Interview: Ride The Tigerby Elizabeth Alli
Don’t let the cheeky retro style flyer and naughty name fool you, Ride The Tiger is a group of immensely talented musicians, who know how to show their audience a good time. The soul/funk cover band, recently formed by charismatic front-man Julian Taylor (formerly of Staggered Crossing), Bassist, Ryan Gavel and Drummer, Jesse Labovitz, have clearly cut their teeth as live musicians and have a really good time doing it.
Nestled in the candlelit basement lounge of My Place Pub in Toronto, their soulful and funky sound send spikes of electricity through the air as JT belts out soul classics by everyone from Marvin Gaye to Stevie Nicks. The unnervingly beautiful lines of guest guitarist Tom Juhas, leave one’s mouth agape and one’s mind in limbo somewhere between awe and bliss, while Ryan’s smooth and punchy bass lines weave effortlessly in and out of Jesse’s tight and funky grooves.
To see them live is to stumble onto something exciting, yet familiar, as if reuniting with old friends at the best party ever.
The band also features a rotating roster of auxiliary players and special guests including bongo/tambourine/egg shaker player Justin Dillon.
Almost 4 hours after the band kicked off the night the crowd was still on their feet moving and shaking and shouting out requests. RaeMag got a chance to catch up with the band before load-out to ask a few questions about life as gigging musicians, their solo projects and what’s next.
How long have you been playing the guitar?
Since I was 10 and I’m 31 now, so about 20 years.
What was the hardest part of learning the guitar?
The F-chord, once I learned that everything else was easy.
What is Ride the Tiger all about.
It’s a cover band that I started with my friends, this is only our second show, but it’s been a lot of fun and we hope to continue playing together.
What other projects do you have going on?
Well I was in Staggered Crossing and toured all over Europe and Japan. I recently released my solo album called Black Tape Levy.
What’s your favorite place to play live?
Chicago, it’s got an amazing vibe.
Do you have any superstitions or pre-performance rituals?
I used to do a shot of JD, but I don’t do that anymore. I say a prayer everyday.
What do you hope that people take away from your music every night?
People have enough stuff going on in their lives I just hope that they enjoy themselves and feel the love.
What do you do to warm up before a gig?
Hand exercises sometimes, but generally I just use the first set as my warm-up.
When did you start playing the drums?
I’ve been playing since I was ten. I started taking private lessons when I was 11.
How did you become a part of Ride the Tiger?
I’ve been playing with Ryan for 10 years, we started this together and it’s one of our first shows.
Who are some of your influences?
Buddy Rich, Guns and Roses.
How do you keep your skills sharp?
I’ve got 3 drum sets in my bedroom, so it’s like bed, drums, tv drums, they’re always there. Sometimes I go for a period of time and practice a lot and then not for a while.
What kind of kit do you use?
Gretsch. I’ve been endorsed by them for about 5 years.
What was the first thing you ever played?
Guns and Roses. I got their cd with my kit when I was 10.
How did you learn to play.
I’m self taught. I didn’t go to Humber or anything like some of these guys. I listened to a lot of recordings and just practiced along to time, cause with bass you know, it’s all about the time.
Do you have a favorite bass player?
I was inspired by James Jameson. I studied his style and his recordings for years.
What other projects are you involved in right now?
I’m currently playing with Mookie Morris, we recently toured the US and Japan. It’s been amazing.
What were some of the best venues you’ve played?
Japan – Tokyo Dome, The Horse Shoe-Toronto, Rivoli-Toronto, House of Blues – New Orleans.
Do you have any advice for aspiring bassists?
Yeah, practice to a metronome. Haha.
How do you make a living doing what you do?
I majored in music at Humber University and I made a lot of connections there. I taught guitar for a long time and then I started booking enough gigs to stop teaching and now I freelance and play almost every night.
How do you usually prepare for a gig like this? Is there a lot of rehearsing involved?
Well with freelancing, a lot of the sets are similar, sometimes I have little to no rehearsal time.
Have you ever played with these guys before?
No, actually. I’ve played with Ryan before, but this is my first time playing with everyone.
You guys sound really tight. How long did you rehearse for?
We didn’t have much time so we basically just went through the changes and that was it.
Ride the Tiger is a hidden gem in the local Toronto music scene. If you’re in the area and up for a good time, we highly recommend that you grab a beer and seat and enjoy the ride. Ride the Tiger’s set list included some soul and funk classics like:
- Boogie Oogie Oogie – A Taste Of Honey
- Dreams – Stevie Nicks
- I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Marvin Gaye
- Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag – James Brown
- Superstitious – Stevie Wonder
- My Girl – Smokey Robinson
- What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
Among many others. For a list of their upcoming shows check them out on Facebook