For most millennials who grew up in the early days of social media, there comes a point of yearning for the simplicity of MySpace and AIM. A world where the biggest worry was who was on your top eight instead of your aunt or uncle being radicalized by memes. Where the founder of MySpace was automatically your friend versus a billionaire who has questionable interests.
But the greatest part of MySpace? The creativity. Users could make creative layouts, add pictures and make interesting biographies. It was a great spot for artists, and especially musicians.
One of the bands that took advantage of the early stages of social media was Tigers Jaw. They booked shows via MySpace, and the site was a great spot to share music. The Scranton-based rock band was, in part, formed because of AIM.
“I became friends with Adam Mcllwee (then-Tigers Jaw vocalist and now Wicca Phase Springs Eternal) on AIM,” says Tigers Jaw keyboardist/vocalist Brianna Collins on the phone from Pennsylvania. Eventually Mcllwee would message ShimmyShimmy86 (Collins’ screename at the time) and talk about how his keyboardist quit the band.
Collins, who took piano lessons as a child growing up in Northeastern Pennsylvania, saw an opportunity.
“I took piano lessons if he needed someone to fill in,” explains Collins. “I played one show and was asked to play in the band. It was really cool, and it was so easy in the early stages on the internet to be friends with people from different areas, and keep in touch with them without being on the phone.”
Even though the early stages of social media helped shape the band that Tigers Jaw would become, there were also some IRL things that helped the band as well. One of them was being in the musically rich city of Scranton.
Scranton is a city that is these days known for Joe Biden and The Office, but the Electric City has built up an impressive music scene over the years. Bands like the Menzingers and Tigers Jaw have come up through Scranton, and Title Fight came through nearby Kingston.
“Seventh grade was the first time I ever went to a show,” says Collins. “ A member of the Menzingers had an old band that was playing a show in a church basement in Scranton, and probably the only reason why mom let me go was because it was in a church.”
Collins grew up in the Northeast Pennsylvania exurbs and for her, trips to Scranton meant trips to “the city” and all the opportunity it represents.
“Scranton was the big city,” says Collins. “To have to do anything from where I lived you would have to drive, and for us it was a trip to go to Scranton to get whatever you need. When I started to go to shows in Scranton it felt so cool because my mom would drop me off or my friends would take me. I would get to walk around downtown because where I grew up there weren’t sidewalks. So it felt really cool as a young person to feel independent and feel like you’re doing your own thing.”
When Collins eventually went to college, she traveled south to Philadelphia, and she admits that she’s part of the “Scranton to Philadelphia” pipeline; but that pipeline is an impressive one, and one that makes stops along the way.
One of those areas that the Northeast Extension travels through is Bucks County, and it’s home to bands like Queen of Jeans, Balance & Composure, and the band that Tigers Jaw will soon tour with, Circa Survive.
The tour starts in Central Jersey on Jan. 7 at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville.
Fans in Sayreville will be able to hear songs from Tigers Jaw’s latest album I Won’t Care How You Remember Me. The album was recorded in 2019, and wasn’t released until the spring of 2021.
“We finished recording it in August of 2019 with hopes of releasing it in early or mid 2020,” says Collins. “With the pandemic in mind, we never released an album and then not toured. We tried to push it back and then we pushed it back and it was going to be March 2021, and we didn’t want to wait anymore.
For Tigers Jaw, this album marks the first album with touring members Colin Gorman (bass), and Teddy Roberts (drums) as permanent members alongside Collins and Benjamin Walsh (vocals + guitar). The album title draws inspiration from a line from the opening song with the same title that Walsh wrote. When the band heard the lyric they decided that it should be the title.
“Even if all the songs weren’t all written based on that idea, they kind of all relate to that idea,” explains Collins. “I Won’t Care About How You Remember Me is about holding yourself accountable because you can’t control how people will remember you or think of you. You just gotta stay true to yourself and live in the moment.”
One of the songs on the album that fits the ethos of I Won’t Care How You Remember Me is “Cat’s Cradle.”
“’Cat’s Cradle’ is a song that is about a friendship that no matter how much you want it to work, it just isn’t working. It’s about reflecting on the things that they might have done, but also your responsibility in that. It’s a song about letting go and being OK with that.”
Tigers Jaw has also learned throughout the years how to be resilient with changes as well. In 2013, founding member Adam McCllwee left to focus on his hip-hop project Wicca Phase Springs Eternal; also leaving the band were Pat Brier and Dennis Mishko.
“I joined this band when I was 15 and now I’m 30,” says Collins. “We still feel true that we do this band because we love it and not for any other reason. We feel lucky that this is our job.”
One difference that Collins does realize with the band is that before the 2013 shakeup, everyone was still in school.
“Before Adam and Dennis left the band, we were all still in school and could only tour once a year, and after they left to do other things, Ben and I finished school and we were like, ‘Wow, now we can tour full time’, and that is something that we never got to do.”
Even though Tigers Jaw is looking forward to going on tour this winter, there is also a big elephant named Omicron that is in the room.
“Ultimately we want to be as safe and responsible as possible,” says Collins. “I’m just trying to look forward to the tour, but also have a realistic view of whatever is necessary, and what is best for everybody is what we are trying to do.
One outlet that Collins uses to relieve anxiety about touring and life is photography. She has been a photographer since she was in high school, and she also holds a certificate to teach art in Pennsylvania schools.
“My favorite part about photography is how it captures a moment in time that can’t be replicated,” says Collins. “I always bring the film camera on tour and take a bunch of pictures.”
Tigers Jaw, along with Soul Glo and Circa Survive, will be playing at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville on Jan. 7, 2022. Ticket information can be found here.