Eight Bit Tiger is an electronic dance music band from Chicago, IL consisting of brothers Erik and Kent Widman.
Wait…the names Erik and Kent Widman sound familiar…were they in some other band…?
Yes, they also play in the indie rock band Love in October. EBT is their no-holds-bar electronic side project.
What does Eight Bit Tiger mean?
The name is a composite of two ideas. Tiger stems from the expression “A Swedish Tiger,” which was a phrase developed during WWII in Sweden that meant Swedes should not talk to foreigners in order to keep national secrets…well…secret. “Eight Bit” pays homage to the era the brothers grew up in, the glorious 1980s with all its 8-bit Nintendo glory.
Cool…so there must be some Swedish connection with the band then…
Yes, the brothers were born and raised in Solleftea, Sweden and have lived there the majority of their lives. Erik lives in Stockholm and Kent lives in Chicago.
So the music must be very Swedish influenced?
Yes and no. There are certain melodic Swedish pop elements that shine through at times, but a lot of the sound is influenced by 70s funk, and just general 80s pop music, all presented with a twist.
You have “Eight Bit” in your name, but not in your sound. That is confusing.
We like to mess with peoples’ heads.
How long have you played music together, and when was EBT formed?
Eight Bit Tiger was officially formed the spring of 2011. We’ve been playing music together for 15 years.
So who plays what?
Kent plays bass & synth. Erik sings, plays synth, and guitar. Both of us program.
And there’s no drummer?
We have a very talented drummer named Chris Pagnani when we perform live.
So what’s the goal with all of this? Are you going to make it big?
No, probably not. The only objective is to create music we like and to make people dance. There is no hidden message or secret agenda. You will not hear the devil if you play the songs backwards. No magic tricks…just dance music.
You don’t expect anything in return from this?
No, it’s just what we do.
Is your music political?
No, although we are both very opinionated when it comes to politics, justice, and equality. Let’s just say we don’t see eye to eye with the Republican/Tea Party.
Are you Socialists?
Depends on how you look at it. In the US, most people would consider us Socialists. In Sweden, we’re probably on the conservative/capitalistic side of things. It’s all relative.
Do you play many shows?
We just finished our debut record, so now we can devote more time to playing shows.
Are you role models?
No. Don’t do anything that we do.
What inspires you to make music?
Boredom with reality. What else are we going to do with our lives? As uncle Rico would say, “Might as well be doing something while you’re doing nothing…”
How did you get into making dance music starting as an indie rock band?
Our music has always had a dance edge to it. I think we became a little bored with playing indie rock. We’re not really interested in playing music that’s already been made. We’d rather go down our own path and try something new. Dance music is new to us, and we have an interesting twist on it coming from the indie rock world.
Is Love in October dead? Will there be any more LiO records?
Love in October is not dead, and I’m sure there will be more LiO records in the future. One only has so much time/energy, and we’re going to focus ours on EBT for the time being. We’ll do another LiO album when we feel like it.
What music/bands inspire you?
We listen to a lot of different music and can’t say directly that a certain set of bands directly influence us. We are more inspired by eras of music, like 70s funk and disco, and cheesy 80s synth pop, and obscure staccato guitar indie rock. We also like a lot of older stuff like Motown music, old country songs, anything that has a distinct and cool sound really.
Do you do collaborations with other artists?
Yes, several DJs in the US and EU have remixed our songs. We’re always looking for talented people to work with.
I checked the album liner notes and it says that you recorded, produced, and mixed all your own music. Is that true?
Yes, we are a music-making machine.
Why don’t you work with outside producers?
If you want to make something good, you’re going to have to do it yourself.
You sound like pompous jerks.
What do you like to do beside making music?
Normal things, like playing basketball, watching independent films and cartoons, riding bicycles, eating good food, making inventions, a little of this, a little of that.
Where did you get the name for your new album, Parallel Synchronized Randomness?
The name is from our favorite movie The Science of Sleep. PSR is a phenomenon that describes when two minds connect on a telekinetic level. It seemed like a good way to describe our music.
Where was the album recorded?
The album was recorded in a few places. The drums were tracked at Chemical Sound Studio in Toronto, ON. Some of the other instrumentation was tracked at our studio called Tesla Studio here in Chicago, which we recently shut down. We finished up the album in our apartment, which we basically turned into a studio. It made the most sense because we were doing a lot of overdubs with synths and vocals. The album was mixed at I.V. Lab Studio in Chicago and mastered at Sterling Sound in NYC.
Who worked on the album with you?
Jason Sadlowski and Dean Marino engineered the live drums. Erik engineered and produced the rest of the tracks. Manny Sanchez and Erik mixed the songs together. Steve Fallone mastered the album.
Describe the recording process for the album.
The record was made at the same time as the Love in October II album. We weren’t even planning on doing a side project, but we noticed that we had some dance material that didn’t really fit well with the LiO material. So we put those songs aside and realized that we had to make a separate album and give these songs a home. As we wrote more and more songs, we made a deliberate effort to write songs that were fun, funky, and just made you feel good when listening to them. Kent and I demoed a lot of songs individually and then showed them to each other. We’d then work on each other’s ideas and take it from there. When it came time to actually record the songs, it was a slow process because we’d often have to re-record many parts 3-4 times to get the sound “right.” We experimented a lot with wacky recording tricks and tried the craziest things we could think of. Sometimes it came out like shit, and other times it was magical. You don’t know unless you try. In the end, each song probably took about 160 hours to finish, and we have a ton of ideas that never made the album. I think only 1/3 of the song ideas made the cut.
What was your inspiration for the album?
We felt that there is so much music in the world that is sad and dragging, and we were just fed up with it. There aren’t a ton of songs that make you feel great when you hear them, so it was obvious to us that we had to write songs that did that. There’s also so much chaos and negativity in the world right now that we wanted to give people something they can believe in, something that’s a positive and fun.
It was also refreshing to start with a fresh slate and write new material and not have to live up to any expectations. It’s kind of like playing music when you are a teenager; you can just do it for the love of it. We’ve always loved pop and funk, and we thought that we had an interesting take on it coming from the indie rock world. The truth is that we have no idea what we’re doing, but that’s why it sounds the way it does and is its own thing. We don’t have to follow any rules. We make our own as we go.
How would you describe your individual writing styles, and how do you compliment each other?
Kent is more of a funky bass/rhythm kind of guy. Any song that has a distinct bass line at its core is something that Kent cooked up. Erik is more of a melody/pop musician and does more of the bells and whistles in the songs.
What was the most difficult part about making this record?
I think it’s hard to work by yourself and stay focused. It’s kind of a mind game you play with yourself…like brain ping-pong.
Do you like recording or performing live show better?
We like both and I think it goes in waves. We’ve been recording so much that it’s been really refreshing to get back to playing shows. It’s fun to see people dance and have a good time.
If you could play in any band through music history, what band would it be and why?
Erik: I’d be the funk guitar player in James Brown’s band.
Kent: Bass in Abba.
What’s your favorite instrument to play?
Erik: Synth…I like to make crazy sounds with it.
Will you tour in Europe?
Yes. Hopefully this fall or early spring.
Do you let DJs remix your songs?
Yes, if they can drop it like it’s hot.