Nov. 04--It wasn't all that long ago that Ben Walsh and Brianna Collins were the ones in the audience, looking up in awe at the larger-than-life personas of their favorite local bands at shows.
But as their own band, Tigers Jaw, has earned a large and dedicated following over the last several years, the duo finds themselves humbled to watch fans singing along to their songs wherever they perform.
The group is based in Scranton but has toured throughout the United States and even the United Kingdom, where fans have enthusiastically responded to the melodic indie punk music.
Mr. Walsh pointed to local legends like the Sw!ms and Okay Paddy as early inspiration for Tigers Jaw, which he formed in 2005 at 16 years old with his friend Adam McIlwee. The guys had jammed together a few times and began putting together songs as Tigers Jaw, playing basement shows in the former Test Pattern venue downtown or wherever they could, with whomever they could wrangle into joining them live to round out the sound.
"We wanted to sound like those bands," Mr. Walsh said of their pop music mentors. "But lyrically it ranged from relationships and songs inspired by different forms of art, like movies.
"We were young, so we were writing about stuff that was interesting to us," he added.
Miss Collins joined the band in December 2006, and the trio continued to expand its reach to audiences at home and abroad through show swaps (teaming up with bands from other towns, who would act as headliners where they were from to draw crowds, and vice versa), networking and social media.
"The Internet as a whole really helped with exposure," Mr. Walsh said. "We noticed at our out-of-town shows, more people would show up and know words to our songs and watch our whole set."
Tigers Jaw played almost monthly in Scranton, where it would draw 75 to 100 people, and basement shows in friends' homes before branching out to Wilkes-Barre's Cafe Metropolis. Mostly, the band saw a lot of friends from school plus family, but as the musicianship improved over time, the music began to evolve, too, and the fan base grew from there.
"It's the same type of music, but we're more comfortable with it," Mr. Walsh said. "It's a little more well-executed."
"You could categorize us as alternative," Miss Collins said, "but it is different, because we have keyboards, so it's a distinct sound.
"It's hard to compare yourself to another band," she added.
But there are certain acts with which Tigers Jaw matched well, including Kingston's native punk band Title Fight, with whom they toured in 2008, that greatly increased their visibility.
"Years ago, when we went on tour with Title Fight, it was when they were getting pretty popular, so it was a good time for us because people started paying attention to us, too," Mr. Walsh said.
Tigers Jaw came into contact with Jeff Casazza of Run for Cover Records in Boston, who added the band to his repertoire and will release a full-length album next year for the group. It will be the latest in a robust collection of a half-dozen other EPs, splits and full-lengths the band has already produced.
The first single, "Hum," is a mid-tempo song on which Miss Collins sings lead above heavy vocal harmonies and plenty of guitar interplay. An audio-only video of the tune can be heard on Run for Cover's YouTube channel, and a music video is planned for release soon, Mr. Walsh promised.
In the meantime, Tigers Jaw has been keeping busy with lineup changes and plenty of touring. Mr. McIlwee left the band in March to pursue other music projects, but Tigers Jaw remains as determined as ever to keep the music going.
The band toured heavily this past summer, including a stint in Europe in August, which was a "surreal" experience, Mr. Walsh said.
"The culture is similar to ours but slightly different enough so you're out of your comfort zone a bit," he said. "People over there are very enthusiastic about bands from over here."
Supporting and promoting local music is desperately important to the band members, who are continually amazed by the positive feedback they receive in return.
"I never thought before Tigers Jaw (that) I would be in a band," Miss Collins said. "It seemed like this unattainable thing. I was so surprised when I was then the person actually playing.
"It's really amazing to see how many people enjoy listening to the music," she continued. "It feels really good to see people care. I just hope that they have fun. That's what I loved about going to high-energy shows."
Mr. Walsh noted that keeping original music viable in the community is crucial not only for the musicians who hope to inspire others, but also for the fans who would miss out otherwise.
"It's really important for people to support local bands," he said. "When I was growing up, that's what made me want to do music in the first place. Spread the word about bands, because there's a lot of talent in the area that goes unnoticed."
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org, @pwildingTT on TwitterMeet Tigers Jaw
Based in: Scranton
Members: Ben Walsh, guitar and vocals; Brianna Collins, keyboards and vocals
Genre: Indie punk
For fans of: The Anniversary, the Get Up Kids
Online: TigersJaw.Tumblr.com; @tigersjaw on Twitter; and facebook.com/tigersjaw
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