that’s true of getting older in general – there’s the nightmarish worries of ageing, but also the optimism of gaining a lot more tools to deal with things.”

If it wasn’t immediately obvious from these details, Tigercub are an outfit that revel in injecting immense care and attention into the depths of their output, and they’re getting real crafty with the curation of experiences for their listeners. “I love creating a whole world around a record; it can transform your entire mood, feelings, outlook on the world; that’s what a great record does for me,” Jamie explains. “You have 40 minutes of the listener’s attention; how do you guide them around, and what can you show them on that journey?”

The most recent journey the band shared was much centred on Jamie’s perspective as he offered reflections on his war with depression. However, following a period of internal strife, ‘The Perfume of Decay’ is a glorious comeback for Tigercub as they reunite and revive their foundational intentions. As Jamie recalls, “the circumstances around the last record were stressful, tense, pensive… It was insane; it felt like we were all on Jerry Springer. With Covid being the last of our problems, there was so much working against us. For me, Jimi [Wheelwright, bass] and James [Allix, drums], it felt like we had to tread back over the last ten years of our relationship to recapture who we are as a band.”

As well as rediscovering their roots, there’s been a lot of new activity for the group; heading off to tour America for the first time in 2022 reignited the fires of ambition at a time when Tigercub were in desperate need of it. After being signed by Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard, they were sent across the pond to perform alongside some sonic heavyweights.

“We already set out to forge a heavier sound, but playing our show to a metal stoner crowd in Nebraska, where there are people just holding their middle fingers up at you for the whole set, made us feel like the Coldplay of the US rock scene. At the same time, we’re a novelty special from England over there, and it’s really working for us. It made us feel confident, ambitious, and fearless.”

Jamie continues: “Driving through Arizona, Texas, up through Oregon, Washington state, into Canada – we really saw just how big the world is. That really impacted the scope and size that we’ve tried to achieve – we want this record to sound massive.”

With newfound punk influences diligently noted, there was still a desire to experiment without becoming too indulgent; try new things, but not abandon their core values. “It’s more about settling into a vibe than it is about finding a Billboard hook,” Jamie offers, “although those things can sit really nicely together on an album. I love a quick and punchy pop tune, but there are tracks here which take a bit longer to reach the exclamation point. We had enough room to take breather, expand and mediate on our ideas and motifs.”

Within the unseen spaces, Tigercub took the opportunity to play around – from tape machine messages, metal chains from B&Q, beer kegs and baseball bats (“because we love Slipknot”), there’s a lot to be expressed in even the most dormant of moments. “The main thing is that I produced the record,” Jamie expresses. “We could really explore different sonic techniques that we’ve never been able to try before. I’ve been in the room with enough talented producers and engineers now to understand how to get the best out of everything you’ve got.”

For a band – and indeed, a generation – that seems afraid to grow up, Tigercub are expertly realising the obscured potential of their work and finding new ways to keep things exciting for themselves and the listeners. “We’re a late bloomer band for sure,” the self-aware creative smirks. “With every record, we leave the door ajar for where we might go in the future, but, for now, ‘Perfume of Decay’ feels like the best version of Tigercub. It feels complete and delivers the best versions of ideas that we tried before, like a true third album should.”

Hardly adolescent but still gaining tracking at an exponential rate, the band reveal that “it’s a constant conversation: how do we grow without losing who we are?” This record itself seems a great answer to that difficult question.

‘The Perfume of Decay’ is very much an album designed about and in servitude of the night-time hours, dedicated to the times Jamie has laid in bed unable to reach unconsciousness. “The night is when my mind starts to activate, and I ruminate on everything. These snapshots start to appear when you’re finally alone with your thoughts – it can be claustrophobic, all these thoughts you have can’t be actioned, and you have no control. You’re safe in this restful place of sanctity, but it can be a claustrophobic space as well where your brain is trapped in this flesh cage.”

In what could be considered the Taylor Swift ‘Midnights’ of UK alt-rock, twelve songs express feelings noticed only on the fringes of darkness, as your thoughts pour out in sequence while you stare around a room, unable to flutter off just yet. Similarly, the aforementioned chart-topper, this more grungy approach focuses internally and features more than glimpses of self-deprecation.

However, there is a positive side once again. While ‘As Blue As Indigo’ examined Jamie’s lowest moments, ‘The Perfume of Decay’ is using the power of music to actually work through them. “Our third record is about expressing sadness and depression but having more control over our own lives and being able to offer solutions,” he elaborates. “It’s not nihilistic or closed off; it sees that there is actually a light at the end of the tunnel. Dawn will come after the dark. I can detail that optimism now only because that’s how I feel in my life.”

A generous record in every meaning of the word, fans are bound to be thrilled at the volume of ludicrously huge riffs and sharply honed melodies throughout. “It’s more direct,” Jamie concludes. “You can call that generous, but that could imply that we were holding back before – I think that our skillset is improved and getting more refined. It’s up to the listener to decide if we’ve achieved that.”

Whatever your leanings may be, “mascara and ghoulish face paint are prerequisites when listening to this record,” he gleefully declares.■

Taken from the June 2023 edition of Upset. Tigercub’s album ‘The Perfume Of Decay’ is out 2nd June.