Interview Three Trapped Tigers: ‘We’ve Probably Stored Up A Year’s Worth Of Creativity’

DIY chats to the Constellations headliners to find out what’s happening next for the band.

A couple of us lucky DIY-ers made the journey up to Leeds this past weekend to visit Constellations Festival. As the day began to draw to a close, we managed to grab Tom Rogerson and Matt Calvert, of the evening’s headliners Three Trapped Tigers, to have a bit of a chat about their day, how they fit into such a great line-up and what’s going to be happening next for the London instrumentalists.

How’re you feeling about Constellations Festival today?
Tom: Good! We’ve been here since 10.30am so it’s been quite a long day, but it’s nice to be in such a privileged spot. It’s a really nice line up and we’ve got some friends here, so it’s been a really good day.
Matt: the more we’ve toured this year, the more we keeping coming back to places like Leeds. The let time we were in Leeds, we played at the Nation of Shopkeepers, and it was a really amazing turn out. So it’s nice to have a bit of a rapport with these towns.
Tom: We’re up against Wild Beasts today though, who are a Leeds band, right? I suspect we’ll have quite a small turn out [laughs] Anyway, we’ll see!

Have you got much left to do during the rest of this year?
Tom: We’re actually right at the end of our whole year campaign, as it were. We’ve been in Europe for nearly two weeks recently. Then followed on from that with a five day run in the UK, which this is the penultimate day of; tomorrow we’re in York. That’s kind of it! I mean, we did a big UK stretch in May to coincide with our album coming out, so this is pretty much the wind down of this year.
It has been really busy! And these two months have been really busy; it’s just that we happen to be at the end of it right now. It does seem to have gone fast, which seems to be what happens when you’re busy, so that’s a good thing.
Matt: But also, I feel that we started working on this album - in terms of getting the material together - in August or September last year. I mean, Tom was working on it even earlier than that, then we started putting it together. So it has been a lengthy sort of stretch. And I think we’re all real wusses for touring as well. We’re all a bit old.
Tom: We meet people; I overheard the Wild Beast guys saying they’ve done three weeks in Europe and five weeks in the US. When we were on tour, we met a guy that we had played with earlier in the year and he’s in the middle of an eight week tour, just by himself and a car full of gear.
Matt: About as much gear as we have, but for just one guy.
Tom: It’s just insane what people do! Also, I think we’re all quite - err, I shouldn’t say this! - but we’re all quite easily bored, maybe? I think the material is like, ‘..Oh God!’ We’re trying to chop and change the set to keep ourselves interested, which sounds terrible. It’s not like we’re standing on stage thinking, ‘Oh God, get me out of here!’ It just feels like, basically, the music’s now over a year old and we haven’t written anything since then.

That’s the thing: to yourselves, you’ve played your songs however many times before, but to an audience member, it might be their first time hearing you.
Matt: That’s something to bear in mind, you can’t really slack too much.
Tom: No, and we don’t. I think we do alright but I’m just saying, I’ll certainly be keen to get back to London to think about other music. I’ve got a random - this is a real name drop but it’s quite amusing. I’ve got this Christmas gig with the guy from Ash and I’ve got to learn all these Christmas songs. Every cheesy Christmas song you can think of, we’re just doing all of those. So, that’s going to be a bit of a distraction!

Do you think playing festivals like Constellations is an important move?
Matt: I mean yeah, given the choice, it’d probably be better for a band like us - apart from in London where you can get a sizeable audience - I think it’s always better to play festivals or support gigs because it’s still trying to get as many people interested [as possible]. If you schlep around Europe on a headline tour, sometimes you won’t be playing to many people at all. So, certainly in that respect, festivals are always a good move.
Tom: And this one is particularly good. There’s some really big names on the main stage today.

Yet, there’s still a lot of open-mindedness about all of the different kinds of acts.
Tom: The programming seems really smart. The stage that we’re on has some interesting stuff as well. I think it’s really admirable, this is obviously quite a well-funded festival and they could’ve gone for quite a safe route, but there’s actually some really interesting stuff going on, so that’s nice.

How do you think being an instrumental band fits into a line-up like this?
Matt: Maybe it doesn’t!
Tom: We’re probably the choice for all the people that think that Wild Beasts are just ‘whatever’, wusses or whatever.
Matt: It did strike me earlier how, yeah, a lot of the bands are actually quite poppy; not necessarily ‘poppy’, but pretty conventional compared to us. I was kinda of thinking, ‘we’ll never have their slot!’ So, maybe we are a bit of a wild card.
Tom: I think it’s nice. It’s a small room which plays to our strength I think. We’re last on and because we’re the kind of, token instrumental band - ‘different’ band or whatever - it means that we can tear it up. Presumably we’ll have a few people moshing down at the front who have been here all day and are completely wasted, who don’t wanna go see Wild Beasts. Incidentally, I’m actually quite a big fan of theirs. They’re a really good band, but obviously, we’re just one of the alternative options.

In a more general sense, how do you think being an instrumental band effects your live show?
Matt: Normally when I look up at the audience from our stage, most eyes are pretty much just glued on our drummer [laughs] It’s almost… It’s really exciting. I remember when I first heard our drummer Adam, I was really giddy. As a musician, I was just like ‘Wow. Yes! That’s amazing!’ I can kind of see that excitement on people’s faces: normally it’s just jaws on the floor a little bit. He’s really technical, but it is just really frightening as well. [laughs] He just looks so, sort of scary! You would never know that he’s having the time of his life.
Tom: He’s a great visual performer. He’s amazing.
Matt But you do see his face and think, ‘Christ, you look dangerous!’ Then he’ll come off and be like, ‘Yeah, that was great. I really enjoyed ,myself!’
Tom: I do totally agree though. For instrumental band in general, it is tough because people expect to have a focal… a focal vocal, but obviously, our music’s written very much from a live perspective with that in mind. e hope that there’s enough contrast… A lot of instrumental band, or instrumental band live , it falls into familiar patterns and can actually get quite boring. Without the vocal element, there’s not enough to distinguish between the songs. Now, I’m sure people will say the same of us, but we’ve tried to factor that in so that each song has a different sound, or world, or concept that it’s exploring and at least, has enough variety in it. There’s a lot of obvious drama and stuff within it, but also there’s these long stretches of music without gaps. Again, we’ve tried to make it so that it’s got a real arc to it basically: the set, of forty five minutes.
Matt: I was talking to someone earlier about how a lot of instrumental music is written from a total bedroom, nerd perspective and it just sounds great to put on and zone out to, but it doesn’t really translate well to be played live. Other than for the sake of being played live. There’s some music that I’ve gone to see live and thought, ‘That wasn’t actually better, it was just louder than listening to it at home.’ But then, there’s some stuff that I think really warrants being played loud and live. I don’t know, with us, there’s a sort of spectacle and it’s one case where it hopefully warrants being played live. It’s really been conceived like that.

Finally, what’s next for Three Trapped Tigers?
Tom: We are going to try and write an album, but Matt wants to do some solo stuff as well because he’s got his own project. I’ve got a few ideas myself that I’d like to think about as well, but I’m personally really keen to get on with the second album for this band. That always requires a few months of me pissing around at home and seeing what I can come up with before exposing it to the glare of the other two [laughs]. What I mean is, it’ll be nice to not be travelling around so much. `The gigs are great, but it does mean that you’re just sat in the van all day and you can’t be at all creative really. I think all of us are going to go away, and we’ve probably stored up a year’s worth of creativity which we should now hopefully try and release over the next few months, I hope. I speak for Matt as well there I guess.
Matt: Yeah, yeah. I’ve booked in a few recordings and things like that to do in the meantime. It’s time to renew ourselves a little bit. Just because, yeah, you play the same thing all the time and it will inevitably get a little bit stale. I’m up for all those processes again.
Tom: You’ve got to think ahead. As we said, an album routinely - even with bands of our small size - still takes a year because of all of the press and things. Then, you tour it, so you’ve got to think a year ahead. There’s no way it’ll be out before this time next year, even if we’ve really gotten on with it.

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