They’ve been quietly banging around Indianapolis for about four years, holding onto their original rock integrity. The whoa!tiger debut album — Truth Serum and Forgetfulness — was released in March 2009 and they uncorked a new single and video, “Three Coins”, earlier this year. As they admit, going the route of playing original sets of music may make their road to getting more gigs a little slower. But they have nicely progressed to being known to those who seek them out as a tight, road-tested rock band, and have been rewarded with a good selection of festival dates across Indiana this summer.
On their website, the guys descibe their sound as “kitchen sink rock” – classic rock and roll hinting of funk, blues, and reggae. Lots of jammy, bluesy, Allman Brothers grooves – a sound fans of the Dave Mathews Band, the Dead or anyone raised on 70s rock would recognize.
Bandmembers: Jack Barkley: vocals, guitar; Jon Knight: guitar; Erik Nelson: drums; Eric Tullis: bass
We caught up with the band’s bass player Eric Tullis to pose a few questions.
ROB: You guys are an original music band. Does that mean you have a batch of new songs is always floating around?
Eric Tullis: We’re always writing new material – it’s one of our favorite things to do. We have a running “hopper list” of ideas that we’ve each brought to the table, as well as ideas that we just fall into while warming up at practice. The beauty of our writing process is that we can take any one of those ideas at any time and morph it into a workable song. We tend to discard no idea unless we collectively decide we just don’t like it. We currently have about a dozen songs in the set that we haven’t recorded yet, and are debuting a couple more in August.
ROB: When you get the band together to record your new music, where do you do it?
ET: We do very simple room recordings during practice just to capture ideas. But nothing beats being in the studio. For one thing, it’s really liberating to turn the controls over to a good engineer and just immerse in being musicians, rather than trying to wear all the hats at once. Also, the studio allows us to put the final sound from our minds onto the recording. It’s where we can layer in parts that we just can’t create on stage, and get each song to the point where it represents our vision the best. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of popping that completed CD into your car, turning up the volume, and getting to play listener instead of musician for just a little bit. It’s a very cool and satisfying feeling.
ROB: How’s Indianapolis treat you, with more original music?
ET: That does pose some challenges here in Indy. There are some really great local original bands, probably more than there are venues to accommodate them all. So one of the tricks is to find those bands whose music will mesh well with ours, and perform shows together. That opens up our music to their fans, their music to our fans, and really helps to network and to grow that community. Those outdoor festivals are one of the best places for all-original bands to truly show their styles and variety, and to get their music into lots of new ears at once.
ROB: Any shows coming this summer that you think are extra special?
ET: We’ve been hitting the outdoor festival events this summer, which we love. We play in Lafayette on August 13 for the Mosey Down Main Street series – our first time playing there. We play the Linton Music Festival on September 4, which is one of the largest free music festivals in the midwest. We are back indoors at Local’s Only on September 16. Then we will be back at the Rocky Ripple Festival again this year on September 24.
ROB: What have you been listening to recently?
ET: I think we’re all excited about much of the local talent we’ve been able to see and connect with at our shows. There’s so much talent and originality in Indy’s own back yard. We listen to is truly all over the map, from Led Zeppelin, John Coltrane, No More Kings and Bela Fleck to Phish, Stevie Ray Vaughn, James Brown and Miles Davis.
ROB: What’s do you hope the next year hold for WHOA!TIGER?
ET: Our goal every year is to do things we didn’t get to do the year before. So far this year we’ve already released a music video, performed on television and are booked in several of the summer fests that we wanted to be a part of, so we’re ahead of the game and still have six months to go. We also have a whole bunch of music in the set (and) we’re looking at all our options for the best way to get that out to folks. People can always find out what we’re doing by checking www.whoatiger.com for dates and events.
ROB: Any other info to pass along?
ET: We just encourage everyone to check out the local talent in Indy, especially those doing original music. If everyone went to see an original band just one time each month, they are probably guaranteed to find something they like, something that jives with their tastes. Because while becoming rich and famous and touring the country is something most of us can only dream of, sharing our music with audiences is what we love most. And having someone walk up to you and say, “Hey, you guys sounded great!” can make you forget about the tour for a minute, and focus on the reasons we do this in the first place.