The first two songs on Tiger Saw’s new Tigers on Fire (Tract) have the phrase “on the stereo” in their lyrics, and the closer, “The Big Bear Song,” says, “Put the record on.” In our digital age, when people are tethered to their iPods by white cords and earbuds, Tiger Saw recall a time when the record album created a bond between band and audience.
Tiger Saw is the brainchild of Dylan Metrano, a Newburyport singer-songwriter who draws on an ever-evolving cast of musicians to bring his ideas to life. No fewer than 21 persons were involved in recording Tigers on Fire. Yet the current touring ensemble for Tiger Saw is a quintet that includes none of those 21. So, is Tiger Saw really a band?
“I always feel like it’s a band, even when maybe it’s not,” Metrano says over bowls of “chowda” (that’s how it’s spelled on the menu) in downtown Newburyport. “I would never want to diminish the contributions that all the players make because it would be nothing without everybody, and people put so much of themselves into it. That said, we started practicing in January with this group, so it’s all sort of new still, and everyone is excited about being in the band. Ideally, I’d like to keep rocking with this group as much as we can, but I’ve felt that way before, too. I just know that things come up, and we’re not at the point where we’re making a lot of money, and people have other responsibilities and interests. I wish it were a situation where I could just put everyone on payroll.”
Of those involved in the new album, Jason Anderson, Nat Baldwin, Angel Deradoorian, Casey Dienel, John McCauley (Deer Tick), Alex and Camille McGregor (Ponies in the Surf), Annie Palmer, and Sam Rosen have all been on tour on their own over the past year. So when it came time to form a touring line-up, Metrano needed to look elsewhere. “It was more about getting great people to make the record and kind of figuring it out from there. It just turned out that nobody on the record ended up sticking around until tour time.”
Metrano had been talking to Dylan Clark about playing drums, and this time around Clark was finally available. He met percussionist and singer Emily Foster through Clark; he’d gone to high school with bassist Erik Tans. Buggsy, who plays trombone, glockenspiel, and keyboards, met the band through Chris Barrett, who plays trumpet on the album and does the occasional gig. It’s this sextet who brought the new album to life at the CD-release party at T.T. the Bear’s on April 18. Clark’s drumming helped stretch the tension-and-release, and Metrano pulled on his shirt like a soul singer tearing at his heart. The usually stoic Boston audience was caught tapping its toes in time with the band even if there wasn’t much full-out dancing.
“We can play the same songs,” Metrano explains, “but everyone brings something new to it, their own style or their own personality. In the last couple of months we’ve been mostly playing songs from the new record, but we’ve also played some stuff from Sing! [released in October of 2005 on Kimchee], and they’ve taken on more of a doo-wop flavor. It makes it exciting to play some of the older songs by reinterpreting them.”