Tigers Jaw devastated their fanbase this past March when they broke the news on their Tumblr that three founding members of the lineup–vocalist/guitarist Adam McIlwee, bassist Dennis Mishko, and drummer Pat Brier–would be leaving the band, leaving guitarist/vocalist Ben Walsh and keyboardist/vocalist Brianna Collins as the sole members responsible for continuing TJ's heartfelt, creative, scrappy emo/indie-punk sound that’s spanned eight years and three full-lengths. Collins closed that statement saying, “These are likely to be the last Tigers Jaw tours for the foreseeable future.” Combined with three-fifths of their team gone, many considered her message as “indefinite hiatus” or, worse, “breakup.” But as Collins tells AP in this exclusive interview, Tigers Jaw are determined to carry on.
I suppose you want to begin by re-emphasizing that Tigers Jaw are not broken up.
Yeah. We were definitely not broken up. [Laughs.]
Where did you hear about a lot of the misconceptions coming from? Did it come from Tumblr, message boards, or in-person?
Ben and I made, what you want to call a “statement” or whatever, on Tumblr about the status of the band, because we wanted to let people know that it was just gonna be Ben and I on the tours… We weren't gonna go to Europe as part of our tour, because at the time we weren't sure exactly what we were gonna do. And then, at shows, people started…Well, first, I think it started more online, [others] saying that we were on hiatus. And to a certain extent, I can understand [that], from the terminology we used in the statement, it could be read as something like that, because we do say [the then-upcoming U.S. tour] would be the last tour for the foreseeable future. At that time, Ben and I didn't know what we were gonna do.
You posted that statement right after the other members told you they were leaving, right?
Yeah, very shortly after, after Ben and I figured out how we were gonna go forward, at least from that point.
It sounds like it was almost a day-long process where you were hit with the news, sat down with Ben and discussed the situation, then decided to break the news to everyone.
[Laughs.] It might have been longer than that. Ben and I knewthat we didn't want to stop doing the band, but without the three other people who are such an essential part–all five of us are Tigers Jaw. We just weren't sure whether or not we could do it with just the two of us. But we had these tours booked, and we still wanted to do them, and the other guys were like, “You should do them.” Just because being in a band isn't what they want to do anymore, it doesn't mean Ben and I should have to stop. We decided to still do the tours.
Do you think the self-doubt you two may have had was the same sort of doubts fans had? As in, “Oh, this is a pretty major lineup change. Band's gotta be done.”
I don't know if I call it “self-doubt.” We needed to see for ourselves that we could still do it, because we knew we wanted to do it. And I attribute a lot of it to realizing this is what we really love and what we really want to do, and we just gotta pursue it with the three guys who came on tour with us to fill in.
We're moving on without three of the people that made the band what it is, so I guess I can understand people being a little unsure of what it's gonna be like without them. But we're still playing the songs we all wrote together and love. Obviously, it's different without Adam because–[Laughs]–he sings, and half of the songs are his. But we're trying to work with it.
Their reasons for leaving the band still remain personal.
Totally personal. But it's not like some huge conspiracy or anything. At this point in their lives, the band just wasn't for them. There's no animosity whatsoever. It's not some huge scandal. We're all still friends, and I honestly am really happy because they all want us to continue doing it.
And they all agreed to still be involved in recording the new full-length.
Yeah. We had all the songs pretty much done and ready to go. And we had the time booked. The songs that were written for the full-length–that was a culmination of the five of us. So…I think they wanted the songs to be recorded. We wanted the songs to be recorded. The process of putting a record out is very much still the five of us getting their input. It's not just Ben and I making all the calls as far as that goes. They definitely wanted to do it.
It's almost like they're still in the band, at least as far as promoting this album goes. At least, for that explicit purpose and not much else.
The core decisions about the album: song titles, name of the album–which we're still working out–they're gonna be really involved in cover art. But from here on out, it will just be Ben and I playing shows.
So at that time after the lineup change, you rounded up friends from other bands like Balance And Composure, and that's how you did that U.S. tour.
So what's the plan moving forward? Are you recruiting permanent members to help write new music or tour?
No. I think the plan right now is for Tigers Jaw to just be Ben and I. We're still getting everything together for the full-length to come out. We did record “Carry You Over” with Will Yip [for his Off The Board benefit compilation], and that was just Ben and I. Ben played guitar, bass and drums on that. >>>