Introducing Brighton based band SUPERtiny

They are self-professed as “the best band you’ve never seen” except more and more people are getting to know SUPERtiny. They have recently taken on gigs at The Hope and Ruin, Brighton, and The Hope and Anchor in Islington. Their new song ‘Borderline’ has a foot tapping, funky groove which is infectious. Following these performances and single release, we asked the quartet to tell us a little bit more about themselves and their music. 

Firstly, can you tell me a bit about who you are. Who are the members of the band and how did you come together?

We are a band of four chaps: Tiago (loud vocals and bass), Taegan (lead, rhythm and only guitarist), Jake (drums and assorted cowbells) and James (keyboards and ‘other’). A good place to start is Tiago: he’s trained in musical theatre, has powerful vocals and he’s not half bad at mario kart. He models the basis of his performance on one of his biggest heroes – Freddie Mercury. Currently in a lead supporting role on the West End straight out of university, he alone is worth listening to if the rest of us don’t sound as interesting.

Taegan is a pancake chef and latte artist by day and a producer and guitarist by slightly later in the day after a quick nap. As well as playing guitar he also produces and mixes SUPERtiny material for release to the discerning public. Jake is the machine behind the rhythm. He’s a drummer of rare ability but is employed equally for his light-hearted quips and witty observational comedy. James holds the traditional position of being the least interesting in the band – he is a pianist. However he also has a day job in an office, so all things considered he balances things quite well.

We’ve been playing together for about 6 years and playing well for about 4 of them (unfortunately non-consecutive).

By happy coincidence we all went to school together, making the logistics behind starting the band much more feasible. A misty eyed discussion about jazz between James and Tiago on a school trip approximately halfway up a waterslide in Italy led to the creation of SUPERtiny, which was at the time yet to be named. Jake came a tad later. When discovered in a practice room jamming far beyond his years to a particularly impressed crowd of girls from his class, it was a done deal – he was in the band. Lastly came Taegan. About a year after a disastrous school concert when it became extremely apparent that there’s a reason most bands have a guitarist, the four of us sat in a room and jammed for a few hours in what will go down in the school’s history as the worst disruption to a violin lesson they’ve ever encountered.

What would you call your music style? 

Our style has changed a fair amount over the years, as have we. It started out as very jazz focussed in the initial ‘Arendonk Demos’. We have always been a predominantly live band, favouring the 8 hour rehearsals in James’ long-suffering mother’s garage over recording in a bedroom, so the style has changed as our playing has changed. We have settled very nicely into a genre we have affectionately (and possibly quite insufferably) named ‘Neo-pop’. It is essentially a heavy funk sound with elements of pop and a hint of new age jazz. Just enough to get people to sing along but not so much that we don’t enjoy playing the music. Our main focus is writing infectious grooves and playing them tight on stage.

How did you come up with the name SUPERtiny? 

SUPERtiny is a fairly new name. We decided to change the name of the band about a year ago now, along with a bit of a rebrand. Most of our first proper gigs were in Belgium, the first of which being in a pub called ‘de Mengelmoes’, so after a very creative few hours we came up with the name ‘Mengelmoes’. However, this began to pose a fair few orthoepic and orthographic hurdles. The name had worked very well on the continent whilst surrounded by very enthusiastic Dutch and Flemish fans, especially after a few strong beers at the namesake pub. However, it was less effective on British soil – we concluded that the beer was clearly weaker. After about the twentieth variation of ‘Mengelmoes’ was announced on stage in England, we decided a name change should be on the cards or we may be forever stuck with the name ‘Megalamoo’.

We spent a good while deliberating names that fit our sound and general energy, none of which stuck for longer than a day.

Some notably bad ones were: ‘Nokia 3310’ (for an unbreakable groove), ‘F*** Thunder’, ‘Mademoiselle Sugarlump’, ‘Sister’s Pickle’, ‘Corporate Feedback’, ‘Utgång Hiss’, ‘Duck Duck Moose’, and ‘Strongylodon Macrobotrys’. The last one was as a result of a pretty enlightening trip to the Oxford Botanic Garden. It’s strange how every day of your life you seem to be able to come up with at least ten brilliant band names, but when tasked with it on the spot your head fills with confused tumbleweed.

After many iterations, we started revolving around something like ‘Superfly’ (after the Curtis Mayfield track), but knew we needed a variant of it. In a shocking change from our usual antics, we found ourselves in a pub enjoying the hoppy delights of a craft lager called ‘Tiny Rebel’. For legal reasons we couldn’t go with ‘Tiny Rebel’, despite it being an excellent name for a beer and an even better name for a band, so we merged ‘Superfly’ and ‘Tiny Rebel’ to get ‘SUPERtiny’. ‘Super Rebel’, ‘Fly Rebel’ and ‘Rebel Fly’ are too punk and ‘Tiny Fly’ is really just a description. The uppercase SUPER is really just for the attention grabbing logo, plus, having ‘tiny’ in smaller lettering could be perceived as a vague attempt at humour.

Can you tell us a bit about your latest song “Borderline”.

As discussed on our social media in a zoom podcast with Taegan and Jake, Borderline was originally written as a philosophical song called ‘Love’ which was an introspective examination of what it really means to love someone or something. Having appropriately razed this to the cutting room floor, Tiago overheard a group of friends discussing having never been high in London – hence the first lyric ‘I’ve never been high in the city’.

From there, the song was written as a reflection of living, working and existing in such a huge and bustling place. This was the point at which we began to dabble a bit more in R&B grooves, with quite a lot of our live set and previous recordings being fairly quick and heavy. We settled on something that ‘wouldn’t be out of place on a dinner party playlist’, as described by James’ mother. Our drummer, Jake, studies at a prestigious conservatoire and in his various musical ramblings encountered the brilliant Nyah Grace, whose soft and articulate vocals feature on the track.

Do you have a specific approach to writing music? 

As a general rule of thumb, we only write music that we would want to listen to. When this doesn’t work, we settle for something that we enjoy playing. Historically we only ever wrote music for live performance, so it was always rehearsed live before seeing the inside of a studio. Often the seed of an idea comes from a song written by one person which is then taken and morphed into a SUPERtiny song by the rest of us.

A few times we have written songs from scratch as a band – a particularly notable example being ‘Purple Lady’, which was one of our first professionally produced tracks, recorded and mixed by the great Tom Joy. Due to the nature of our style, new songs tend to start with a groove, then a hook, and then they are fleshed out from there. We learned that James Brown would make his band play a groove over and over until it really sat in the pocket, so we decided to do this and it’s a great way to develop ideas because melodies and licks start appearing after a few repetitions.

And how was your gig at the Hope and Anchor in Islington? (9 July) 

The Hope & Anchor in Islington is a favourite venue of SUPERtiny. It’s notable for being the birthplace of Dire Strait’s live sets so a lot of the evening is spent trying not to mess up that legacy. On 9th July we were supported there by the incredible Ghetto Orange, an old friend of ours from our Norwich days, who suffered the journey all the way from Falmouth to play with us. What a guy.

What more is there to say? A fantastic opener and some excited fans who’ve had a few drinks – it’s a recipe for a great evening. It’s not a huge venue so this always helps a lot with the energy. People in the front row could really experience Tiago wearing no trousers at a perhaps too intimate level. There are very few gigs you can go to these days where the lead singer will come and dance in the crowd during a drum solo, so it’s not to be missed.

Do you have any pre or post gig rituals?

Well, Tiago’s pre gig ritual is taking his trousers off. He claims it’s because it makes it easier to dance, but we’ve seen him in the Moulin Rouge in a corset and heels so how much more difficult can it get? Jake often has a long drive from Manchester so his ritual is complaining. That being said, you’ll find him warming up on a practice pad for a few hours before the gig, away from any noise to really get his head in the game.

As a band we often go out to get something to eat after soundcheck and sit for about an hour talking over the evening’s ablutions. Mr J.D. Wetherspoon has served us well in the past for these moments. Other than that, it’s a quick beer or two to give the performance a slight edge and then on stage to have some fun. Afterwards, the ritual is to sell a few t-shirts and have a chat with everyone who’s come out to the gig. Safe to say we wouldn’t have been able to do this for so long if the people in the room didn’t make an effort to see us live so we absolutely want to say hi afterwards.

What do you have coming up that you are looking forward to, either in your career as a band, or in your personal lives? 

There are few irons in the fire at the moment. We’re at an interesting point of inflection where we want to start growing our audience even more and supporting some bigger bands. A lot of our focus will be on releasing more studio tracks, many of which are being written and recorded as we speak. Taegan has a few projects ongoing with music production and writing and Jake is throwing himself into some pretty serious session gigs. James is moving flat, which is only worth noting because it’ll be a good place in London for the band to stay during gigging and recording weekends. Tiago continues to rise through the West End, so we’re just about set for something pretty special.

Listen to SUPERtiny’s new track ‘Borderline’ and more of their tunes on Spotify and YouTube. Follow @supertinyband on socials.

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