The Selby Tigers
The best thing about going through the slush pile of independent music for a magazine like Ink 19 is that rare instance when you come across a new band that you’ve never heard of, and they completely blow you away. That’s what happened with me and the Selby Tigers. They’re not exactly a new band. The Selby Tigers have been around for about three years, and they’ve released two seven inches on their own label. They’ve also garnered all kinds of accolades in the St. Paul area. I just missed out on it. So when I first heard their first full-length, Charm City, it took me completely by surprise. It reminded me of all of my brother’s NFL Films-inspired diatribes about how the true sign of greatness is not being compared to anyone. No one ever said that Lawrence Taylor was the next Dick Butkus because everyone knew that Lawrence Taylor was someone unique and great in his own right. I’m no prognosticator, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the Selby Tigers aren’t the next X or Damned because the Selby Tigers are unique and great in their own right.
While South Florida counted and recounted presidential votes, the Selby Tigers’ tour was stranded in Cocoa Beach. I caught up with them there and had the opportunity to talk to Arzu (guitar, vocals), Dave (drums, vocals), and Nathan (guitar, vocals) about their music, the election hubbub, and movies with dwarves. Here’s what was said:
You have a reputation for being a pretty entertaining live band. What did I miss out on?
Arzu: We dress up to some degree. I usually have wigs on. Sammy — Dave Gardner, who isn’t here, we call him Sammy — he wears jumpsuits. It’s probably mostly him, in some ways, that people think is entertaining because he jumps all over the place. Since he’s been in the band, it’s been more entertaining.
Nathan: He’s more of a personality. It just started, I think, after we played a Halloween show and he was dressed up as Father Guido Sarducci and since then he’s kind of assumed this weird personality.
Arzu: He uses different kinds of accents. People think he’s either Mexican or Italian or something just because he looks kind of ethnic, but he’s not really.
Dave: On top of that, too, you all three move.
Arzu: Oh, yeah, I don’t want to just give him all the credit.
Nathan: Ever since I got my new amp — it came with a case — I can do my KISS fantasy: set it up against the drums and jump up and down off it. That’s made it a little more fun for me.
Anyone keep up that great Minnesota tradition of getting naked on stage?
Arzu and Dave, your old band, Lefty Lucy, had kind of a different reputation, right?
Arzu: Yeah, we had this guy who played maracas and a bunch of different things. He ended up playing some keyboards and guitars, but at first he was kind of like our little go-go boy. That’s what we called him. And he was just crazy, too. Sometimes that can work to where people don’t take you seriously, though. They think you’re just trying to be funny. Sometimes people thought we were on drugs and stuff, which, in his case, he was. But we weren’t.
Dave: It’s nothing like KISS, but when you stop doing that stuff, like KISS stopped wearing the make-up, people are like, “Why’d you quit? What’s wrong?” and we just weren’t into acting that silly, but we were trapped.
I’ve read reviews of your music that compares you to X, Bikini Kill, Dillinger Four, and Devo. That’s a pretty eclectic group. How do you describe your music?
Nathan: I think we’ve gotten the X thing a lot just because there are male and female members in the band, and if you’re kind of a punk rock band or whatever, you automatically get that comparison. Any band I’ve ever heard that [has] male and female singers like that get compared to X. I like X, but I don’t really think we sound like them.
Arzu: I like all the bands you’ve just mention, so that’s cool to be compared to them, but I don’t know.
Dave: I don’t get the D4 at all.
Arzu: Yeah, I’ve never heard the D4 comparison.
I guess it has something to do with the interchanging vocals.
Nathan: I can see that.
Arzu: We’ve gotten compared to the Halo Benders for that, too.
But how do you describe your music to someone who’s never heard it?
Nathan: Bands like Devo and bands before that, a lot of late ’70s punk rock bands, both American and British, had a big influence on us. Musically, when I write a song, I still draw on a lot of those bands subconsciously, I’m sure. So I wouldn’t be offended if we were compared to those kinds of bands.
What music video from the early ’80s stands out in your mind?
Arzu: “Love Is a Battlefield” was a very big one. I really loved that. “Whip It.” Devo, definitely. And all the Michael Jackson ones, of course. Duran Duran.
Dave: Yeah. “Wild Boys.”
Arzu: I have collections of all these videos we used to tape from Friday Night Videos and Night Flight and all that stuff. My sisters used to tape them all and I inherited them when we separated our video collection when they all moved out.
Dave: What was the U2 one with all the snow?
Arzu: “New Years Day.”
Dave: Yeah, that one.
Being from Minnesota, what do you think about third party politics?
Nathan: I think it’s ridiculous to have an election system that really only lends itself to two choices. There’s no way that the current construction of a two party system can get anything done. And we have these two parties that have been there for so long that it would be nice if a third party came along to challenge the status quo of the two party system. It’s weird, it seems like the two parties will fight against each other, but as soon as a third party starts to come along, which happened in Minnesota when Jesse Ventura won, the two parties very much united to destroy the third party.
Dave: It didn’t take them a week to get together and try to get rid of him.
Nathan: Yeah, they were kind of like, “Let’s get rid of Ventura and have a real election.” It was kind of discouraging, but he [Ventura] was elected.
Dave: And then what he did is, instead of only picking independent people to fill all the government positions, he just picked the best person for each job whether they were Democrat, Republican, or Independent. I don’t know. Things are pretty good there.
Arzu: He just gets so much press when he says stupid things, but then when he does something kind of cool, he doesn’t get any attention.
Nathan: When he first got into office, there was a lot of cackling about what to do with the surplus, which basically came straight from the taxpayers. Instead of doing anything with it, he gave it back to the people. The people had overpaid.
Arzu: Yeah, everyone got a check in the mail.
Nathan: That was, in some ways, very revolutionary. That was very cool.
Dave: Two years in a row, too.
Dave: But then he’ll turn around and do something stupid, like he’ll get a bad article about him in the St. Paul newspaper, so he’ll cancel his subscription to the newspaper.
Nathan: The thing that seems of interest about the whole third party thing, though — and this goes for Nader or Ventura — is that whether or not I agree with their personal politics or even platform politics, they seem to be men of integrity. They can say something, and whether or not I can agree with it, I can feel like they’re being honest. Listening to the debates between the Republican and Democratic candidates in this last election, I didn’t feel like there was a single thing that they were being honest about or a single thing that a speechwriter hadn’t written for them.
Right. Talking all to the polls.
Nathan: Totally. In this last election, I didn’t vote because I didn’t register for an absentee ballot in time, and we were out of town during the election, but I would have voted for Nader because I don’t think either of the major party candidates belonged in the White House.
Dave: Democrats and Republicans studied Minnesota a lot. Probably more than we realize. They probably didn’t have Nader in the debates because they watched Ventura eat those dudes alive. And Ventura didn’t really do anything, he just talked like you would if you were the candidate. And it worked. It made everyone vote for him. Nader, compared to Bush and Gore, would’ve made those two look like puppets.
Which they were.
Dave: Yeah. More or less.
Okay, let’s move away from politics for a while. What’s the scariest part of The Wizard of Oz?
Arzu: Probably the flying monkeys, at first. I remember being freaked out by those when I was little.
Nathan: Those weird, psuedo-European, blue-faced Imperial guards. I don’t know what they were styled after, some like Russian or Eastern European-style gothic. They freaked me out as a kid.
Dave: Trees, because the forest is creepy when you’re alone. And when the trees come to life, it’s scary.
What’s your favorite movie with dwarves in it?
Nathan: I’d have to go with Willie Wonka [and the Chocolate Factory], because I just saw it lately and it had a good message to it.
Dave: Time Bandits. That’s the one. Time Bandits is awesome.
(After a long pause with Arzu thinking really hard) Arzu? This is the most important question you’re going to be asked all tour?
Arzu: I don’t know. I didn’t really like Willow all that much. Does TV count?
Arzu: Dr. Shrinker and Twin Peaks.