An Interview with John Jagos of Brothertiger

Brothertiger (Photo: Facebook)
Brothertiger (Photo: Facebook)
Chillwave electronic musician, Brothertiger, will pounce into the Bottom of the Hill this Wednesday night. At the time of this writing, tickets can still be found here. John Jagos, the man behind Brothertiger graciously gave up some of his time recently to speak with us about his new self-titled album, his recent Fundamentals: The Anthology release, as well as creative process, songwriting, and the impact of Hurricane Ida. If you're new to Brothertiger, give him a spin and hope you can check out his show this week! Read on below for our full interview...

Paul Caparotta: Well, it's definitely been a prolific year for you. You mentioned before the new album consists of some of your most introspective songs; how do you think your audience is going to respond to this approach?

Brothertiger: I think people appreciate an honest song, or something that as you're writing you just absolutely want to write. I think a growing trend in music nowadays is a kind of writing that satisfies an algorithm or trend; for me, ever since I started making these songs in 2021, I was just trying to make stuff that I just thought sounded cool. I thought it sounded really unique to me and my sound. And that goes with the lyrics too.

So I think I think people appreciate the honesty. And I think, based on the feedback we've gotten from fans, it seems that people are kind of understanding that, which is cool.

Paul: That's awesome. Since the release today (11/4), we've only had a chance to dig lightly into the new album -- but we're loving what we're hearing so far. I've mentioned how prolific you've been this year, in addition to Brothertiger, you dropped the fourth edition of your Fundamental series? How do you see something like that as a foil to the new album?

Brothertiger: I use that side of the music as an output for when I want to make stuff that's just a bit more electronic -- more instrumental sounding stuff that DJs can spin. I've always had an interest to make stuff like that.

So the Fundamentals stuff kind of evolved into my way to be able to release music that's quite a contrast. Some people just really like the Fundamental stuff and some people just really like my original music -- it's really interesting. And I'm honestly happy with the way it is because I'm able to have distinction between the two sounds.

Paul: Beyond your own work, you've remixed the number of other artists this year. Your approach to Down Time's "Hurts Being Alive" is a really interesting take on the song. Just like any good remix, it's a reinterpretation that takes the track in a very different direction. How did that come together?

Brothertiger: I think they were working on that record with that band Tennis producing them. Someone in their camp knew that I did remixes. I might have done one for one of their friends or something.

They're from the Denver area and I have a I have a few friends there. They just hit me up asked if I wanted to do one [a remix] and I was more than happy to. I hadn't really done many remixes in the past few years, just because I've been so busy writing my own original stuff.

It came about really organically. They sent me the stems and it was really easy to come up with the idea. The goal I always do is to try to make a completely different song. As you were saying: A different interpretation. But for me, I take the vocals and make everything else you know. It's kind of a nice exercise

Paul: Very cool. Well, you're in the car right now which is funny because I love the idea of how the themes of motion and travel run through a number of your different songs. The video for "Arizona" visualizes what the song sounds like: A drive through a desert landscape. Is "Paradise Lost" inspired by time in California?

Brothertiger: Yeah, a little bit. That's a that's a good call.

During the last big tour I did we drove down the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to LA. We had a day off, and we just really wanted to do it -- we thought would be fun. I'm really inspired being over there. I've been in California before and it's a very unique area to me. Spending time there, I really got connected to it emotionally and, it just kind of started the process of writing those songs. The imagery that was at the forefront in my head. Thinking about my time there and then in Big Sur; I was really, really loving my experience there and how beautiful it is. So yeah, definitely inspired by California.

Brothertiger (Photo: Facebook)
Brothertiger (Photo: Facebook)

 Last year, your studio was flooded during Hurricane Ida. What was the response from your fans? Did that have an impact on your music?

Brothertiger: Well, I mean, the response was crazy. I didn't want to make a big thing out of it, but my my friend Jon Markson, he produces my stuff, he just set up a GoFundMe. He posted it, posted about it, and word got around.

So many people just donated to helping me get my equipment back and my studio back up and running. So the response was amazing. I mean, it's one of the craziest things ever happened in my life. I didn't expect people to be so giving and helpful at a time like that. I was blown away.

As far as how it changed the music, I mean yeah it inspired me, It inspired me to really get going on these singles that would lead up to this this album. I think in my head, I was like, "Well, I owe it to these people to make music maybe not as quickly as possible, but as well as I can." So I think it definitely pushed me -- that whole experience and what came out of it.

Paul: Going back to the new album, obviously you dropped some singles from the album including "Be True," "Torn Open" and others. So people have an idea of what to expect from the new sound. You had spoken about how lyrically and thematically this album is more honest. But what about from a dynamics standpoint? Is there anything in the music that has changed that your fans will be surprised about?

Brothertiger: Yeah, from the first single I put out, "Dancer on the Water," I just had a completely different approach to it. Around the pandemic, I really started getting into buying these rackmount synthesizers from the 90s and late 80s. I just grew to really love these kinds of sounds. Yeah, they're not even 80s sounding -- honestly they all sound like from the 90s which is really cool.

That really got me going. I was trying to make demos for it; I would send them to my collaborator, John, and he would be like, "Woah, this is new!"

Back in 2015, we brought a real drummer in, we recorded a lot of real instruments. And you know, that's true with with this one, we recorded a few instruments. But I'd say that about 90% of these digital sounds are these samplers from the 90s -- these weird, goofy sounds that we just stacked a bunch on top of each other. They added a lot of filler to the songs that made them really, really pop.

So the approach is just incredibly different in that I was getting I was getting a lot more surgical with how I was making these songs. I'm usually a bit more simple, but yeah, it definitely got more advanced.

Paul: Covers: From Level 42 to Talking Heads, you produce some pretty great covers. But it's your reinvention of Songs from the Big Chair that definitely feels inspired. First, what made you tackle such a seminal release? And will fans ever be able to get a copy? I only see it available for streaming on Spotify.

Brothertiger: Yeah. Well, for the first first question: I was approached many years ago by this label that really focused on just putting out cover compilations. I think it's called Reimagine Music.

They initially hit me up to see if I wanted to do a cover song, a Smiths song, because they're doing a Smiths anniversary compilation thing. And they had all these artists on board -- it was very cool. I was like, "Okay, yeah." so I did "This Charming Man." It was really fun.

The guy who set it all up hit me up again. And he was like, "I really liked this cover -- it's really nice. People who make covers we really like, we ask them, if there's an album, that they really love. Do they want to cover the entire thing?"

Only a few people had done it with them before. And I was like, "Well, I mean, yeah, a record I'd like to tackle would be Songs from the Big Chair." I mean, it sounded incredibly difficult; but I thought, "Well, maybe I can take a whack at it. And if it comes out and at the end of it I don't like it, I'll just say I'm not interested anymore."

But yeah, so I did, and it took about six or seven months. I sent it to them, and they loved it. At the end of it I was really happy. I wanted it to be original, but also, I wanted it to be half its own thing. But also, you know, paying homage to the original. I think I achieved that. That's why I was like, "Okay, we can put this out." So we put it out and it was awesome. The reception has been unbelievable, actually.

The album [Songs from the Big Chair] is so iconic, but there are parts of it where you can tell that they're trying to do some experimentation. I think when you brought to it is a lot of fluidity, for example a song like "I Believe" or "Listen," it just feels much easier, much more natural. It's a cool, it's a cool approach the way you've synthesized that.

Brothertiger Fall 2022 Tour Schedule

Paul: Coming to the Bay: What are you looking forward to? When you're in San Francisco, what are some of the places you come to? You know, what are some of your favorite venues?

Brothertiger: Well, whenever I go to San Fran, I always want Vietnamese food. I think some of the best Vietnamese food I've ever had has always been in San Francisco. I couldn't tell you a name of a place. Because every time I go, I always go somewhere new.

So but yeah, Bottom of the Hill. I don't think I've ever played there, and so I'm really excited to play there. Because I've always heard it's such a cool venue.

Paul: It's an amazing venue. They've got a really varied, you know, really varied roster of artists that come through there. I think you're gonna like it.

Brothertiger: Yeah! I'm excited to eat some Vietnamese food -- and the weather. I always love the weather there. I mean, it's a stark contrast to to New York. It's always refreshing to be out there. I do like, like visiting and definitely playing shows there. It's always fun.

Paul: Thanks for being so generous with your time. Looking forward to seeing you in the Bay shortly.

Brothertiger: Sounds good. Thanks!

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