TINY VIOLINS Think bluegrass, dark folk, and circus music, plus Venetian masks.
Rumors that Mighty Tiny are all huge Eyes Wide Shut fans have been greatly exaggerated.
Bassist and revisionist historian Dave Pezzano is the only one of the six band members who's ever seen Stanley Kubrick's final directorial effort, an "erotic thriller" that has something to do with an occultist swinger party where everyone wears Venetian masks. And to judge from the Kill Bill, Planet Terror, and Sin City posters hanging on the walls of singer/guitarist/mouth organist Matt Tompkins's bedroom (which this is evening doubling as a conference room adjacent to their practice space in a Brighton house), Mighty Tiny would prefer to watch a good movie.
"When the mask idea came up," says singer/guitarist Max Rose, nursing a Scotch, "we said, 'Okay, we like theatrics. We like creative dramatic elements in performance, but if we walked on stage with bowler hats and dusty jackets, played random notes at the piano, and told weird stories, we'd be doing Tom Waits. So how do we present ourselves in a way that hasn't been done and allows us to be flexible?' The masks are nice, 'cause they conceal our identities, and it's hard to tell what kind of music is going to come out of something that looks the way we do."
"The masks are like a dare," adds Pezzano. "The masks say, 'Look at this! It's flamboyant!' You're either going to walk out on us because you think we're stupid, or you'll stand around and say, 'Hey, what the fuck is that?' "
And even after the uninitiated recover from "What the fuck is that?" this Friday, when Might Tiny release White Dog Rough Again at the Middle East, some collective bafflement is apt to remain. Bafflement that has nothing to do anyone's costume. By weaving around and through elaborate permutations of bluegrass, dark folk, and circus music, Mighty Tiny have made themselves a band onto which you can project almost anything you want. And that projection would probably be "true," in a subjective sense. But truth and accuracy are not always the same thing. The only accurate way to describe this band is to be as literal and direct as possible.
So, let's say Mighty Tiny are a classically trained violinist, a classically trained pianist turned accordionist, two jazz guitarists, a heavy-metal bass player, and a drummer specializing in funk/hip-hop styles. Concerned about toxic and false preconceived notions, they prefer not to say exactly where most of them started playing together in 2008. Electric Six songster and rabid Mighty Tiny enthusiast Dick Valentine makes brief but poignant vocal cameos on White Dog, the result of 130 hours of tracking and, Tompkins speculates, "easily that much, if not a considerable amount more," of mixing and mastering.
"A lot of bands begin with someone who says, 'Okay, I've got these songs of mine, and I'm going to get a couple players to play them,' " Rose explains. "That's cool, but that's not how we do it. We don't just play the songs. We beat the shit out of them until they're as close to perfect as we can get."