Last month, our intrepid musical explorer Lee Adcock review the new record from LA’s Tijuana Panthers, telling us how “they’ve revived the ancient art of rocking with wild abandon, while crafting idyllic pop at the same time.” Which is no bad thing at all, I’m sure you’ll agree. The band have just set out on tour in support of the new record so Lee used it as the perfect excuse to have a chat with them about life and music. Here’s what they had to say…
Interview | Tijuana Panthers
by Lee Adcock
Hello! How’ve you been? Sorry for the long delay. How’s the tour coming along?
We’re doing great thanks for asking! It’s nice to get out of town. Tour just got started.
Anywhere in particular that you’re excited to play?
We are excited to go to New York again to see all of our buddies. Also to hit up the East coast in general. It’s been a couple of years since we were out there last for tour.
Do you prefer playing live to recording in the studio? There’s so much energy and verve on your recordings, that you guys seem destined for the stage!
We prefer playing live when we record. There is a better energy between us that you can feel in the recordings. It’s good to hear that. “One Way Ticket” is one of our favorite live recordings. We sang and played it live in a warehouse. We have been trying to capture our live sound as best as possible.
So, what brought you three together?
We’ve known each other since Jr. high. We met at a church camp. We farted around Long Beach skating and surfing. We played music in high school and college. Music brought us together early collecting, listening and playing it. Phil and I were in a band called the Fancy Lads and after that Phil and Chad played in a two-piece called the Pencils.
Now, I read the back story on the band’s name, but for the folks at home, let’s hear it from the horse’s mouth…
Phil’s neighbor Max Baker, who we named our first album after, has a pretty crazy story about Tijuana involving some shady characters and a knife fight. He came out alive with this porcelain panther. He later gave it to Phil. We love Mexico, Mexico surfing, Mexican culture, food, its influence on us and around us as Southern Californian kids. I guess you can say it’s a little nod of respect in that direction and a name we thought was cool.
The press release on Semi-Sweet mentioned that everyone worked together on the composing process. Could you describe that a little further?
We write all the songs together. We individuals will bring ideas to practice. Either part of an idea or a completed work. We mess with it and structure it. Sometimes Chad, myself or Phil will bring a skeleton of a song to the table and ask someone else to make up lyrics and sing. We know each others’ vocal styles well and know what will fit the song. Sometimes the bass, drums, or guitar won’t be fully realized yet; we just trust each other to fill in the gaps. Sometimes we just improvise a song and it sticks.
Y’know, I do hate to pull the “influences” card, but (aside from the cover, of course) do you draw on certain records or songs while composing? The references are always there, but they’re never glaringly obvious.
Influences: Jonathan Richman, Roy Orbison, Buzzcocks, Dead Milkmen, Ian Dury, X, Link Wray, The Damned, Orange Juice, Talking Heads, The Clash, Violent Femmes (stripped down sound)
I do love Boardwalk. It’s one of the cheeriest tracks I’ve heard all year – and I was really pleased to hear you repeat it twice. Why the two versions, though? Or was that other version specifically for the video? (Which we’ll get to, later…)
The second boardwalk is actually the first. We had a lull with the band not doing much. Phil recorded some beats and would send them to me. I had those chords already in my head and they matched the beat. I record base and guitar and improvised lyrics. And I added backup vocals with the yup yups. We re recorded it later with the band but we liked the original lo fi first recordings We wanted to close out the record with it.
Father Figure’s another great one – because behind that jangle, you’re talking about a fellow with an absent father who’s just trying to be a decent boyfriend. Where did that idea come from?
Chad found himself in that father figure situation when he got married. So those words and ideas are straight from the heart. What he was going through at the time when he wrote it
Now, you covered the Nerves’ “One Way Ticket”…I honestly wouldn’t have guessed it was a cover unless I had read the press release. It fits in perfectly. But why’d you pick that particular track?
We recorded the song a number of years ago for a Nerves compilation on Volar records out of San Diego. We liked the recording and the song so much we wanted to use it on the album.
I saw the mini-flick for “Tony’s Song”. Ridiculous! How’d you film it? (The arm-severing was particularly impressive.)
Yeah we like that Tony’s song video. Innovative Leisure works with Wilcox Sessions often who did that video for us. We met had a really good dinner at their house. They are a married couple with a kid. We told them we like to get silly and pointed to some old Dead Milkmen videos, the Fall and Monty Python and they nailed it. The arm severe is absurd and great. We have one for boardwalk coming out this week or next. I came up with the concept. Really stoked!! Think La Strada, Pee Wee’s Big Top, and a little David Lynch.
Last question – since you are a “surf” band, after all, and this is the summer – ideal day at the beach?
We don’t like to call ourselves a “surf” band for a lot of reasons but mainly most traditional surf bands would probably snarl at that labeling of us. But we do like to surf and it is a major vibe to the music. Phil and I just went surfing the other day with Ty Segal Spencer from the “Allah-las”, some dudes from the “traditional fools”. It was one of my favorite beach days this summer. We had coffee and a breakfast sandwiches, surfed some really nice waves, had some beers after, some good conversations, and music. So I guess good buddies, good beverages, good food, good music and maybe a good book to get your bronze on the beach post surf zen.