Charlie Brand of Miniature Tigers: "We Want to Unify Fans and Not Fuck With Anybody."
Although raised in Arizona, Charlie Brand, leader of the indie pop band, Miniature Tigers, is a wondering spirit. Brand moved the band to Brooklyn, got tired of that scene and moved to Fort Worth. Last month, Brand ended up in Austin to be close to his girlfriend. Brand's music reflects his restless nature. The band's first album, 2008's Tell in to the Volcano, was an intimate, indie rock record that received outstanding reviews. However, Brand took the band in a much more electronic dance direction with 2010's Fortress and 2012's Mia Pharaoh.
Speaking from his home in Austin after recovering from a nasty case of strep throat, Brand spoke with DC9 about Miniature Tigers' ever-changing sound and how the upcoming release, Cool Runnings, might unify the band's direction.
How's your voice?
It's much better actually. I had gotten strep throat. We did three shows the first day and the next day, when I woke up, I didn't feel very good. I was exhausted from the first day and then my throat felt like it was swollen shut. I've been taking antibiotics and staying in bed for the last couple of days.
You live in Austin now, but aren't your originally from Arizona?
I wasn't born there, but I grew up in Phoenix.
Isn't that where you started the band?
Yes, but I moved to L.A. and that's really where I got the band started. We went back and forth a lot between California and Arizona.
And you also lived in Brooklyn, correct?
I lived in Brooklyn a few years and then moved to Austin. I actually moved to Fort Worth first and then to Austin. I've only been here for a month. My girlfriend goes to school in Austin and I wanted to get out of Brooklyn. I was tired of it.
Moving from Arizona to Brooklyn was quite a change.
I guess so. By the time we moved to Brooklyn, the band was touring a lot. We were not even doing any local shows there. The only time we played there was on tour, so we never felt part of that scene. We weren't competitive with anyone. It was just another tour stop. We never thought we were a band from Brooklyn.
What do you think of the scene in Austin?
I moved here a month ago and we've been on tour for two weeks. I haven't even fully dived in or anything. A couple of the band members still live in Brooklyn. Another one lives in Phoenix. We are not really a band to play locally. We tour and we make albums. The most I ever felt part of a scene was in Phoenix, but that was pretty disjointed. I've never really understood being part of a scene.
The band's debut album, 2008's Tell it to the Volcano, got very positive reviews. But the sound deviated greatly on the next album, Fortress.
Not really. Volcano was a collection of songs I had written over the years, from age 18 to my early twenties. I don't if I was writing with much of a purpose. I think with Fortress, I was interested in making some different sounds. I wanted to do something different. The same goes for the next album, Mia Pharaoh. Fortress was a more moody record. Mia Pharaoh is a super poppy dance record. I love film directors like Stanley Kubrick who make movies that are from totally different genres.
Fortress seemed like the perfect name for that album, like you were staking out a direction that needed defending.
Volcano, to me, was about being naïve and about heartbreak. Fortress was about experiences that shattered the illusion of that innocence. Fortress was more introverted and mysterious.
Listening to Volcano and Mia Pharaoh can be like listening to two different bands.
I feel that they are conceptually the same. I care a lot about melodies and lyrics and things like that. I enjoy buying a CD from a band and there is a new sound going on. I know a lot of people hate that. Some people just love the first album and they tell me that they don't know what happened with the rest of the shit. But others like Fortress more than anything. It's hard to unify everybody.
A lot of your fans probably have no idea who Mia Farrow was.
Yes, that's true. Ultimately, we decided to title the album to make ourselves happy. We weren't trying to alienate anybody. We were just hoping for people to come along on the ride with us.
What direction might you go in the future?
We do have a new album coming out. It's called Cool Runnings and that is a pretty playful title. If you were not born during a certain time, you might not even get the reference to the movie title. I think it is our favorite album. It's very bright and electric. It has elements from all of the other records. To me, it's feels like this whole time we have been playing around with different genres. I think we found our voice on this one, something that is uniquely us. We recorded it in Jamaica. I think that sonically it is our best sounding record. We wanted to capture the feeling of being a teenager and hearing a record that really spoke to you. We want to unite our fans and not fuck with anybody.
You've done some work with Alan Palomo from Neon Indian. How did that come about?
He worked on a song on Fortress. He came in and coproduced it. We had the same lawyer and we thought he would be perfect for what we were going for production wise. We didn't really know him.
Where did you come up with the name Miniature Tigers?
It was just a name that stuck. I wish I had a more meaningful answer. It was just kind of a band name. I feel like it is a shallow band name in that there is no meaning behind it.