This past Saturday, Vancouver band Fond of Tigers blew the roof off The Ship during The Wreckhouse Jazz Festival. Fond of Tigers are not your typical jazz band. Their sound is a blend of free jazz with wild experimentalism and avant-garde alt-rock. I recently had the chance to ask Fond of Tiger’s vocalist/guitarist Stephen Lyons a few questions about the group and their music.
How did Fond of Tigers come to be?
As with most things about us, the details are confusing, but essentially Fond of Tigers started as a solo project for me after a previous band broke up. I couldn’t find anyone to play with for a really long time, so I would do shows that ranged from singer/songwriter stuff to multiple-walkman sound collage. One show featured an amplified bag of rocks. Several ended in near-nervous breakdowns. Then there was a period where I collaborated with around 20 people — not all at once — before finding the members of the band as it is now, and as it has been for years.
Although you’re here for the Wreckhouse Jazz festival your sound is definitely not what most people would classify as traditional jazz. How would you describe your music and how did you develop this sound as a group?
I think we’ll go with Avant-Rock. It’s a fairly malleable and non-constricting term, bordering benignly on meaninglessness. Most of the band met each other through a weekly improv series that ran until 2003. I was really intrigued by the textures and possibilities of free improv, but wanted to harness them for structured music. That’s remained a pretty integral part of what we do.
Is composing generally done by a member or the group or do songs evolve out of jam sessions?
Traditionally, I write the material, though it undergoes quite a transformation once it’s brought to the group.
I think the more recent material has had the most input from everyone, both when it comes to their own parts, and in regards to other players’ parts. There’s a lot of attention paid to how each of us contributes to the music as a whole.
Who would you cite as influences both within the jazz realm and beyond?
One thing we’ve never really done as a group is talk about influences, since that sort of thing can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sort of a ‘you are what you nerd-out about’. Maybe that’s why we’re not too easy for people to categorize. We’re not trying to execute an existing genre, or make a particular hybrid. We just come from all angles and arrive at… whatever it is that we are.
I do know that Jesse [Zubot, the group's violinist] really admires Anthony Braxton, and I’m quite certain that it’s not for his taste in cardigan sweaters.
Check out Fond of Tigers amazing, original music for yourself at the group’s Bandcamp link below.