Dutch band Tiger Pilots are fresh off the release of the EP Even If, delivering 5-songs that excellently blend the soaring indie guitar melodies, dark goth rock undertones and the rhythmic drive and textures of post-punk. Off the back of a successful EP launch and a #1 indie chart single in their native Netherlands, Tiger Pilots caught up with GIGsoup to tell us the story so far and what the future holds…
To start off, can you tell us a bit yourselves and your journey as a band so far?
Ludwin, Ramón and Derk have been playing together for quite a while now and we all got together through message boards online trying to find like-minded musicians. The line-up and name changed over the years but the current line-up got together about 2 years ago, when our former guitarist Jon left for Singapore and we had to hold auditions for a new guitarist. We ended up choosing two guitarists (Richard and Lukas) instead of one. That kind of changed the sound and dynamic a bit, but that made it really exciting to start creating new music. We’ve recorded a new EP a few months ago with which we hope to get more attention and be able to play more and more gigs and hopefully record more in the future.
Where does the name Tiger Pilots come from?
We came up with a bunch of words that individually sounded cool, but wouldn’t fit as a band name on their own. Then we started combining them, and ultimately we made the connection between Tiger and Pilots. A tiger being a beautiful, majestic and fierce predator (as a kind of metaphor for our music) and us being the pilots driving it. For us, that worked.
Coincidentally we found out that this was also the nickname of a squadron of American pilots called the Flying Tigers who volunteered in China during WWII to help fight the Japanese. So funnily enough it also had a historic meaning we didn’t know of, when we came up with it.
Congratulations on your brand new EP Even If! What struck me when I first heard it is that it sounds instantly familiar, yet very fresh. What artists influence you, and what would you say are the extra elements you bring to the table to create the Tiger Pilots sound?
As a band we have many different influences, from bands such as Foals and The National to bands like Spoon or the Dutch band Moss. Or even 80’s heroes The Smiths and The Cure. But we also bring our own personal influences together, which in turn we think creates our sound.
The most striking thing about our sound is Ramón’s vocals. It has proven to be quite polarising actually. Some people fall head over heels in love with it the first time they hear it, some don’t really like it. It’s definitely the thing people comment on when they listen to Tiger Pilots for the first time. Next to that, Ludwin’s bass sound is very distinct. It plays a major role in how the band “feels” and it drives the songs together with Derk’s almost mechanical drums. And then Lukas and Richard create these nice melodic and rhythmic textures that nicely blend into all of it.
What are the lyrical themes in the songs on the EP?
The lyrics on this EP are mostly about relationships, love and loss. “Even If” as a title sounds like an unfinished sentence, which is something we really liked about it, but it’s also a statement that says “No matter what, we will keep going”. It’s really all about the effort we all put into our relationships and how we grow from and through them. A lot of the songs are also about not communicating our wants and needs clearly. Our current single ‘A Day’s Wait’ is a good example of this. The song is about loving someone but not being able to tell them you need space in order to breathe and love them back. It’s also about getting the acknowledgement that your partner trusts you enough to let you go for a little bit and do your own thing.
‘Evil’ is kind of the odd one out where it’s not so much about a relationship but more about the politics of fear. Yet again, it’s about communication; about what we communicate to each other as people and the effect that has.
You crowdfunded the release. How did that affect the way you went about planning and executing the record?
It definitely had an influence on the way we planned our recording sessions and our finances. It was really exciting as well, as you don’t really know how these things play out. There’s a deadline too, so if we hadn’t gathered enough money by then, it could have meant the whole project had to be either cancelled or put on hold. We did plan our pre-production sessions around it and also planned our recording sessions after the completion of the crowdfunding campaign so that we knew that we could afford it. Fortunately for us, we reached over 100% so the project was successfully funded and now we have a new EP out. We’re really happy about that!
When you are writing new material, what are the most important factors you look out for to tell if a new song works or not?
Generally, there’s something that grabs you in a song, like a hook, a bass line, a guitar line, a crazy vocal; something that makes you keep coming back to it. Something that pulls you in and doesn’t let go. If we get that feeling, we know we are on the right track. We jam a lot in the rehearsal studio, mostly that is how our songs emerge. In these sessions we play the same new idea over and over, trying out different variations. If you can play the same verse of chorus non stop for 15 minutes and not get bored with it, you know it’s a keeper!
If you could pick any artist to support on tour, who would you choose?
There are so many but I think we all are huge The National fans, so I think that’s somewhere on the dream list. There are so many great artists and bands out there, it would be a huge honour opening for anyone we like, you know? For now, we’re happy to play any gig we can get.
What does the rest of 2018 hold for Tiger Pilots? Have you got any plans to come and play in the UK?
Hopefully many, many more gigs and reaching more and more people, and if we get the opportunity, we’d love to come to the UK too. If there are people reading this now and think “I’d love to have them play in my venue”, or who need a support act for a headliner, let us know! We’d love to come over.