DIY to the fullest here with South Central Pennsylvania's Olde Tigers. We only found them a few months ago on the strength of their newly released "Build An Illusion Of Safety" full length and in most cases that leads to an interview to find out what makes a band tick. MC Hyser is their frontman and we got him for this interview in July. Besides Olde Tigers MC puts on punk shows out of his fucking garage while somehow maintaining peace and order with punk rockers, police and the locals that occupy "crime alley" where the garage is located out in York, PA. An interesting read awaits you if you choose to dig in here. Go a step further and check out their music while you're at it. We're betting you may like what you find. Special thanks to D.E. Photo and Studio 11 West for the use of their photos!
IE: Hey MC. Where are you right now and what do you think you would be doing if you weren't answering these questions?
MC: Started this thing out sitting at a dive bar down the street from my house during an open mic and finished it the next day on my couch with Luke Cage beating up bad guys in the background
IE: Names, ages, instruments you each play and who in the band is most likely to one day end up trending on social media and a possible reason they would be?
MC: Jake, 31, drums, Mitch, 32, bass, Gary, 29, guitar, me… MC, 37, vocals. As far as trending on social media? It would have to be Jake or Mitch. Jake because he’s travels a lot for work and is in places like Vegas and Atlantic City a couple times a year. His real time posts/stories when he’s out on the road and partying are social media gold. Mitch could go viral just as easily though. He’s a talker and can relate to anyone he meets, and he can make that translate through social media better than most.
IE: If you had to give a description of what Olde Tigers is all about in 2 sentences or less how would you go about it?
MC: Olde Tigers is a classic hardcore punk band that tackles social and political issues. Olde Tigers is fun.
PHOTO BY: D.E. PHOTO
IE: A few weeks back I got your latest… “Build An Illusion Of Safety” which was my introduction to Olde Tigers. When did the band actually get its start and how would you describe the progress the band has made in both your sound and message since your 2011 demo till the new album?
MC: The band got its start in late 2009/early 2010. I had been doing DIY shows at Skid Row Garage but not playing in a band, and I got the itch again. A few beers with friends later and we had our start. The demo was four of the first batch of songs we wrote. They were really the core of the sound we were going for. Over the years, we grew as a band quite a bit, had some guys come and go, but that core sound is still the driving force behind what we’re doing: fast, heavy hardcore punk.
IE: You can tell that there is a lot of thought that goes into your lyrical approach and right off the bat on “Build An Illusion Of Safety” is the track “Codo Yopa” which is about gentrification in your hometown of York, PA. Can you tell us more about this song and also life in York? When looking at a map it’s tucked away out in Central PA and may appear to be just cornfields and farm land to someone not from there but it’s far from that, correct?
MC: York is a small city surrounded by cornfields and farmland that is quickly giving way to urban sprawl and housing developments full of McMansions. The region is really made up of the cities of York, Harrisburg, and Lancaster with York being the smallest of the three. York is a town down on its luck. The big industries have fled the area, most notably Caterpillar. The Harley Davidson plant is really the only thing that keeps the area’s industrial roots alive at this point. York City has suffered from poor planning by both the city and county governments for decades driving all desirable businesses to the suburban strip malls. City leaders are picking and choosing neighborhoods to revitalize, but it feels like they’re putting a band aid on a severed artery. You often see this with neighborhoods in big cities, but it happens in small cities just the same. They dump money into one block to bring in more upscale residents while pricing out the people that had lived in the area their entire lives. To complicate the problem, the focus is on upstart businesses, art spaces, etc, which only helps those that already have money, and often work but don’t reside in the city. They’re not bringing in businesses that can hire large numbers of people to really help the people of York economically.
IE: In the chorus for this song you sing “Build An Illusion Of Safety” but the song is titled “Codo Yopa”. What is the meaning behind the songs title?
MC: It’s a play on South Park’s SoDo SoPa neighborhood from season… I think 19? They really nailed the gentrification thing that’s happening in so many small cities and big city neighborhoods across the country. In York, Codo is a reference to the Codorus Creek that runs through the city and the “Codo” high end condo spaces that are popping up all over the city. Yopa is just York, PA.
OLDE TIGERS AT THE SKID ROW GARAGE IN YORK, PA. PHOTO BY: STUDIO 11 WEST
IE: “Willfull Compliance” is the second track on the album and appears to have you on no side of the political fence essentially slamming the whole system which these days appears to put you in the minority with the voices of the left and right so out there and often angry. Can you explain or sum up your feelings about this track more?
MC: I grew up on George Carlin (thanks mom). That man was an outside the box thinker. So I never felt comfortable jumping into one side of the political argument without pointing out the failings of that side as well. I have had countless conversations with friends trying to reconcile my beliefs with a two party system and it just doesn’t work. George had a great bit on why he doesn’t vote that I still relate to. Basically, if you vote, it’s your fault when your guy fucks up. I took that a step farther in that song saying that your vote is you giving your consent to the government, the politicians, and the bureaucrats. I think of it in as your user agreement with the government, much in the same way you consent to the terms and agreements with Facebook, Apple, Google, or Instagram. I consider myself to be apolitical, and this song is an emphasis of that viewpoint.
IE: “Wyld Times” is a track where you seem to be dealing with the fact that you are getting older and may not be connected as much with a younger audience in the hardcore/punk scene. You even sing “I don’t feel like I belong here”. Was this song written in a specific time where you may have been down on the scene or is this your general feelings these days?
MC: This is actually one of the first songs I wrote for this band. I was 10 years into DIY show booking, had just started doing shows in my garage out of necessity, wasn’t playing in a band for the first time in a long time, and really felt far removed from all of it. As time passed, I made slight changes to the lyrics (still up front and sing along/still up front singing this song) to make it relevant to exactly where I was currently at in life.
IE: What are some of the things that make you feel disconnected with the current day scene? What things do you like about it still?
MC: There seems to be a lot of cliques these days. Maybe there always was and I was too naive to see it. I try to promote the music over everything but so many want to make it about everything else. I’m old enough to know that the fashion trends will come and go (and come back around again), but the music will always be what matters. I love that the “scene” as I found it years ago is still vibrant. I was the dumb young clueless kid once, and I see those kids at shows to this day. I see the old heads reaching out to the young kids to show them the ropes and the ins and outs of show etiquette. A lot of bands talk about it being a family, and for so many of us, it really is.
CLICK BELOW TO WATCH THE VIDEO FOR "CONTEMPT" BY OLDE TIGERS
IE: You also run the Skid Row Garage venue in York. From what I understand it is your garage out in the back of where you live in a residential area. Can you tell us how long you have been putting on shows there and a little history on it as well.
MC: This month marks 9 years of shows at the garage. It’s crazy to think that a DIY space has been able to stay alive this long. It started out as one show in our practice space to help our friends on tour and it’s become one of the best DIY venues on the East Coast. I emphasize: it is literally my garage. When shows aren’t happening, my car/motorcycle is parked there. But it’s a phenomenal venue if I do say so myself. PA’s liquor laws make it very hard for bars/venues to do all ages shows in this state, but I can offer that at the garage. We have had bands from all over the country and world (5 continents!) play shows here. Typing those words still blows my mind.
IE: One would think putting shows on the way that you are in a residential area that you would have problems from neighbors, cops, fire marshal types among other potential problems. What are some of the bigger challenges to keeping the Garage going?
MC: In York, the police have MUCH bigger issues than some rocker kids in a garage. The alley where the garage is located is affectionately known as “crime alley” so no one is calling the cops over anything. We have had a relatively easy time doing shows because we don’t push things too far. We end shows at a reasonable time. We try to be respectful of the neighbors. We have enough sound deadening materials up that it’s not unreasonably loud outside when bands are playing. We make sure people are not parking stupidly because that draws more attention than anything for some reason. We have had cops show up three times in nine years for the following reasons: People walking down the alley with open containers. Easy to fix: stop being idiots… Parking… again, easy fix: stop being idiots…Shots fired… oops, it was actually me setting off mortars after the show. Sorry??
IE: How many shows would you guess you've put on there? Who are some of the bands who have played there? Most memorable shows?
MC: I can’t even count. At this point I’m averaging about 3 shows every month all year long, but the summer months often get packed with 5-6 shows. As far as bands, I don’t want to do the name drop thing. That’s just not my style. We have had bands play here and then blow up and go on to do huge tours and fests including Warped Tour, The Fest, This Is Hardcore, Punk Rock Bowling and countless others. Bands with music videos on MTV have played here. Again, bands from 5 continents have played here. European, North and South American, Asian, and Australian bands have played here. I have a really good rapport with a lot of these bands, their labels, and their booking agents which has paid off with more bigger bands/shows. I just announced that PEARS is coming to the garage on their fall tour. That’s a direct result of their booking agent playing here a couple years ago with his band and loving the space. It’s been a wild ride.
OLDE TIGERS AT THE SKID ROW GARAGE, YORK, PA. PHOTO BY: STUDIO 11 WEST
IE: How did the name Olde Tigers come to be? Who thought of it and is there any story or meaning behind it?
MC: A lot of people think the name came from an Olde English ad featuring a tiger but it’s really a Sean Connery quote from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. At one point his character, Alan Quartermaine, says “Old tigers, sensing their end, they’re at their most fierce.” It seemed to fit with what we had started working on.
IE: Olde Tigers gives off this vibe of wanting to get in the van and get on the road, play shows and tour. Your 2015 EP was titled “PennsylVANia” with the letters VAN being emphasized in the title as well. How far have you guys reached with shows outside of your home area and what are some cities or countries that you would love to get to one day?
MC: Early on we did a few East Coast tours playing everywhere from Boston to Florida. These days, we mainly stick to places we can do in a one-day drive or a weekend run. Getting older and having more responsibilities makes it so much harder for all of us to get off work and avoid other commitments for extended periods of time. We love getting out every chance we can though. We all enjoy hitting new spots, eating at local spots, drinking local beers, and generally just getting away from home, even if it is just for a day.
PHOTO BY: D.E. PHOTO
IE: Before we go can you give us the most out there/crazy situation Olde Tigers has been in either on the road touring or playing closer to home? Anything out of the ordinary, dangerous, funny or other to wrap this interview up.. thank you for your time!
MC: Every band has some crazy road story about a wild night of partying or insane accidents/near misses on the highway. One of the most unusual things to happen to Olde Tigers was because of a show we played in our hometown. Here is that story in Mitch’s own words: Sometime between 2010-12 I got a portrait tattoo of Lemmy on my right forearm. The very next night, we played in York, at the Depot, with King Louie’s Missing Monuments. Louie has written songs for all kinds of bands such as the Exploding Hearts, and is well connected in the rock n’ roll scene. He was as stoked on my Lemmy tattoo as I was on his Thin Lizzy shirt. We got wasted on a couple bottles of rail whiskey and talked music all night. At the end of the night he said “you need Lemmy’s number.” I thought it was a prank for sure. I blacked out and forgot about the number being in my phone for about three months until I was driving home on Christmas Eve and heard Lemmy and the boys doing “Run Run Rudolph.” It jarred my memory. I looked in my phone and found the number, went to my buddy’s where after several festive beverages, I had the courage to dial what I surely thought would be a wrong number. A gruff, unmistakable Lemmy answered! “Who’s this?” “This is Mitch I’m just calling to say. Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, we love you, Lemmy!”…“Good lad, happy Christmas!” I freaked out and yelled about 50 song titles to him and said my good bye. He couldn’t have been more gracious. I always wanted to call him again, but that call was too perfect. Lemmy, at the Rainbow, on his birthday, Christmas Eve, wishing me a happy Christmas. It was my crowning achievement.