First Person: Tijuana Panthers
Los Angeles surf-punk trio Tijuana Panthers performs set of frenetic beachy rock on Artbound Presents Studio A.
Discover more about Tijuana Panthers in their own words.
On the Band's Origins
Phil Shaheen: We knew each other, when we were I think in Junior High or High School. We didn't start the band until we were out of high school. We were in other bands, like me and [bassist] Dan [Michicoff] were in a band called the Fancy Lads in like 1999 to 2000 maybe a little bit later. And then, me and [guitarist] Chad [Wachtel] started playing. We started Tijuana Panthers once all three of us got together, like 2006.
Dan Michicoff: Yeah, we grew up together. Skateboarding, surfing, hanging loose, watching videos, watching [the movie] "Rad," playing some ping pong. Oh there was always a pool party going on. All the stereotypes you think about us they're probably true.
On Long Beach's warehouse shows and the garage rock scene
PS: It's an interesting town because it's between the OC and LA so it's just this weird port city that kinda pulls stuff from both places. And it's bubble I guess but cool music comes out of there.
DM: When we were in a band playing together we would kind of looked up to some bands that became our friends later. And the Shock, and Hot Rod Todd later became The Golddiggers. And Warren, who was in the Growlers who's in Grand Elegance. There's There's always been bands that play. We've played a lot of warehouse shows.
PS: There was a scene. It was very just everyone was playing together. Everyone was in each other's band and stuff.
DM: Yeah, but when we were doing our thing I think it as a little subculture that was doing what we were doing. It was early on in that and there wasn't many people doing it.
Chad Watchtel: But it wasn't like it was the main thing going on in Long Beach. You know. Long Beach has like everything going on. There's hip hop, reggae, and heavy metal.
PS: Our scene when we started out was like a small niche, this surf thing and there wasn't that many bands playing it. The last five years have been pretty popular.
On the "Long Beach sound."
DM: When I first joined the band, we were talking about going different directions. I kept saying "let's just do what we know." Chad's got that wicked Link Wray sound with his guitar he's doing really cool stuff and he's got a sensibility that throws back to the 80's and you can't really put your hand on it. Until we say "Why, what does that song, that song sounds like The Misfits. How did Chad come up with that?" And so, we just kind of maintained that as like our axis that we spin on. I think we've all grown up and started diving into things like Orange Juice and getting into bands like Talking Heads. Phil loves Ian Dury and the Block Heads and so do we. And we all kind of, when we come together mish-mash our thoughts and ambitions, and it just kind of happens but it all happens because we relate to the same core from a long time ago.
PS: Yeah, and it's definitely not intentional. We figure out what we want to do and then we come together and just do it. It's not "let's go after this sound. Let's go after that sound." It's whatever were listening to, it bleeds in to the music and it's never been like "we like that band, let's sound like that." It's been pretty easy.
CW: I had an older sister. I have an older sister, not had. She's alive, she's doing well. And she had an influence on me cause when I was a little kid I would hear like 80's alternative stuff, a lot of that. You know, U2, Echo and the Bunnyman, and Smiths, and Cure and stuff. At the same my time, I heard all the oldies. [My parents] were always listening to oldies. My dad introduced me to surf, so it was that combination of things, and then we all kind of got into like the punk stuff like after that and you guys introduced me to some bands like Dead Milkmen.
On their album, "Wayne Interest"
DM: This recent album as produced by Richard Smith. We recorded it all on 4-track and we went up for a day and a half and we recorded 10 songs. We weren't intending to do the lo-fi thing for the sake of lo-fi. It's just he captured the exact sound of the drums, the guitar, it was a throwback to what we grew up with and what we really like. And it made sense and it was less trying to go for lo-fi sound but more that the sound. We're a three piece so we don't overdo it. And that's what he said. I tried to add some other stuff and he was like "Don't. You can't do that live. So just go for it." We added some stuff later in post production but for the most part, this most recent one was captured our sound how we would like to hear it the most.
On the album's name.
DM: With "Wayne Interest," it was something Phil came up with because he knew these German kids who used it as a colloquialism like as a slang. Like "this is something [John] Wayne's into, who cares about this American Wayne.
PS: It means just "who cares?" Like it didn't fit the culture.
DM: It kind of fits our album, I think because there's a lot we just threw out on in there and we were like "who cares." This is great.
PS:We're in our thirties and this is our third record. We've been together for a long time and it's like if you like this great, and if you don't...
DM: Wayne Interest
CW: Sometimes I think Phil made it up and it's not even real
DM: Me too
On the meanings of their songs.
DM: I think I have an angst or something going on in me.. Grass is greener. I'm kind of getting over it in my older age, but it came out in the songs because I get frustrated, there's just a lot of people trying to pursue some false dream. Where do you get your money? Were all going to die. Stop getting into these dumb fights.
PS: Everything's from an experience even the Cherry Street song was from because there was all these cops in this in this tiny parking lot off Cherry Avenue. It's Cherry Avenue not Cherry Street, in Long Beach and I was driving home from a show, and I live all the way up North now so I was an hour drive and I was thinking about that situation in that parking lot. And there's a lot of shooting and stuff in Long Beach all the time.
DM: There's a lot of people in L.A. and California. Everyone's trying to escape not being cool, but they are cool by not being cool. It's just this vicious cycle of everyone really trying to hard but then not trying to hard by trying to hard. It makes no sense.
We're all trying to figure it out but the point that hit me hard about the song was a... a bunch of people playing around and fooling around. And I don't know, they don't talk about their jobs, where they are getting their money. I don't see any ambition in any of these people, they're just to be angry at the world and drink a lot. And, I am wondering how they can afford that free time.
PS: Yeah, I feel that a lot. Because we have day jobs and then we do this. It's mainly about just people that they stay out all night and then they wake up and do that. I don't know what they're doing, what their job is. That is all it is. They're like" hey come hang out all night," and I'm like "no I have to wake up all early."
On their day jobs:
PS: I don't like advertise that I am in a band at my school. I think that my principal knows and other teachers know that I am in a band. But that's just it, it's once we step up the levels, like when you play Coachella, like kids start to see. "I see the picture on the website. That's my teacher!" So it like trickles in that way. But for like years, and years, and years, no one knew at my school. Yeah, like I've been working there for nine years and no one knew.
PS: It's kind of link adult touring. Few weeks here, few weeks there. Summertime for me.