Last Friday, Thrillcall attended “Battle of the Bands,” an event at San Francisco State University featuring local, up-and-coming artists, with judges from around the Bay Area music scene such as Meredith Aleandri from High Road Touring, and a rep from Live 105. All of the six featured bands would mingle and hang-out in the dark crowd before and after their sets, giving an earthly feel of “togetherness.” Each band played approximately three songs, with styles ranging from the facepainted- mellow- 60’s den feel of “Talk of Shamans”…. to a Jazz-Modelo-Swindling Trilby-wearing trio called “Black Cobra Vipers.”
But the stand-out band present was Rin Tin Tiger, an alternative folk band from San Francisco, CA. Formerly known as Westwood & Willow, Rin Tin Tiger is comprised of brothers Kevin (songwriting, vocals, guitar) and Sean E. (bass, vocals) Sullivan, with Andrew Skewes-Cox on drums and additional vocals. “The music carries an emphasis on lyrics, organic musicianship, and raw energy, showing traces of Bob Dylan, Nick Drake, Tupac and Morrissey while retaining a sound that is contemporary in an electronic-drenched world. Their full length album, released under the name Westwood & Willow in July 2010 was recorded entirely on their own and only mastered and duplicated by other hands. All songs, lyrics, artwork, and layout were done by Sean and Kevin, showing testament to the spirit of the modern independent artist” (RinTinTiger).
In February 2011, Rin Tin Tiger was part of San Francisco’ famous Noise Pop festival, opening for Max Bemis of Say Anything. They are currently re-recording select songs from the Westwood & Willow discography with drums to be released in April. Rin Tin Tiger (RTT) sat down to answer a few of our questions about art, lyrics, and inspiration…
Thrillcall: You’ve recently changed your name from Westwood & Willow to Rin Tin Tiger, what was the inspiration for the change, and what exactly is a Rin Tin Tiger?
Rin Tin Tiger: We changed our named from W&W because a) people had a really hard time remembering it and b) Kevin had been writing music under that name since he was 15 and really didn’t feel connected to it anymore. A Rin Tin Tiger is a mythical beast that cannot be spoken of or used and all who are informed will spontaneously combust within 72 hours.
Thrillcall: You also added a new band member who plays drums. How did you guys meet, and how have the changes in sound impacted your performances?
RTT: Our drummer is a great songwriter by the name of Mr. Andrew. We came into contact with him through playing shows and through our mutual friends in Please Do Not Fight. We liked his songwriting and found out he did drums in some other local bands (The Yellow Dress, Adam Balbo), and asked him to do some percussion for a Christmas show we were doing and everything seemed to gel. We asked him to play Noise Pop with us and through the extensive practicing for that show we all fell in love with each other. The drums have impacted our performance by allowing us to rock harder and give people not wanting to focus exclusively on lyrics and melodies something to bob their head and and dance to.
Thrillcall: Noticed that you’ve been getting into some great venues lately, not to mention being a featured artist at Noisepop 2011! Do you feel more comfortable playing in cozy corners of universities or in well-known venues like Bottom of the Hill?
RTT: It’s a weird feeling actually – a lot of times it’s much easier to perform to big crowds than to small little corners of universities or cafes. When playing a small venue, or even a living room, it feels like there’s a lot more attention focused on you as an individual, whereas with a big crowd it’s a lot less personal. Both ways of performing are fun but the better venues with knockin sound systems definitely have a way of bringing out the best performance possible.
Thrillcall: What inspires the music you write, and lyrics as well? How would you explain that process to young musicians who are looking to express themselves in a similar way?
RTT: I’m inspired to write music by the world around me. Musically and lyrically I get ideas from all my favorite artists and then mash them together. I also do a lot of reading which inspires me to write a lot. Although the music and the lyric don’t form the perfect song every time. There’s probably anywhere between 3-8 silly/bad songs for every good full bodied song that gets put out. As far as people trying to write music there’s nothing to it but to do it. You gotta get some weird songs out before a good one comes around.
Thrillcall: What are the goals of Rin Tin Tiger for the rest of the year and long-term?
RTT: For this year putting out our debut EP in June, playing as much and as far as possible, and then start working on our full length at the beginning of next year, likely for a summer 2012 release. We have a bunch of new songs that we’re really excited about and can’t wait to get recorded. In the long term we would like to try and make music for a living and be able to support ourselves doing what we love to do. In the next 2 or 3 years it would be amazing to participate in shows like Coachella where the entire scope of musical community is brought together for one big celebration of the art!
(Watch) “Weapon” by Rin Tin Tiger:
You can follow Rin Tin Tiger’s Tumblr where they post original videos and thoughts for their fans.