Interview with anthemic indie rock music soloist Beach Tiger

Image credit: Honey Trap

Indie rock soloist Beach Tiger a.k.a. Taylor McCleskey continues his mark with thought-provoking lyrics that are whisked with laidback, sunny, whimsical, atmospheric instrumentation. His latest single ‘Where Do We Go From Here?’, set for official release on the 16th of April via South America Records forms part of his anticipated album Yenta. ‘Where Do We Go From Here?’, though emotionally fuelled, provides cathartic relief with its anthemic soundscapes, making it the perfect sing-along tune for your morning commute. If Beach Tiger can make lyrically somber subject matter feel jovial with his welcoming energy, we feel that it is safe to say that this artist is more than deserving of featuring on any indie playlist & beyond.

We chatted with Beach Tiger recently and discovered that he is the methodical & charming personality we imagined him to be. 

Pre-save ‘Where Do We Go From Here?’

Looking back, what were some of your earliest entries into music appreciation? And music production?

Boston’s self-titled album from 1976 is my earliest memory of actually noticing and appreciating music. We’d take long drives to see my grandparents and my dad loved to pop in the cassette (that’s right, cassette) once we were about an hour out. I never heard guitars sound like that. Tom Scholz’s licks sounded like a voice screaming out a melody. I was enthralled. We’d start the tape from the beginning and I couldn’t wait until we reached the tune ‘Hitch a Ride’. There’s a solo in there where it sounds like the guitars are talking to one another. Man, I’ll never forget those riffs reverberating through my mind as I stared out the window on that southern highway.

My introduction to real music production was through Logic. Up until that point, I only wrote songs with an acoustic guitar and a pad of paper. It was through that platform that I was able to let my ideas fully flesh out with drums and funky/exploratory guitar effects. It honestly changed the game for me.

Does this release show a more vulnerable side to yourself?

I wouldn’t necessarily claim that it does. I mean, there are always nuggets of my actual life in each song. These days I do my best to override my mental filter and just let the thoughts and words spill out. From there, I arrange the pieces until it makes sense, or feels right. I enjoy telling stories through the characters that I create. I was inspired by Andy Shauf regarding that method.  

Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take when putting music together?

I’ve become really strategic and focused with my songwriting process over the past few years. For the longest time, I would wait for inspiration to strike, but now, I hunt it down (kind of like that famous Jack London quote advises us to do). I work inside of an exercise called a 90/30 – you have 90 minutes to come up with a song idea, and you repeat this for 30 days straight. By the end of the month, you have a whole bag of ideas and you simply choose your favorites to spend more time on. Typically, this is how I make my albums. The time limit forces you to trust your instincts and doing it day-after-day exercises your songwriting muscle, so by the end of it, you’re writing tunes that you never thought you could, or would.

What gets your creative juices flowing?

I have three things that I currently could not live without when it comes to music creation: XLN Audio’s Addictive Keys, Addictive Drums 2, and drum loops from a company called Circles. Being a drummer myself, I typically let the beat decide where I’m going, so I start out by flipping through hundreds of drum loops from either XLN’s Addictive Drums 2 or Circles. Once I have landed on one that tickles that creator’s bone, I loop it and pull up Addictive Keys. I mess around with random chord progressions until something makes me smile. At that point, I loop that and then start singing over it. I do my best to open my mind and just let whatever words want to come out, come out. Funny enough, most of those initial lyrics are the ones that make it in the finished product.

Also, beer, but then again, it’s a fine line. Too much beer and the evening is a wash where I wind up watching a music documentary or a random 90’s sitcom until I fall asleep.

As a musician, it becomes apparent that there is a huge difference between the art and the business. Is there anything about the music scene that you would personally change?

That’s a tricky question because the global music scene is an enigmatic beast that evolves every week it seems. It makes sense to say things that worked for musicians in the 90’s don’t work for us now, but the real truth is that things that worked a few months ago don’t work for us now. We are bombarded by new social platforms, what feels like every other week. And then forced to become masters of them; all the while creating top-tier music, so we stand out above the white noise. The digital age has made it easier and, at the same time, harder to get noticed. So, I feel like there’s never anything that we could change with the music scene; it’s more that we have to strap on a good attitude, take the parts we like, make music we ourselves love, and be patient in finding our audience. 

Studio work and music creation or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer?

That’s tough because I have a certain personality for each one; I need both to survive. At home, in my studio, I lock the door and keep everything private. On stage, I’m an animated explosion that wants everyone to be involved (even those in the back row). Forced to choose, I lean towards the studio. Songwriting and music creation is my biggest passion. I am my truest self when I’m alone in my studio creating something from the ground up. But what a happy bonus that every so often I get to share a connection between my work and a live audience.

What is the most memorable response you have had to your music?

The Mile of Music festival in Appleton, Wisconsin, USA (picture SXSW but on a smaller scale). That town loves indie music. They will make you feel like you are The Beatles. It’s a blast because it’s like you live in a time warp for a few days where your career launches a few years into the future and you get to see the fruit of your labor in a matter of a few shows. I remember not setting my hopes up too much. We’re from a state a few thousand miles away – why would they know us? We played 1-2 shows a day and with each set, the audience grew. We played our first show to a half-empty bar and ended our stay with a sold-out venue crowd where people were getting turned away at the door. It made the rest of our tour difficult because after leaving we went back to playing small, dive clubs where the audience consists of the employees and the other bands’ girlfriends.

What’s on your current playlist?

Our house has become quite eclectic with what’s on our Sono system these days. It touches everything from The Beatles, Yacht Rock, roots reggae to the modern Top 40. I lean towards things that came from the past but do my best to stay in touch with what’s happening currently. My wife and I just took a road trip and we logged a few hours listening to the modern-retro country artist Brent Cobb and a dope seven-piece band from Seattle called The Dip.

This single will feature on your forthcoming album release Yenta. Does the name of the upcoming album tie into the meaning of this latest single?

In a way – yes. Yenta refers to an exceptionally caring yet overbearing mother, of sorts. While the album is not officially a concept record, there is a theme running through it where the main character must decide if they will step into the adventurous unknown or back into their comfortable, protected bubble. The single sits in the third spot, so this is right when the character must decide which way to go. On the surface, it feels like a break-up song, which it can be, but it also has some deeper meanings brewing below.    

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you in the near future?

The full-length album, Yenta, is coming out Friday, May 21. It consists of eight songs and I’m super, super proud of it. It has a real nice cover-to-cover arc to it, with a good mix of upbeat and mellowed-out songs (plus a unique cover tune). A great companion for a road trip, I say. That, potentially a music video, and more 90’s sitcom binging.

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