Tigers Jaw break down every track on their excellent new album ‘I Won’t Care How You Remember Me’
Tigers Jaw just keep reinventing themselves. Their 2008 self-titled sophomore album was an emo revival scene classic way before the emo revival gained mainstream exposure (and one of the first emo revival albums deservingly treated to a 10th anniversary tour), and by the time this scene did start to take off, Tigers Jaw's classic lineup had broken up. Before officially calling it quits, though, they recorded one last album together, 2014's Charmer. It was a major progression from all of the already-great material that preceded it, a more mature, refined record and one of the very best punk/emo albums of the last decade. It could've marked the end of Tigers Jaw's career, but Ben Walsh and Brianna Collins kept the band going, recruited some new touring members, and recorded the 2017 album spin as a duo. spin proved that the maturation shown on Charmer was no fluke, and that -- even without three of the members Charmer was made with -- Tigers Jaw were more than capable of re-capturing the magic of that album.
It's only in hindsight that spin feels like a transitional album, one where Ben and Brianna were adjusting to the band's new setup. It remains home to some of their best songs, but its new followup (and Hopeless debut) I Won't Care How You Remember Me overshadows it. It's a consistently great collection of songs that rivals any of Tigers Jaw's most classic albums and feels like yet another refinement for this unbreakable band.
While spin was recorded entirely by Ben and Brianna, I Won't Care How You Remember Me is the first album recorded with their now-permanent rhythm section of drummer Teddy Roberts and bassist Colin Gorman, who have developed a lot of chemistry with Ben and Brianna after touring with them for the past few years. You can feel the added benefit of getting a full band together to play these songs over and over before recording them; it's some of the tightest, strongest, most concise material the band have ever released. Longtime collaborator Will Yip's production is bigger and cleaner than ever before, which perfectly suits the more power pop approach that Tigers Jaw take on this album. It reminds me in spirit of Jimmy Eat World's Bleed American, an album that found a long-running emo band cleaning up their sound and coming out with big, anthemic songs that were inspired by -- and rivaled -- the American rock canon. I don't know if today's music industry will allow Tigers Jaw to score a hit as big as "The Middle," but it won't be surprising if this album gains them some new fans. It's their most accessible yet.
I Won't Care How You Remember Me is sort of the middle ground between a leap forward and a look backwards, making it a great introduction to the band as well as a satisfying return for longtime fans. It has so many classic Tigers Jaw signifiers, with guitar parts, keyboard lines, and melodies that hearken all the way back to that 2008 self-titled album, but it's all presented in a way that sounds like nothing they've ever done before. Brianna took a more prominent lead vocalist/songwriting role on spin than ever before, and at this point it'd be an understatement to say her songs are on par with the band's most classic fan-faves. Brianna has written some of Tigers Jaw's best-ever songs for this album, and Ben's are nothing to scoff at either. Both of them are firing on all lyrical and melodic cylinders, and they do so in a way that sounds as modest as Tigers Jaw sounded when they were a young DIY band. Even when big-name guest Andy Hull of Manchester Orchestra shows up to sing on the title track, it's nothing show-offy. He provides background harmonies and you might not even realize his voice is in the mix if you didn't know any better.
Update: I Won't Care How You Remember Me is out now via Hopeless (order yours). You can stream it in full at all streaming services and watch the band's release show in full too:
Ahead of the album's release, we caught up with all four members for a track-by-track breakdown of the album, and you can read on for what they had to say...
1. "I Won’t Care How You Remember Me"
Ben Walsh: This track sets the scene for the entire album. I don’t think we considered this as a Track 1 option until very late in the sequencing process, but the more we sat with the idea, the more it made so much sense. Lyrically, this is the most open and honest I think I’ve ever been. I demoed the earliest idea of this song in my old apartment in Fishtown Philadelphia, and was texting with Andy Hull that day. He sent me a demo he had written, so I sent him this demo. Later that year, we were in the studio and I had the idea to ask him to sing on the track since he had an early connection to it. I love how we layered the vocal parts at the very end, it still gives me chills hearing it.
2. "Cat’s Cradle"
Teddy Roberts: This song went through at least 3 or 4 transformations before it became finalized for the record but one of the defining parts about the arrangement that always stuck was the keyboard melody. Brianna brought the song to the table with that hook and the rest almost wrote itself around that. We were staying in an apartment in Manayunk about 25 minutes from the studio and I remember Brianna, Colin and myself staying up late tweaking the smallest things in the chorus specifically for about 3 nights in a row all kind of losing it. Side note of the process is during one of those nights I learned how to actually pull off a Cat’s Cradle using Brianna’s converse shoelace. Coincidence? Potentially.
Ben Walsh: "Hesitation" was one of those rare songs where the bulk of the idea comes all at once. It’s about a long distance relationship between cities that is starting to unravel. The hesitations you hear and see in responses and actions start to confirm the doubts in a relationship. It’s a sad sort of clarity to find. I came into the studio thinking this one was ready to go, but Will Yip really challenged me to rethink the chorus. Will knows me super well on a personal and musical level, so I trusted him, scrapped part of the original chorus, and reworked it the day we started tracking the drums for it. It’s jarring at first to be challenged like that, but if you’re open to it, it can be super rewarding. Either you reflect on the idea and affirm that you stand by it, or you think about it from an alternative perspective and potentially write something you love even more.
4. "New Detroit"
Teddy Roberts: This was the last song idea Ben brought to the table, and he almost didn’t show it to the band because initially he felt that it might not fit sonically but I’m really glad he did. I remember thinking the vocal melody and the changes were so strong that the drums needed to almost be over-simplified and kind of drum machine like. The fills are elementary in a way and there’s no crash cymbal either, just nothing to get in the way of the hook. Sonically it’s one of my favorites on the album because of the use of space. Everything has a purpose in the track and nothing got overcrowded and therefore the song almost sounds larger in a way. The first demo of it actually got tracked at my house in Michigan in between a tour and some East Coast gigs and the file name “new detroit” started to have a ring to it every time it got brought up.
5. "Can’t Wait Forever"
Ben Walsh: This is the latest in the lineage of songs utilizing this phrase (or its variation phrase “Can’t Live Forever”) by our band, The Menzingers, and Captain We’re Sinking. It’s just a fun ongoing inside joke to continually celebrate our roots coming up in the Scranton music scene. This song felt like it had the youthful energy and singalong quality that defined our early sound and pervaded our early basement show experiences. It was fun watching Teddy and Will work together on the extra drum parts during the outro, it really gave that song ending (and the ending of side A for vinyl heads) a special type of energy.
6. "Lemon Mouth"
Brianna Collins: "Lemon Mouth" was one of the first demo ideas that I had after the release of spin. I felt really excited about the idea but was struggling with figuring out a chord progression for the chorus that felt right, and I figured this was a perfect opportunity to call Colin (who lives five minutes away) and have him come over to jam and figure out some ideas. That was the first time we had ever worked on a song together but it felt really natural and easy to work through ideas, and it was an exciting glimpse of how it would feel to work on the rest of the songs for the record all together as a band for the first time. The lyrics for "Lemon Mouth" are a stream-of-consciousness reflection on the attributes or tendencies I have that, whether or not I like it, are part of who I am. Sometimes I find myself seeking out answers or information (whether scientific or mystical) that would explain or give reason for why I am the way I am, but the song is also about self-acceptance and finding comfort or reassurance in mundane or small moments.
7. "Body Language"
Colin Gorman: I remember this being the first track we rehearsed as a band in the very early stages of writing the record. It was also the first time the four of us had ever jammed together in a writing capacity, so there was a lot of anticipation and uncertainty going into it, but it instantly felt really natural. Listening back to basement demos we made from those early sessions, it’s crazy to hear many of the things we all play on the final version remaining intact, like we were capturing something in the air in those initial moments of creation. And that’s a theme that holds true for most of the tracks on the record. This one also has one of the most fun rhythm section moments on the record in the outro.
Ben Walsh: As I was chasing the idea for this song, it became very clear that I wouldn’t be singing lead on it. I knew that Brianna would take over and make it her own, and it would showcase a different vocal style for her. We worked together on the lyrics and melodies, but it totally clicked once the rhythm section got involved. Colin and Teddy really shine on this track. The second verse bassline is one of my favorite instrumental parts on the record, and Teddy’s catchy drumming makes the rhythm really memorable and locks everything in. I half-jokingly refer to the ending guitar riff as my “The Edge” part.
9. "Never Wanted To"
Ben Walsh: This was the first song I wrote post-spin. I think sonically, it pays tribute to the War On Drugs/Kurt Vile indie rock scene in Philly but done our way. Lyrically it’s about struggling with feeling like yourself when you have outside opinions and influences pulling at you from all directions. It’s also about my personal struggle with spending too much time on my phone and wanting to feel more present and in the moment. The outro solo was inspired by the Ozzy era Black Sabbath tracks that have multiple takes of Tony Iommi’s guitar solos layered on top of each other. I played two different takes of the solo without the other take in the mix, and blindly layered one over the other, so they sort of weave in and out of each other in a cool way.
10. "Heaven Apart"
Brianna Collins: "Heaven Apart" is actually a very reworked version of a song that I had written for spin that didn’t end up on the record. At that time it felt like something was missing or not all the way figured out, and I’m so glad that we decided to hold off and come back to the song again for the next record because the song is so much more fully realized and true to how I was imagining it should feel. I scrapped all of the original lyrics and the vocal melody, and we started with the basic structure and chord progression from the original song idea. Teddy, Ben, and Colin all came up with new ideas that made the song so much more rhythmic and moody, which was exactly what it needed. This song has always been about the same thing, and is not a new subject by any means — being in love and having to deal with distance — but I wanted the song to be personal and specific to my own experience and relationship. Because of the importance I placed on the concept, the lyrics were some of the last that I finished for the record — literally in the night before I needed to record vocals. It was getting down to the wire and I was feeling stuck and stressed, so I ended up putting on the songs “Kingston” by Faye Webster and “Sweet Avenue” by Jets to Brazil, two of my favorite love songs, over and over again hoping to find a spark and at 5am something just clicked.
Colin Gorman: Since the early stages of demoing this and still up until now, Ben jokingly refers to this as a pseudo ska song. Which kinda makes sense, but regardless, it’s such a fun song to play and definitely one of my favorites on the record. Another one where we all found our pocket pretty much right off the bat in the demo stages. It absolutely feels so right as the closing track on the record. Ben taps into his '90s pop rock, Goo Goo Dolls roots with the octave guitar lead towards the end of the track, which is another thing we joke about. It’s an octave guitar solo, not something typically celebrated or “cool,” but it just feels so good and cathartic in its place on this song.