Miniature Tigers Are Getting Bigger

Published March 23, 2012

Miniature Tigers make homage to Top 40 hits with their new album, Mia Pharaoh. The band is influenced by everything: band members Charlie Brand, Rick Alvin Schaier, and Algernon Quashie have produced a mix of ’60s-pop-infused tracks, electro beats, and shout-outs to hip-hop. Their new album gets a little bit racier than previous fare (see: “Sex on the Regular”) and is meant to shock listeners, and it can all be chalked up to Miniature Tigers themselves: to create this album, they took charge without a producer and called the musical shots.

We chatted with lead singer Charlie Brand about reinventing their sound, continuing to shock the fans and playing with Of Montreal.

ILANA KAPLAN: How was SXSW?

CHARLIE BRAND: It was fun! It was really good. It was pretty mellow. We only did like two shows. We did one on Tuesday and one on Thursday, but they were both very fun. It was good!

KAPLAN: Can you tell me a little bit about Mia Pharaoh and how it differs from Fortress?

BRAND: Sure! Well, the huge difference is that we made it pretty much ourselves, and worked without a producer this time around. We basically took a lot of the stuff from the demos we had been working on and went over a thousand things. Picking out the sounds… a lot of it was just done ourselves, at home and stuff.  It was definitely a project we did working together as a band, rather than just having a producer working on it.

KAPLAN: How have you grown since the last record?

BRAND: Hmm. I think we just have a confidence now, to where we feel confident doing everything ourselves, and we really like taking control of everything. As opposed to before, we were relying on other people to help us. We’re just at a point where we can ask for what we want. We’re kind of in a position that we’ve been doing this for a long time, so that we know how to get what we want, in a sense that we can get the sounds that we want and the direction we want. Everything we set out to accomplish, I think we really accomplished, as far as the making of this record.

KAPLAN: Who are some of the coolest bands you played with?

BRAND: We recently played with Of Montreal in McAllen, TX. For SXSW this year, we did a show on Tuesday. Then, Wednesday we went down to McAllen and played with Of Montreal. That was really awesome because we love those guys and have loved them for a long time. So, it was really cool to be able to play with those guys. We also got to play with The Walkmen recently too. Those guys are heroes of ours as well. Both of those bands were really great.

KAPLAN: Who would you want to perform with in the future?

BRAND: That’s a good question. I don’t know. I feel like I would want to play with some weird people, like The-Dream or Rick Ross or something. I don’t know if it’s a weird type of show, but I would love to play with someone outside of our world a little more. You know? I feel also that this record was definitely our take on Top 40 hip-hop and stuff. There are a lot of those influences on the record. The Dream was a huge influence on this record and a huge influence in general. So, to play with someone like that would be awesome. That would be my top pick.

KAPLAN: Who are some of your influences as a band?

BRAND: I mean, it’s pretty varied. On this record, specifically it was Top 40 hip-hop stuff like The Dream, Rick Ross, and Kanye West.  A lot of Simon and Garfunkel has been a huge influence lately. As far as just getting started as a band, obviously The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Kinks and David Bowie have been big influences. I feel like our roots are in ’60s pop. Lately I’ve been way more into Top 40s hip-hop and pop kind of stuff.

KAPLAN: What do you want your fans to get out of your new record?

BRAND: I feel like a lot of people are closed off to mainstream hip-hop—some people just won’t let themselves go there. I feel like some of the production and songwriting, in my opinion, it’s some of the best stuff out there right now. If anything, I would hope this would open someone up to experiencing this kind of music more. Just opening your mind to what’s possible. I think that’s where we’re at. I think our first record was a pop record, but I didn’t really realize I was writing a pop record at the time. The second record was almost rebelling against that, like, “I don’t want to write pop music. I don’t want to do that at all.” Then this new record is just me falling in love with pop music all over again and consciously trying to write pop music. I hope that it will open people’s minds up to pop music or the idea that there is good pop music.

KAPLAN: How did you guys meet?

BRAND: I met Rick, and Rick and I were the first two members. We were both writing songs. We met through MySpace. This was in the MySpace days. Somehow we found each other on MySpace and we were both mutual fans of each other. We just started this cyber pen-pal relationship. For a couple of years we were just cyber friends. We finally met up, got together and started jamming music. We got some friends to play with us. The rest of the band members have just come over time. We’ve recycled a few different people, but we have a pretty solid lineup right now.

KAPLAN: Do you see yourself continuing in a pop-centric direction or venturing into new territory?

BRAND: That’s hard to say, really. I haven’t started writing anything for the next record yet. We don’t really want to repeat ourselves. It’s really hard to tell what kind of direction it’s going to be in. We’re always trying to fix things up and surprise people. I feel like we almost get off on surprising people or shocking people. Not to say this is super shocking or anything, but if you were a fan of the last record, this might be a shock or a change. I mean, I think we enjoyed doing that. Beck is a huge influence, because he doesn’t ever make the same record twice. He does something completely different. I really respect that. I enjoy fixing things up and not being stale. At the same time, I couldn’t really say what the next record will be like. I’m hoping it will be different than this.

MIA PHARAOH IS OUT NOW. MINIATURE TIGERS WILL BE PLAYING AT THE BOWERY BALLROOM ON SUNDAY NIGHT.