Step into a show by Pet Tigers and you enter the realm of the keytar. It’s that ’80s-era keyboard you wear around your neck like a guitar. With the synthpop revival in full swing, Vegas bands such as Big Friendly Corporation and Pet Tigers have reintroduced—and added a gritty edge to—the Miami Vice sound. The Tigers, who formed in ’09 and recently signed with Las Vegas-based label SquidHat Records, use the synthesizer on a strap more than most. And the trio’s Jan. 5 Beauty Bar show offers a chance to see a surf-pop group with a synth twist. Vegas Seven spoke with all three of the Tigers—Liz Ofte (vocals/keytar), Ryan Arcoraci (bass), Jesse Moran (drums)—and asked them about their Blondie-meets-Beach Boys style and their early 2013 releases, which will include a full-length album and a 7-inch record.
Surf-pop bands work from a garage-rock foundation. But you guys are using a new wave-inspired blueprint, right?
Ofte: We had guitarists before, but didn’t have a lot of luck in finding the right one. Since I loved the ’80s and owned an awesome keytar, I figured we should try it, and it worked. I bought my Yamaha instrument off eBay in England. You know what the demo song, which lets you try all the different sounds, is? Wham!’s “Last Christmas.”
With only three musicians, how do you flesh out your arrangements?
Arcoraci: We often try to come up with sections that don’t have all three instruments playing at once—that have maybe just a kick drum or bass guitar. Being a three-piece forces us to be more creative as compared to, say, a band that has a wider range of instruments at its disposal.
Does life in the desert cause you to write songs, like the bright “Some Sun,” about the beach?
Ofte: [Laughs.] Maybe. It was summer when we wrote our forthcoming album. I thought, for instance, that “Some Sun” would be a fun song to play. We have a ton of sun in Vegas, and the songs we’ve written recently have a subject matter that’s a little lighter.
Arcoraci: A lot of our songs have an attitude or sassiness to them. I think that’s what Liz communicates in her songs. It’s what I love about them.
How will the Tigers’ career change now that the band is signed to SquidHat?
Arcoraci: It won’t change us as far as our sound goes. The album will be produced much like if we’d produced it ourselves. We feel challenged to write better songs now—not only for us, but to represent the label. It’s difficult on your own, but not impossible. When you have support from a label, it’s easier.
What was it like recording two songs with local producer extraordinaire/Black Camaro frontman Brian Garth at his Chrome Werewolf recording studio?
Moran: Brian has great ideas, and his [now-defunct] studio was really incredible. We wanted to record more than two songs. He’s a great engineer, a great musician, and he got our band right away.
What do you think of Vegas as far as opportunities for bands?
Arcoraci: It’s gotten better since we started. The scene is always improving and expanding from a city where you can see a cover band and into a place where bands are trying to be more original. We need that. We don’t need this to be a city where only cover bands can thrive. There needs to be a culture here that we can all identify with.
Where’d you get your name?
Arcoraci: No significance. But we’ve made it an identity for us by incorporating tigers into our logo. Tigers are ferocious. Tigers are cute, but they also have a harder edge.
Pet Tigers play Beauty Bar at 10 p.m. Jan. 5, free, 598-1965.