Artist Spotlight: Tigerchild

Hip-hop and R&B hybrid to release new EP before the year’s end

Max Hayes (upstage) and Jordan McCuaig of Tigerchild perform at Studio Records on Granville Street in Vancouver. (Rudolf Cagalawan)

Before Max Hayes and Jordan McCuaig started working together in retail, they were making music alone and online. They started playing as a duo shortly after they met, and have now formed the band Tigerchild to perform their songs live.

“Basically, I’m the DJ and I also produce a majority of the beats,” says McCuaig. “[Hayes] produced a couple of them as well and we get up and perform together. I sort of stand back in the DJ booth and he stands at the front with the mic. He does about 50/50 rapping and singing so usually the verses are a little more rap-heavy and when the chorus comes in he sings more of the melodic parts.”

Tigerchild can be described as electro-hop or West Coast R&B, somewhere between hip hop and dance music. McCuaig attributes that sound to how different his “old-school” style is from Hayes’ “modern” taste.

“For myself, I would lean towards artists like Atmosphere and Aesop Rock. [Hayes] is into the more modern sort of current stuff, so like, Drake and The Weeknd,” says McCuaig. “There are a lot of similarities between those two sounds but the stuff I listen to tends to be more underground local indie.”

Part of the reason why Hayes created Tigerchild with McCuaig was that he was tired of working with producers from around the world. Communication errors and the impersonal nature of collaborating online was causing his musical career to suffer—something he never has to deal with now that he’s in a local band.

“For us to be able to sit down in my home studio or wherever and be able to play five or six or seven different tracks that I’m working on and have him say, “Okay, I like that one. I don’t like that one. Let’s change this. Let’s change that,’…it worked out quite naturally,” says McCuaig.

So far they have played six shows together, and have another coming up at Studio Records on Granville on Dec. 16. An EP is in the works too—set to be made public before the end of the year—and the possibility of a Western Canada tour next year is dependent on the success of that record release.

The EP will be titled Firestorm, with cover art made by a friend of the band. It’s expected to have either five or six songs on its tracklist and be available on Soundcloud, iTunes, and Spotify.

Thematically, Firestorm will aim for a unique balance of two contrasting topics: love and politics.

“It’s kind of a hybrid between those two things. They’re the things that keep you up at night: politics and the stress in the world, and then there’s the stuff that brings you back down and grounds you as well in terms of personal relationships and romances,” says McCuaig. “It really sort of deals with power and authority and the power dynamics as they’re unfolding today … in a meaningful way, hopefully.”

Speaking of his collaboration with Hayes, McCuaig says that the duo “individually bring two really different perspectives to the table, but when it comes together it makes this hybrid sound that has something personal, it has something political, and it has a solid bassline. It comes together to create this great energy that people want to dance to and sing along to.”