Photo: John Jannetty
Don’t lump TAB the Band together with the scores of retro rock bands who are satisfied with regurgitating riffs off of classic rock records. Formed in late 2006, these hardworking indie rockers have blended classic rock, punk, and alternative influences into an energetic sound of their own over the course of two EPs and three full-length albums. TAB the Band are currently working on their as of now untitled fourth studio album.
Vocalist/bassist Adrian Perry and guitarist Tony Perry were nice enough to have a phone chat with Rock Edition about writing and recording the new album, opening for Stone Temple Pilots and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and having their songs featured in TV shows and video games.
What are you guys up to these days?
Adrian Perry: Well, we just finished tracking our new record with Mark Neill, who produced The Black Keys’ ‘Brothers’ album. We were out in San Diego for a week putting down the tracks, and now he’s going to spend some time mixing. And we just played the Mountain Jam festival last weekend. So that’s the recent stuff.
Tony Perry: [laughs] Most current.
So are you completely done putting down all the tracks on the album?
Tony: Yeah, we did five songs in the fall, and then we did eight more this last time. So we have the full album now, which is pretty awesome. A whole lot of work.
That’s cool. Can you tell us a bit about how it sounds?
Adrian: Yeah. The thing about Mark is that we really clicked with him. He’s helped us sound the way we’ve always wanted to sound, and I think that folks that hear the record are going to hear that. It sounds like an old record in that it sounds really rich and full and like a band playing in a room. There’s lots of reverb. It’s both rich and raw at the same time, like records you’d hear in the sixties. I think that folks that hear it will hear a lot of similar influences that they might have heard in the past, like The Kinks, The Beatles, The Stones, a little Zeppelin thrown in there. Everything’s just clarified.
Tony: We had the same vision, and he just took it to the next level. Like Adrian said, we’ve been looking for that kind of sound. That’s his specialty. We just worked really well together. Our visions were the same, which is an important thing when trying to find a producer to work with. He was the first producer we’ve ever worked with. We’ve always just done everything ourselves, either with me recording or getting someone else to sit in and engineer. We finally got someone who saw our vision, and his was the same. It wasn’t a lot of arguing about anything; it was a really smooth, awesome, easy process, which was great.
Cool. Adrian, you mentioned all of those classic rock bands earlier. You guys have described yourselves as a band that really loves classic rock but doesn’t necessarily play classic rock. How would you say all of those influences come together in your music?
Tony: With a lot of other modern retro rock sounding bands, a lot of them, to me, sound like one thing. They’ll sound like AC/DC, or they’ll sound like this. I think with our band, we all listen to different styles of music, and we bring it all in together. I just don’t think when you listen to one of our songs, you’re like, “Oh, that sounds just like The Beatles.” You’re like, “Oh, that sounds like T. Rex and Bowie and The Kinks.” We just take it all in together and make a big melting pot of awesome classic rock music. [laughs]
Awesome. Is there anything that inspired the new songs?
Adrian: I don’t know. As far as musically, it’s pretty nebulous as far as what led to us writing a particular song. I definitely think that all the touring we did and the fact that this is our fourth album just means that we’re more focused; we’re a little more seasoned and know what we’re going for. The songs, I think, reflect that. They’re just better, and there’s more clarity in what we’re doing. Lyrically, for me, it’s a song by song thing. There’s always going to be some quirky sarcasm, multi-layered shit going on for people that care about lyrics in songs.
Adrian: You certainly don’t have to appreciate the lyrics in our songs. I do because I write them. [laughs]
Adrian: But there certainly isn’t one unifying concept, at least I didn’t think there was. Mark seems to think that there is because he wants to suggest album titles, now that he’s heard all of the lyrics. It’s hard for me to say. I think on a song by song basis, though, you can hear the song and hear what it’s trying to do. Some of them are kind of funny; some of them are more serious. Getting back to the music part of it, I think the fact that we were going in with Mark focused us a little bit. Hearing what he did with The Black Keys and knowing what he could do, the production influenced some of the style of the songs we were doing. That’s pretty much it.
Could you share any of those album titles?
Adrian: I think we have to wait. [laughs]
Adrian: Because a lot of them are joke titles that aren’t actually real.
Tony: Okay, we don’t actually have anything serious yet. [laughs][laughs] Okay. You mentioned Mountain Jam earlier; how did that go?
Tony: It was pretty fun. We went in knowing that we’re a pretty loud rock band; we’re in your face. It’s tough because a lot of the bands at Mountain Jam are definitely more jammy. We’d be walking around, listening, and there literally wouldn’t be people singing. It would just be people jamming away, and we write two and a half minute, three minute rock/pop songs, which is the opposite of a five minute jam session. We went in with this like, “Oh man, I hope people don’t hate us instantly,” but we actually got some really good responses. A bunch of people came up to us afterward that were like, “You guys were awesome and blah blah blah blah.” We actually had one guy come up who was like, “I drove up here from Connecticut, and if I only saw you guys and had to go home, I would’ve been happy.” So we were quite surprised at the response. It’s fun playing those kinds of shows because it’s fun being the odd man out, I think.
Adrian: It was also really well organized, and everyone was really nice. It was just really fun to do.
Tony: Yeah. There was hardly any hassle. We got there kind of early and just hung out and drank and watched the bands. It was just super laid back, and it was a really fun experience.
That sounds pretty chill. You guys are also playing at Lollapalooza later this summer.
Adrian: Yeah, I’m sure that will be just as chill.
Are you stoked for that show?
Tony: I am wicked excited about it. I think it’s going to be really fun.
Adrian: Yeah, it’s going to be awesome. There are tons of people, the bill is great all three days, and it’s a great opportunity for us. Great exposure, and it looks like we’re going to make a real weekend out of it, playing some after parties and stuff.
Tony: Club shows and that kind of thing.
Adrian: Yeah, it’s going to be really fun. There’s just nothing not to like about it. I’m sure it will be kind of stressful because we’ve played really big festivals in England in the past, and especially since it’s in Chicago, I’m kind of expecting it to be logistically tough. At least everyone drives on the right side of the road here.
Adrian: That’ll make it a little easier.[laughs] Yeah, just a bit. Are you looking to check out any of the other bands there?
Tony: I think we’re trying to make it as busy as we can, so we can maximize our time out there. Like Adrian said, we’re hopefully playing some after parties and some club shows, but any time that we have left, extra, I’m definitely going to be walking around, trying to check out as many bands as I can because there are a lot of good ones on the bill.
Adrian: Yeah, there are tons of good bands.
For sure. In the past, you’ve opened for some pretty big names including Slash, Stone Temple Pilots, and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Do any of those shows stand out in particular?
Tony: For me, I loved playing with Black Rebel because they play medium-sized club shows and stuff like that, just the crowd and the intimacy that you get with everyone. The kind of people that are going out to a show like that are real, die-hard music fans because they go to the club show and stuff, so we really get a good connection with the audience and the people. We really capture a lot of fans and people that like our band that way. When we played with STP, we would sell just as many CDs playing for that many people just because they’re not there to see us; they’re there to see STP. People that go to see Black Rebel are open to music and want to hear new stuff. There are different scenarios involved in both, but I love playing small clubs with Black Rebel because the energy’s really good.
Adrian: I think that’s because when you play a show with Black Rebel, they have a big college and high school following. I think high school and college kids go to a show because they are interested in hearing from the opener. We got good reactions on the STP tour–
Tony: Oh yeah, definitely.
Adrian: But it was mostly like, “Oh, and I caught you guys,” and “Oh, I didn’t expect — usually the opening band sucks, but you guys are awesome.” It’s more that perspective.
Tony: I feel like with Black Rebel, they’re looking. It’s cool to know the newest band that no one knows. The smaller bands we play with, we get that kind of vibe from. They’re like, “You guys are awesome and I want to know about you before anyone else does.” Like what Adrian said, it’s kind of the opposite with STP. We still got really good reactions and people were clapping, but they weren’t going and looking for us. They just happened to stumble upon us.
In addition to the tours, your music has been in a lot of places, including TV shows like Jersey Shore and Entourage and the video game MLB2K11. What’s it like having your songs featured like that?
Adrian: It’s good. You need to do that now. If you’re an up-and-coming band, which we’re trying to be, you can’t limit your options, and you’ve got to try and get yourself out there any way you can. We’ve been really lucky to get songs placed on a variety of different shows. All those shows and games have different audiences. It’s kind of nice to think that we actually write music that can fit for all those different things, and that gives us confidence that we do have some appeal, that we could maybe make a living with this if we keep on going. It’s been gratifying to get those placements and get out there because we need it.
Tony: I think that the big thing with placements now, compared to what it used to be, is that old MTV doesn’t exist. There aren’t music videos and all this “you go on this channel and you watch for new bands” kind of thing. You literally watch TV, and there’s this little thing that pops up and says, “Oh, this is TAB the Band, and this is the song they’re playing.” Jersey Shore almost is the new music video for our generation, our band’s generation. So it’s really cool to see it because I love turning on the TV, and it’s like, “Holy crap, this is our song!”
Is it ever kind of weird to be in that situation?
Tony: There was actually one time that was pretty funny. Our “Old Folks Home” song was on — what was the name of that show?
Adrian: “Sunset Daze.”
Tony: Yeah, which is a reality show about old people and what they do. I didn’t really know that it was going to be on until Adrian texted me saying, “Hey, we have a song on TV in about ten minutes.” I was like, “What?” I was hanging out with all of my friends in my house. I just turned the channel on, and our song was on TV. That was definitely a pretty sweet moment. I was like, “I didn’t even know this was happening!” [laughs][laughs] Awesome. Let’s talk about your gear a little bit. Do you guys have any new guitars or pedals that you’re really digging?
Adrian: I’ll start. I’ll go quick because I’m the bass player.
Adrian: I’ve been rolling with my old Rickenbacker bass with flatwound strings for the last few months. I started on that when I was younger. I switched to Fender for a while, but I switched back, especially when we started recording with Mark. Mark has an old Rickenbacker and he’s a huge Beatles fan — McCartney used one — so I dug mine out and started using it again. It sounds great, and I’ve been fixing it up. My amp situation has been the same. I basically use a Hiwatt 100W guitar head. I bridge the channels and it gets a really big old gnarly sound, kind of like John Entwistle. That’s what I’ve been doing for forever.
Adrian: No pedals, other than a tuning pedal. Tony’s got lots of good stuff.
Tony: [laughs] We play in a bunch of different tunings, so I play three guitars right now in different tunings. I have a Gibson ES-137 tuned to open G, and I replaced the low string with a Fender six-string bass string. The low note’s the same as a low G on a bass. You can hear it in some of the songs here and there. It’s a pretty gnarly sound.
That’s pretty interesting. I’ve never heard of anyone doing that before.
Tony: Yeah, it’s pretty sick because normally on an open G tuning the low string’s a D, so you’re always muting it. So I replaced it and put a fat G string on there. We have a bunch of songs in open G, and that’s that main axe. [laughs] And then, my standard tuned guitar is a Gibson Les Paul Special Double Cutaway, with — all the guitars I play have P-90s in them, too, no humbuckers or anything like that. The other one’s a Les Paul. Actually, that one has humbuckers in it. It’s a normal Les Paul that I use for open D for one of the songs.
My current amp scenario is that I have a Fender Twin cab with no actual amp in it; it just has two 10s, I think. I use a Marshall JCM800 head. I was doing the Marshall with a 4×12 for a while, and it sucked carrying it around, so that blows. [laughs]. So I switched to a Fender Vibro-King. I love that amp a lot, but it wasn’t quite getting the dynamics that the Marshall can get, so I switched to the Marshall head. That’s been a pretty solid setup, since then. As far as pedals, on my pedal board, I have a Whammy — a D1 original Whammy — and an Electro Harmonix POG. I haven’t been using either one live, actually, since our set has been changing to newer songs. And I like to use a distortion and a fuzz and an echo pedal. I think the distortion and the fuzz are both Fulltone, and the echo is some boutique echo pedal that’s pretty sick. It has a slam button that’s the same as turning the feedback all the way up, so you can hit the slam button and it’s like, [makes wooshing sound] that big noise, and when you let go it goes way. It’s pretty sweet [laughs].
That sounds crazy.
Tony: Yeah. Other than that, I keep it pretty simple in the pedal setup. I don’t like going too crazy. I’m actually probably going to size it down to just have fuzz and distortion. The distortion pedal is actually just a boost. I don’t actually use the distortion; I just hit the head a little harder to get some natural distortion out of it. I keep it pretty simple.
That sounds like a really nice rig. Another thing that’s really impressive about you guys is you’ve released a lot of records, considering you only formed in 2006. How do you write and record new material so quickly?
Adrian: I think we’re just really hungry.
Adrian: We formed in December ’06, too, so it’s really January that’s the official date. We’re always writing; we never stop. We’re always playing shows; there’s no downtime. The more you work at it, you’re just going to keep coming up with new ideas. I feel like when we got together it just worked so well. It almost feels like we’re making up for lost time or something. We’re just pounding out all these songs and developing.
Tony: We’d just write 15, maybe 20 songs and put out an album. As soon as we wrote those fifteen or twenty, we cut it down to 12 or 15 and put a record out. It was very fluid. I do a lot of engineering, so we didn’t really hire anyone. When we’re practicing and we have an idea to record, I literally just start recording it, and then that’s the song. We don’t really do a lot of crazy demoing or anything. With the past couple albums, the demos have been the real songs. We record them as we’re writing them. You learn by recording and writing. It’s so easy to put out an album digitally now.
Adrian: Yeah, I think what Tony says is really right on the the money because he engineered pretty much all of our early recordings. A couple of times we got some help, just so he could focus on playing guitar, but it makes it easy to just go and record. The ethos of the band is we don’t want to overthink things, we don’t want to overproduce, so we try to keep it simple and raw. If we write a song, we get the arrangement, we get the instrumentation and lay it down. We don’t want to think too hard about it because I feel like the more you think about it, the more you try to force something, and it makes it worse. The interesting thing is even when we’re working with Mark now, working with the, you know, fancy producer, it’s been largely the same process. We just go in and cut it with very few overdubs and very little filter between getting the idea and going in and doing it.
Tony: Yeah, and we’re not sitting in there doing take after take after take after take. If we make it through and don’t mess up and we’re happy about it, we keep it. We’re not like, “Oh, crap, there’s that little tiny note that’s a half a second early.” We think that that’s what music is. If you listen to those old records, they mess up all over the place. [laughs] And they’re arguably the greatest records ever made. That’s the way they did it back then, and it worked. [laughs] So why move ahead? [laughs].
I definitely feel like some of those mistakes on those records became part of the songs themselves. They got internalized.
Tony: Definitely, yeah. All of the sudden you mess up, and you’re like, “Wow, actually, that’s cooler than what I wanted to do.” [laughs]
Adrian: Yeah, and you always hear that on old records. Before the days of Pro Tools, those mistakes, like you were saying, became a cool part of the song. All of our records are like that, even this newest one. There was a take where — the secret’s out — I actually fucked up at the end, but it ended up sounding cool, and everyone else was fine. You keep it, and it becomes a cool thing.
Tony: When we recorded with Mark in the past, we tracked everything live. Ben [Tileston] will be in there on drums, I’ll be playing guitar, Adrian will be playing bass, Louie [Jannetty] might be playing guitar, maybe, maybe not, and that’s it. The thing is, if everyone else plays perfect, one hundred percent, and I hit a weird note at the end, but it’s not a huge deal, it stays because the take is 98% there. I think that’s the cool way to do it: recording live. That’s the real band playing.
Yeah, definitely. Is the band planning on rolling out a new tour any time soon?
Adrian: I think that, right now, we’re doing Lollapalooza this summer, and we’re doing a few one-off shows, but I don’t think we’re really going to do any heavy touring until we get the record out just because we want to coordinate touring behind the new album. But we never stop playing. We’ll do runs here and there, but we’re probably not going to do a one-off show in Cleveland because it’s a really far drive. But you never know.
Tony: We’re constantly playing the Northeast. Next week, we play New York and then Providence. Last week we played in upstate New York. We’re always playing in the Northeast, and when we’re on our downtime, we’re still constantly playing.
Adrian: When we get our record out, that’s when we’ll really line up touring.
Tony: It’s a “see you in two months” kind of thing.
Do you have any idea of a tentative release date for the album?
Adrian: We’re hoping for the fall: October, November. It’s kind of out of our hands. That’s where the business part comes in.
Tony: The unfun part. [laughs]
Adrian: So we’re hoping to get it out in the fall, but we don’t know.
Tony: We’re definitely shooting for this year. [laughs]
Adrian: Yeah. [laughs]
Tony: If it would be up to us, it would be the fall, but who knows what will happen.
Pick up TAB the Band’s latest album Zoo Noises.
For the band’s upcoming tour dates, check out their official website.