Name: Mo and The Tiger
Started: December 2011
Genre: Acoustic Folk
Line Up: Tanya Strowger (Guitars and Vocals) and Matt Baxendale (Guitars and Vocals)
Similar To: Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, Civil Wars, Joni Mitchell, Laura Marling
What They Say: An album to break up and make up to.
What We Say: A little bit of gorgeous and a whole lot of beautiful.
◀ Q & A ▶
▶ Tell us about your stage name?
One of our first gigs together was in Lurgan and as neither of us drive we were bus-bound. To wile away the 57minute journey we purchased a couple of pre-gig Kinder eggs (something that would become a Mo and The Tiger tradition.) After enjoying the chocolately goodness we unwrapped our gifts with one of us receiving a little tiger and one a dinosaur sitting in an egg…who we named Mo. The rest, as they say, is history.
▶ When did you start playing music and how long did it take to find your own sound?
We both began playing music at an early age, working our way through various bands and musical shennanigans. We met whilst busking on the streets of Belfast and starting playing in a larger band together. After a while we realised that we were both pulling in the same musical direction and wanted to work together on a smaller level. It has never been a case of struggling to find our sound as we found writing and playing together comfortable and enjoyable from the word go. Having said that, the people we have worked with, have definitely helped shape the sound on the album; producers, musicians, friends, have all had an impact. We like working collaboratively with others, whilst always maintaining the close-knit partnership that started this project.
▶ What releases have you put out so far?
After meeting we both worked on Tanya’s album with the band ‘Tanya and The Whiskey Princes’. Although lots of different musicians worked on this project for the most part it was myself and Tanya, along with our producer, who crafted the sound of the album. It was a long three months in the studio and we learnt that we enjoyed working together but wanted to explore a more organic sound and take a simpler approach.
There wasn’t really a decision to sit down and write a new album together, rather, we started collecting songs and working on ideas until one day we found ourselves with a body of work that we really wanted to take into the studio. Fortuitously we were offered the opportunity to record in Cornwall and felt like it would be the perfect way to immerse ourselves in the recording process. We were lucky enough to work with an amazing producer, Dare Mason, who understood our vision for the album, probably even more than we did! He became an expert translator of our non-sensical studio babble, somehow interpreting our, ‘just like that, but, a bit more… mysterious?’ The result being an album that we are really proud of and enjoy listing to. We can’t wait to find out what people think of it.
▶ Is there a particular live show that stands out amongst all the rest?
We have a lot fun playing these songs, one night that does stand out is a gig at ‘The Studio Bar’, in Penzance. We were in the middle of the recording process and after focusing intently on the songs in a studio environment, it was great to get out and remind ourselves how they were meant to be heard. We love playing in Belfast but it is always interesting to play in different cities, to different crowds and see how the songs are received.
In general, gigs tend to go well for us when we’re are relaxed and enjoying ourselves. We love interacting with the audience throughout, and people have mentioned to us that our stage rapport is a highlight of our gigs. Aside from that, a gig usually goes well if Matt manages to keep his guitar in tune for more than one song at a time, and (like most musicians) we get giddy over the prospect of a monitor!
▶ Can you talk about a Highlight of the journey so far?
A highlight for us was the final session of the recording process. We were seriously tight for time, with our flight leaving the next day, but had some bits and pieces to finish up. It was probably the first time that we got to hear all the tracks, one after the other, through the big studio speakers. Whenever you go into the studio you know at the end of the process you’ll have an album, but you really don’t know whether it’ll be the album that you envisioned. We knew we had something, but it was good to hear that we had something great.
As for a lowlight, we have the usual band niggles, but luckily we are great friends and this has always helped us to come through any issues. The lag between finishing the album and waiting for it to be released has been difficult. You start to wonder whether it’s actually going to come together, as the time increases it seems less and less likely! But now we are here it’s really exciting and hopefully it’ll be worth the wait. As long as Matt doesn’t go too far with his on-stage candour, a gig in Dublin involving a recently closed HMV being the latest incident, and Tan manages to keep her balance, teetering in those ridiculous shoes, then I think Mo and The Tiger will be around for a while yet.
▶ You are in control of forming a 4 piece ‘super group’ – who is in it and what do they do?
Easy; We get Dylan, Paul Simon, Van Morrison and Glen Hansard. Everybody sings, and we’ll figure the rest out as we go.
▶ If you and 3 bands of your choosing were to do a world tour, who would the other 3 bands be?
Civil Wars, Damien Rice (in the ‘Lisa-Hannigan-Period’) and because they would completely play us off the stage we’d need someone who we’re better than… One Direction?
▶ What will be the 3 strangest things on your rider when you’re able to make any demand?
1. A selection of yarns and needle-widths, for a bit of spontaneous yarn-bombing, or a quick-fix scarf.
2. Busts – of any description, by which we mean statuettes of the upper portion of anything really – we’ve managed to find some zebra and dog busts in the past, the more unusual the better now. We generally try to out-bust each other when on the road.
3. Chris Tarrant, so we can play a real-life version of ‘The Colour of Money’ as and when we feel like it (which is a lot).
(4. A knitted bust of Chris Tarrant would be astounding)
▶ Who has been your biggest inspiration as a musician?
Tanya: Counting Crows, the various styles that they write in and how a band of six or seven musicians have stayed together and evolved over the years. Their live shows always blow me away and make me want to practice… a lot!
Matt: Bob Dylan, I love his music and his songs but I also love his attitude towards his career. He changes and works as he chooses, makes the music he wants to and has managed to do so continuously for so long.
▶ What does ‘success’ mean to you?
In the short term, for this project, it’s that people enjoy what we’ve done. As music fans, first and foremost, we have so many songs that are the soundtrack to our lives, if one of our songs could do that for someone, we’d see that as the most success you could ask for. In the longer term we’d love the opportunity to keep doing this, and continue to find it fulfilling.
◀ LISTEN ▶