Vancouver’s Pride Tiger is four guys linked by a record collection, a real record collection, as in vinyl, and a shared love of music from the seventies. On their self-titled debut for EMI Music Canada, produced, engineered and mixed by Matt Hyde (Slayer, Monster Magnet, Fu Manchu), they modernize the glorious 70’s rock style, resulting in 13 songs that are powerful, sweaty, hooky, suitably head-banging and one big party. No need to dress up or wash your hair. Songs like “Let Em Go,” Long Way Down,” “What It Is,” “Fill Me In” and “Forget Everything” are all that’s needed.
See, three of the band members — drummer/vocalist Matt Wood and guitarists Bob Froese and Sunny Dhak — used to be in the highly respected, still-going-strong metal act 3 Inches of Blood, and Mike Payette was in S.T.R.E.E.T.S, but something wasn’t ringing true for them. “I just felt like it wasn’t gonna be it for me,” says Wood. “I really loved 3 Inches of Blood and loved those guys, but it wasn’t fulfilling enough playing in a heavy metal band.”
Froese, Payette, and Dhak first met Wood when he played in Goatsblood and they all lived together in a “crazy old dirty punk house.” It was there that they marveled over each other’s record collections. “I don’t even listen to CDs,” says Wood. “As you can tell, there aren’t many people like us around. We started trading records. ‘Have you heard of this band?’ Then, we were like, ‘We have to start a band.’ We’d just sit around and drink and talk records.” They also wrote music, with Dhak emerging as the main songwriter. They were going to add a singer, but couldn’t find one, so Wood stepped in — or sat in. He didn’t plan on relinquishing the drums.
Doing double duty behind the kit, Wood had to learn where to place the vocal so that it didn’t get lost in the music or didn’t trip him up as he played. “I just call it cheating. You just have to map out where you’re going to sing ‘cause sometimes it’s impossible to sing over certain things. I think it made for something that’s original. No one else is writing the vocal lines and the melodies, so I started off doing what I could do well while I was playing. It’s really not that hard, just takes extra practice.”
Dhak says he didn’t adjust his writing style to accommodate a drummer who sings. “I don’t really think about that. He’s pretty competent at being able to do both things at the same time. I try and write around vocal melodies, so I’ll write a lead line that I think is like a vocal melody, and then I’ll write a rhythm behind it and I’ll leave the lead out, and usually the vocals end up sounding similar to that.”
In 2005, Pride Tiger started playing parties, particularly at Bloodstone Press, the screen printing company that they ran. Soon, they added local shows which drew line-ups outside. A year ago, as they disentangled themselves from their other bands, they cut a nine-song, self-produced CD (yes, CD, not vinyl LP) called Wood, Dhak, Froese, Payette, that included the gem “White Witch Woman Blues.” As word spread of Pride Tiger and industry interest was raised, they continued to write songs in their beloved seventies vein and also took a detour to NXNE in June to showcase. By the summer, the band signed with EMI Music Canada and did a day’s worth of phone calls with producers to source out the best fit for their major label debut.
“Right off the bat, Matt Hyde had good criticism,” recalls Wood. “He wanted me to sing more. A lot of stuff that’s written is Sunny’s. He’s an excellent guitar player and his parts are jam-packed and we needed to “dumb it down” a bit, make stuff that I could sing over. So Matt said, ‘We’ve got to get you singing and we’ve got to simplify some things.’” Beginning in mid-October, Pride Tiger spent two months with Hyde in Los Angeles at Sunset Lodge studio. There were seven songs — including “56 Days,” “Fill Me In,” and “Long Way Down” — the band hadn’t finished and had to hammer into shape there. Hyde was instrumental at helping trim and arrange the songs.
“I felt really good about that because it’s basically just constructive criticism,” says Dhak. “He pushes you to do the best you can do, so I like that. He knows a lot about music theory, so that really helped out. I’m an ear player, but he’s trained and he’s a guitar player as well. He owns all these old vintage guitars, like 50’s and 60’s Gibson’s and brought a semi-truck full of gear.” Wood says he started pushing himself lyrically. “The seven new songs are stuff that’s gone on with me over the past year. I had a good inspirational period.”
While “White Witch Woman Blues” might be a fun song, Wood has moved away from that now. “A Long Way Down” is a piece about a friend of the bands "that took a wrong turn” and “56 Days” is about wanting to get home after being on the road for a long time.
“The craziest stuff we have is probably a few of Sunny’s acoustic pieces, like the instrumental song ‘Wizard’s Council’ which is another jam of his,” says Wood. “Long Way Down” also ventures into an acoustic atmospheric instrumental three-quarters of the way through.
Now that the album is finished, Pride Tiger is loading into a van, touring across Canada and into the U.S. They’ve lived in a “crazy old dirty punk house” together, then in an L.A. suite for two months, so 18 months in a van shouldn’t be a problem.
Matt Wood – Lead Vocals/Drums
Bob Froese – Guitar/Vocals
Sunny Dhak – Guitar
Mike Payette – Bass/Vocals