Spotlight Artist of the Week – The Tiles

Band Members: Willis Garrett, Brad Lepik, Craig Ricci

According to Alternative Press, if you like THE PIXIES, SUPERCHUNK or THE WEDDING PRESENT, you’ll love the Tiles, while Rock Sound, out of London, boasts “NIRVANA and THE PIXIES influence every nuance of this fuzzy punk album… [the songs] bob along merrily, infused with enthusiastic melodies amid the roughly-hewn guitars.” Maximum Rock ‘N Roll drew comparisons to THE PIXIES, PAVEMENT, and ATOM AND HIS PACKAGE, hailing the Tiles as one of the best of 2005 and raving “A great blend of indie and post punky pop.” The critically acclaimed Exit Magazine out of London went so far as to name the Tiles’ debut, PLEASE, one of the best since 2000, beating out INTERPOL, BRIGHT EYES, and THE SHINS

Composing stripped down, rhythm driven songs layered with inventive, melodic pop hooks and evocative lyrics, the Tiles meld pop and punk to create the self described pseudo-pop sound that has established them not only as one of the best indie bands of today, but quite possibly of all time. At least thats what Craig Ricci, singer/guitarist of the Tiles, will tell you. But the Tiles are far more than masters of their own make-believe genre; the Tiles are an ambivalent post-modern love story put to music. Comprised of Craig Ricci, Willis Garrett, and Brad Lepik, the Tiles formed sometime during the middle of 2003 in Mobile, Alabama. Decidedly unaccomplished musicians, the three focused on writing edgy minimalist pop songs reminiscent of bands like the Jesus and Mary Chain, the Pixies, and Superchunk.. However, combined with the almost reluctant delivery of Riccis distinctive voice, the Tiles quickly realized a sound all their own, a sound they termed pseudo-pop. Ricci explains: pseudo-pop is anti-pop meets pure pop; non-mainstream pop music – in other words, pop music without the popularity. The Tiles first release, a five song, self-recorded E.P. entitled PROOF, however, proved to be anything but unpopular. On its face, PROOF might have been nothing more than a stylized and charismatic collection of five loosely connected songs. However, if the Tiles were a book, PROOF would have been its inspired introduction. The essential sound was all there Riccis reticent, strained whine of a voice and sparse but catchy guitaring, Garretts compelling, nearly addictive bass lines, and Lepiks persistent and driving rhythm but with only five songs, PROOF was merely a sampling of what was to come. Recorded over the summer of 2004 by the legendary Steve Albini (the Pixies, SURFER ROSA; Nirvana, IN UTERO), the Tiles first studio album, PLEASE, would fulfill PROOFs promise of what was to come. Boasting 13 songs, the album opens with the instant standout Release Me, a cryptic collection of pop cultural references and vague observations delivered, through the production of Steve Albini, with a supercharged edge not present on PROOF. Parking Lots follows, a strangely outdated and yet, at once, timeless hit remindful of Blondies one time single, Dreaming. As if recognizing this, Ricci unashamedly concedes in the opening verse, I stole another chord I heard Im sure. Still other highlights include A Better Way, a deceptively energetic and upbeat ride through the subtle misery of emotional confrontation, and Elisabeth Smile, perhaps the most uplifting song ever written about the despair of deaths inevitability. It is, however, the fourth track, It Ends This Way, that positively soars. An uncertain mix of romantic optimism and cynicism, It Ends This Way displays the Tiles at their very best, transitioning with ease between moments of nervous disconnection to an ending of almost epic proportions; clearly, It Ends This Way is the Tiles first single. Interestingly, however, what may be the albums most telling line comes from the tenth track, Rock Radio, with Ricci admitting, Id rather fall apart than have to fall in line. Of course, only time will tell whetherthe tiles will fall apart or fans will fall in line. But if the initial response is any indication, the line is forming fast.

GCB:.What are your thoughts on the Mobile music scene?

Willis Garrett: Are we still really using that word? The Mobile music scene consists of a number of bands (some good, many more that are bad) and a handful of supportive fans. But I don’t see anything that cohesive about it. There are some stalwart backers of local music who strive against the apathy to get things shaking, but they’re like life support; whenever they decide to stop I’m not sure the “scene” will be able to breathe on its own.

GCB: What was the methodology behind the name The Tiles for your band??

WG: Tiles get laid. It’s that simple. Well, no it’s not. We actually chose the name arbitrarily because it was not already a band name. It elucidates nothing of our character and should merely be enjoyed by its lack of meaning. It is very Dada-esque in that sense.

GCB: Who are your musical influences?

WG: I would say that when we started playing we had an idea of what we wanted to do, but we were utterly amazed at our complete lack of a knack for writing and playing the kind of music we intended to create. At the same time, there was always a gravitational pull towards the sound that we are now known for, and it has since proved futile to attempt to even budge the boundaries. I would say that by this point Craig influences my writing and I his, so we are bound to perpetuate this sound indefinitely.

GCB: Any advice on how to unite local music scenes along the gulf coast?

WG: With such disparate elements, a lack of venues conducive to this goal, and such an overall Je ne m’inquiète pas, I hardly believe it is practicable. However, I do not believe this is a problem for the bands. Promoters, fans, and zine editors should take the reins. We are merely the entertainment.

GCB: What processes do you go through to write songs?

WG: Every one of our songs begins as strictly music. A mere chord progression or bassline is played for the group which is then generally augmented with any number of variations until we have something firmly within our milieu. The lyrics are the final touch and are rarely ever structured or workshopped until we record them. Many of our shows feature newer songs in which the lyrics are ad-libbed or reworked on stage.

GCB: What can you expect from a live show?

WG: An anarchic deconstruction of the genres of Pop and Rock ‘N Roll as you may have come to understand them. And a lot of sweat. Regardless of the crowd there is always a dance party on stage.

GCB: Is there anything special you do to prepare for a show?

WG: When you get to the point that we have arrived at, things are fairly routine. We maintain a rigorous workout schedule to keep our bodies in peak performing condition. Besides running, lifting, and working the heavy bag, this also includes an increased alcohol intake during the week prior to any big show. A low tolerance can set a band up for failure.

GCB: How do you describe your music to people?

WG: We try not to. I feel much more comfortable letting someone else do that. When you wear the hat of musician and the hat of a critic you tend to fall to either the extreme of self-promotion or the extreme of self-deprecation. Plus you’ll have too many damn hats on and you look silly. In order to deal with this common issue we coined the term “pseudo-pop” to describe our sound. It is defined as the point of conjunction between pure-pop and anti-pop. Think of the shared section of a musical Vin diagram.?

GCB: What makes your music “good?”

WG: We are the local masters of great pop songwriting. That may sound hyperbolic, but as far as I can tell no one else is consciously utilizing about 50 years worth of really excellent, standard, pop/rock ‘n roll songwriting techniques in unique new ways. I like to think we achieve this end. Also these three handsome gentlemen are some of the smartest dressers about town and put an energetic show without any pretense or posturing.

GCB:. Who writes your songs, and what are they about?

WG: The band as a unit writes the music, but the lyrics to most of the material, and all of the newest material, are written by Craig. He is by far the most efficient and prolific lyricist and utilizing one voice has finally allowed us to maintain a great deal of unity within our catalog. The Tiles are very bureaucratic in our division of labor and this is but one example. In a post-modern world I’m still wondering what, if anything, our songs are about. Sometimes a fan will let me in on the secret.