From rook to king

// Seattle-based Mighty Tiger combine folk, chamber and indie rock in their solitary sound

Seattle's Mighty Tiger has been playing together for more than a year now, and though there's much to be said about the plethora of rock bands coming out of the area, these young musicians are trying to establish themselves and their sound among the ranks.

The group is composed of Andy Vaughn, songwriter, guitarist, singer and keyboardist; Boyd Reno, bass and vocals; Zack Leeker, lead guitar and vocals; Mike Lockwood, drummer; and the band is currently in the process of finding a new keyboardist.

The band played their first show together at the Healthy Times Fun Club near the University District in Seattle back in November of 2008, but despite being only a year old, the band members had been playing music for years before, waiting for a serious venture to come their way.

Though they play rock, Mighty Tiger has problems with just being defined in that way and has settled on the genre of indie pop for now. Many reviewers refer to their music as "chamber pop," due to the vast usage of instruments; yet, the band gives obvious allegiance to innovative rock production. Each of the band's members seems to be influenced by many decades of music, which seems to cement their uniquely distinctive sound, affirmed Vaughn.

"My major influences as a songwriter tend to be '60s psychedelic pop like the Beach Boys, Harry Nilsson, Van Dyke Parks, CSNY, etc. I also take inspiration from (relatively) younger artists like the Flaming Lips, Panda Bear, Dirty Projectors, etc."

Leeker added to Vaughn's statement.

"Pretty much what Andy said, though my own personal influences are not as heavy on the '60s psychedelic pop. Bands like Sonic Youth, Built to Spill, Destroyer, Modest Mouse, etc. were/are more influential to me than bands like the Beatles or the Beach Boys. However, I have no idea what influences people might hear."

When asked why they felt that their band should be checked out among all the other established and up-and-coming bands out of Seattle right now, the band contemplated the question.

"Frankly I feel like one of the major sort of 'make or break' issues with a band is the quality of the songwriting. There's a ton of really, really talented musicians out there who just aren't making all that interesting music," Vaughn said.  

He noted that one of the things his band has going for them is their drive to take relatively traditional "pop" song structures and chord progressions and then arrange them in unconventional ways, sort of amalgamating experimental and pop music.

"In that sense, I'm personally indebted to Brian Wilson's idea of modular songwriting which made me feel like it was not only okay but desirable to take various different musical ideas and merge them together into a single song," Vaughn stated.

Recording can prove difficult, if not trying, for a band to complete an album for the first time ever. Songs and lyrics and music may not be what they seem when recorded, and members may have disagreements on what sounds best for the band. Mighty Tiger, though, performed the feat in under a month.

"The recording process was very, very intense for us due to a deadline we, to some degree, self-imposed," Vaughn affirmed. "We had a very generous offer by Matt Bayles at Red Room Studios to mix our album, but he only had two open days about a month from when he made the offer; otherwise, we were going to have to wait at least another four months."

He explained that the band really felt like they needed to get a quality recording together, so they committed to doing all the tracking in just under a month.

"We did the actual recording in a makeshift home studio with our friend Andrew Eckes (now playing with Benjamin Bear), who did an amazing job. We worked our asses off but even then ended up pulling an all-nighter and about 35 hours of straight work to have everything completed in time to take it in and mix with Matt. We're pretty happy with the final product."

The album, entitled "Western Theater," is due out in March of 2010. The band's work has been compared to indie music king Sufjan Stevens for the usage of layered vocals, melodies and complex orchestration that leads to a positively epic tracklisting. The comparison is well deserved, with saccharine-infused harmonies that will stick in listeners' heads for days after hearing them, such as the dreamy, summertime reminiscent "33 1/3" and the 60s psychedelic-laden folk of "Rook to King."

"I think (the album) conveys that we have a fairly broad range of musical styles that we are comfortable working with, but at the same time we do have consistent aesthetic 'themes' than are apparent in all the songs on the record," Vaughn said.

"The only big revelation for me, personally, that came out of the recording process was that working under such stringent time restraints does necessitate sort of 'letting go' a bit more than I would have liked."

For the band's sophomore album, Vaughn said they would probably take a lot more time working on the arrangements and really using the studio as another instrument in the sense that Brian Eno talks about.

"I'm no producer or recording engineer, but in a lot of ways I find the freedom and creative possibilities of working on music in a studio to be more appealing to me personally than live shows. Not that both aren't great, but they're just different bags entirely," Vaughn stated.

While there is no lack of immensely talented young musicians climbing toward recognition and playback in Seattle, Mighty Tiger proves their worth with their precise and complex music crafting, intriguing usage of vocals that stretch and bend to their songs and an overall lighthearted whimsy that permeates every track they pen and play.

Mighty Tiger will play a CD release show for "Western Theater" at the Triple Door with Grand Hallway in March, 2010 and then will tour South by Southwest. The band is also in the process of plotting out a European release and tour summer of 2010. For more information about the band, their upcoming shows or to hear some of the songs off their album, check out their Myspace at, their Facebook page at or find them on Twitter at


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