It’s March 2020. A grave-faced Boris Johnson announces the first national lockdown. Meanwhile, in Brighton’s Electric Studios, the members of Tigercub wonder what they have to do to catch a break.
“We’d just got a drum sound when Bo-Jo made his announcement,” recalls frontman Jamie Hall. “It felt like the band was crumbling, right on the brink of collapse. This album was sink or swim.”
It’s eight years since Tigercub broke cover as the best band on the English riviera, with the BBC declaring early release Centrefold “the start of something”.
So it proved. The three-piece ascended with 2016’s Abstract Figures In The Dark, tore up their sound with the following year’s Nine Inch Nails-influenced Evolve Or Die EP, and return this month with second album As Blue As Indigo, its earthquake grooves and operatic vocals nod to Hall’s lofty influences.
“In my head we’re Meshuggah-heavy, but with R&B-inspired top lines and faux-baroque Chopin chord progressions,” he says. “A heavy rock band, but you could hear it on Radio 1.”
But recording As Blue As Indigo, Hall counters, felt more like the end of something. Waving goodbye to friends and families, the band formed a bubble in the studio (“The sessions did have a zombie apocalypse feel. I kept expecting a hand to pound on the window like in 28 Days Later”).
Into this pressure cooker environment, the frontman released the most emotionally intense songs he’d ever written. “With earlier records, I’d almost borrow an alt.rock persona from Kurt Cobain or whatever, like it was a costume,” he says. “But I realised that’s bullshit. With these songs I started to risk some stuff, open myself up. I’ve lost such a shocking amount of friends to suicide. I’ve had family members pass away.
"Pouring my heart out into a song is so cathartic for me to purge those poisonous feelings. That’s why we make music: to express the inexpressible."
Yet he admits that the sessions took their toll.
“Our producer, Adrian [Bushby], had personal things he was dealing with, which led to some volatility. Me and him clashed. Then things came to a head between the band. We broke up and got back together. During the mixing, I started getting hives and retinal migraines. My vision would crack and I wouldn’t be able to see straight.
"I was just bearing the emotional weight of what we were trying to do. Because it was such an important record. I was conscious we’d been away for four years. If we came back anything but strong, we were done for."
As Blue As Indigo is indeed strong. Looking back now, Hall says with an exhausted smile that he wouldn’t change things. “In the moment, I would have said no, this record wasn’t worth it. But we’ve captured something I feel so happy with. The fact that As Blue As Indigo is out at all is a miracle.”