On top of this, recently at Tigers Jaw show in Williamsburg, a fan jumped on stage and forcibly tried to kiss singer/keyboardist Brianna Collins. Luckily, she was able to notice him before he could actually kiss her, but it wasn't just the kiss itself that impacted Collins, it was that someone had the audacity to believe that was an appropriate action. But in true Tigers Jaw fashion, Collins pushed forward, and though still processing the incident, she had courage to get right back on stage the next night.
Punknews Interviewer Xan Mandell spoke with Walsh and Collins just two days after the incident, and only four days into the "comeback" tour. It was obvious they were excited to be back on the road, and it looked like they were starry eyed at the large positive response they've been getting. They went into detail about the kissing incident, while also touching on what it feels like to be playing again, the support of their fans and what the future holds for the band.
Do you mind if I bring up the kissing incident?
Collins: No, that's fine…
You wrote the post reflecting and responding to the incident, but what was your initial response when it was actually happening?
Collins: It was incredibly violating. He was so forceful. I feel lucky that I saw him coming at me, because if I didn't, he would've actually gotten to me. But, the fact that I had to physically push him with everything I had in me to get him off me… It was just really awful.
It was insanity to hear about, because our scene usually feels like such a community…
Collins: We love when people stage dive and are interacting with us and it gets to be this community thing where we're playing music and people are enjoying it and having fun. But, it's such a violating thing for someone to take advantage of that, and use it as a way to do something that is literally sexual harassment.
And for you Ben, you've known Brianna for so long and are really close with her… Was there an aggressive emotional response?
Ben Walsh: I was definitely furious. There is a line that gets crossed. I don't think I've ever gotten that angry, especially while playing. It was infuriating that someone would think that is something that is ok, or something that people would think it was cool that he did that. There's nothing cool about it. It's a total lack of respect. Bringing up the idea of consent, any other place that happens that's legitimate sexual harassment. It's ground for legal action. It's disgusting. We shouldn't have to worry about that. We're performing, it's very interactive, and that part is great, and it's great to see that people are into the music and that people support us, but there was a line that was crossed, and it's not ok.
Is there anything else you'd like to touch on regarding the incident?
Collins: One thing I want to say is, you know, I can't help myself from reading the comments and stuff, and especially Punknews, I know a lot of people like to comment. There was one person who said that I was making a statement and who was I to make that statement like some sort of "rock star." I found that incredibly offensive. I don't think I'm anybody. I don't think I'm a self-important person. I know that Tigers Jaw is a platform where I could say something and people will see it, but it's not like I made some statement for myself. It's for everybody. I wanted to bring attention to this, not just for me or people in bands, but for anybody. It's never ok to do that to anybody.
How did reading that comment feel?
Collins: It's hard to read. And even some people were like, "It's just a kiss on the cheek." But, they weren't fucking there. He was literally forcing himself on me. He grabbed my face. Just because it sounds so harmless to someone, doesn't mean it wasn't real for me to go through that. It was fucking scary.
Was it traumatizing to the extent where to playing on stage is a little nerve wracking?
Collins: Yeah, it sucks that we have to consider changing around how our stage line up is, because I'm afraid of it happening to me. There was another comment that said I'm threatening to take away stage diving. I'm not doing that at all. I'm trying to figure it out from my own comfort and continuing doing this. I'm not gonna say there is no stage diving, but if someone harasses me or does that to me again, that is the way they get up on stage... I don't know… Even talking about it was hard. I didn't know how to talk about it. In retrospect, I should've completely stopped the song and said something, but I had never gone through anything like that before. Hindsight's always 20/20, I could've, should've, would've done this, but I had to say something. It just sucks that people try to belittle that.
People can be awful on the Internet, because of the anonymity of it all.
Collins: I shouldn't read the comments, because I stand behind what I said, and I feel comfortable with what I said, but it's hard not to. It's really been a minority of people who've been saying things that have been upsetting me, and the support from the community from playing shows like this and people who like the band has been amazing. Even people at the show, where we played and all of that happened, it only took one person to ruin that for me, but there were so many people who were supportive that it was really comforting thing.
There was no video of the incident, what was the response from crowd after he did that? Did they beat him up?
Collins: He got thrown out. I don't want to condone violence, I don't think he should've been beaten up, but he needs to know that's not ok. He really violated my whole experience of being on stage, doing something I love, and it made me feel really unsafe and uncomfortable.
Being a woman in this scene, you're a huge minority.
Collins: That's definitely important and a factor, but it's not only women or female music. In fact, after the show a fan, who was a young girl, wanted to take a picture with one of the guys from Pity Sex, and she kissed him. Like how can you… That's still not ok. As harmless as that sounds, that still made him feel really uncomfortable. And with my incident, there are some pictures going around, and to fucking see it... It's so unsettling and hard. I don't really understand it. Hopefully someone who was considering doing this and didn't understand the severity of doing it will see this and realize, "Wow, maybe this isn't the right thing to do because it'll make someone feel incredibly uncomfortable, unsafe and violated."
Do you think, in a good way, that you've put the spotlight on something that hasn't really been talked about?
Collins: Hopefully. I'm glad that its gotten coverage I guess you could say. It wasn't my intent to post that and have that happened. I posted it for myself and our fans that follow us on Tumblr. It definitely has to be talked about because it's not ok.
It isn't, and I'm genuinely sorry you had to deal with something like that.
Collins: I really appreciate that.
So you and Ben just graduated correct?
Collins: Yeah, in January, Ben graduated last spring.
How's adult life treating you?
Collins: It's actually really awesome. I really love substituting, as well as the school I'm at.
I know touring has been kind of revolved around school for you guys, does your job allow you to tour more?
Collins: The good thing about subbing is that I work when I want to, but I did agree to do a long term sub until December. But, I know I'll have summers off.
And Ben, you're doing speech pathology right?
Walsh: I am.
Is that a full-time thing?
Walsh: I got hired through an agency, I got hired temporarily; they will seek out temporary jobs and spots to fill to for a couple months here and there. It works out because I'm working now to get my certification.
How much time will that give you to tour?
Collins: It's like we've been playing catch up. Ben graduated, and then I needed to graduate and finish my certification, now Ben is working towards his, but once he's done I feel like we want to try hard to tour in the fall and the spring and see what that's like.
Now that it's just you two, will Tigers Jaw be a revolving door thing with fill-in members?
Walsh: For now, yeah. It makes the most sense. If we're not sure what our schedule will be like, it isn't fair to have permanent members and be like, "Well you guys have to wait around for us to be ready." Even with writing, I don't know if bringing in someone else into the writing process would comprise our sound or change it up too much. I like where we are creatively right now, with Brianna and I being able to collaborate more. We want to explore that a lot more.
What has that done to the sound, just having you and Brianna writing?
Collins: We did "Carry You Over" for the Will Yip comp. It still feels like a Tigers Jaw song, it isn't this insane departure, because we've both been in the band the whole time.
Will you guys being playing stuff off of Charmer that the other guys wrote/sang on, like "Slow Come On?"
Walsh: I talked to Adam about the songs he wrote. They're Tigers Jaw songs, and he's comfortable with us playing them. It's been really great.
On the idea of support, has there been a big reaction from fans at these shows that's like, "I'm so glad you're still around, you mean a lot to me…"
Walsh: That was the whole thing last summer…
Collins: With what we were going to do.
Walsh: We kept as many of the tour dates as we possibly could, and even within the first couple of shows, kids are still really supportive of what we're doing, and they understand. Despite all the changes we're going through, they still like us for who they are and still support us.
Would you say that was one of the reasons you kept going?
Walsh: We've put so much creative effort into this. These are songs that we've all worked so hard on and you know, there is just so much we feel like we have left to do with the band. Starting from scratch wouldn't have felt right. It took a while to find out. Once we did that tour and realized kids were still supporting us and once we realized it still felt right, even if we were playing with different people, it still felt like Tigers Jaw. It was still fun and the best part of my life.
Why give that up if you have the opportunity to push forward… Charmer has been a pretty huge success it seems.
Collins: It's pretty overwhelming how awesome the response has been.
Why did it take so long to release Charmer? I remember reading an interview back in December where you said you were looking to put it out in Jan/Feb.
Collins: I shouldn't have said that. There's just so much that goes into putting out a record like coming up with song titles and the layout of the record. I really wanted to do the artwork myself and hand embroider it, and it took way long than I had anticipated. There was also a delay with the actual records. We wanted to have the release date to be a time when someone could actually get the record, rather than it being a thing where you pre-ordered it, but you didn't get the actual record for weeks. There were definitely a lot of factors as to why we had to keep pushing it back.
Everyone is super stoked on the record and you're now selling out most of these tour dates. When everyone initially quit, was there a feeling of, "Eh, who knows what we should do now that everyone knows it isn't the same Tigers Jaw?" Was there any hesitation towards touring?
Walsh: Not for doing last summer. We knew we wanted to keep as many of those dates as I said, and take it from there.
Collins: The support that we got from people at those shows was something that showed us that this was something we could still do.
Walsh: Bands very rarely keep the same lineup throughout their entire career.
Collins: We've also been really lucky that the people who were in the band still support us doing this. It's a huge thing for me.
Walsh: It's very comforting.
And up next you're doing a Touche Amore tour… How does it feel to be going on tour with a hardcore band like them?
Collins: I'm excited to see what it's like.
Walsh: We've played a lot of mixed bills over the year and kind of shifted around different music scenes. It's not like we feel out of place with them.
Tigers Jaw seems to be embraced by fans of all spectrums.
Walsh: People tell us that. It's cool to have any sort of crossover like that.
So what's next for Tigers Jaw?
Walsh: We're taking the writing process as it comes and get our real life stuff in order before we make a strong push. As appealing as it has been over the past 5-6 years while we were making sure we finished with school, we're finally at the point where we can do what we've always wanted to do and play all sorts of different places we've never had the time or ability to go to before.