As they recently headed to the first night of their current 10-date SS West Coast tour, SoundDiego spoke with Long Beach DIY rockers Tijuana Panthers from a friend’s house outside of Portland, Ore.
Bassist/singer Dan Michicoff, drummer/singer Phil Shaheen and guitarist Chad Wachtel were in great spirits, even mustering an enthusiastic “woo-hoo” when the topic of their first night on tour got brought up. The “clatter pop” three-piece released their second full-length Semi-Sweet on Innovative Leisure Records at the end of May, with Delta Spirit’s Matt Vasquez handling half of the engineering duties. With Yoodoo Park’s GRMLN in tow, the trio is taking over the Soda Bar on Tuesday night and already has another album of new music on the way.
Scott McDonald: Feel good to finally get Semi-Sweet released?
Dan Michicoff: Absolutely. We’d been sitting on it for awhile. Not intentionally, of course; we just didn’t have the means to get it out. It’s good that Innovative Leisure came along. The album’s been done for some time, and we’ve already started working on the third one. It’s a celebration right now.
SM: How are things with Innovative Leisure?
Chad Wachtel: Really good. We’re already a simple band and don’t expect much. And they’re trying to put the music in the right places and are letting us continue to do what we do. They’re pretty great. It’s perfect for us.
SM: Semi-Sweet just flies by. Was it intentional to keep things so tight?
DM: We like, and are surrounded by, bands with long songs. We love Thee Oh Sees and those guys will go on, just ripping it, for awhile. But that just doesn’t come naturally for us. When a song starts feeling really good, we finish it. It’s like that Tom Petty quote, "Don’t bore us, get to the chorus." That’s how we write, and we’re really happy with the short and sweet.
CW: We just love to get to the point.
SM: Is it me or do things seem to be really picking up for you?
Phil Shaheen: We’ve been doing this thing for about 10 years now. And it’s weird: We’ve always done the same thing, but it’s just in the last few years that people are paying attention to it. It’s crazy. We haven’t done anything different. We’re not big time or anything, but at least we get to tour and have fun with it. You just never know.
SM: What’s coming up? Do you have any plans beyond this tour for Semi-Sweet?
DM: We’re a workingman’s band. We don’t have the ability to do things like go into a studio and work things out. We just go in when we can and get it done. And that’s after we get home from work. We work all day, and then go into a studio and get as much done as we can with friends on a budget. And since the record took as long as it did, we already have 13 songs that we did with (artist/producer) Richard Swift pretty much ready to go. But we want to let Semi-Sweet breathe a little bit. We’ll probably try and work out things with the new one over the holidays. That’s a dead time for music, unless you’re Mariah Carey or Michael Buble or something -- which we hope to be someday.
SM: Do you guys have any good Tijuana stories?
DM: The band name actually comes from Phil’s neighbor when he was growing up. His neighbor gave him this ceramic panther that came with a story of shady characters and knife fights, so it was perfect. In a weird way, though, our name also kind of represents us as people and where we grew up. I guess it just happens that way some times.