Tijuana Panthers

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The sound of Tijuana Panthers will lend a pick-me-up and kick in gut all at once! Even when the lyrics are heartbreaking, the melodies are still revved and ready to go.

This California-based trio is a perfect mixture of surf rock and punk—combine Dick Dale with The Buzzcocks and you’ve got Tijuana Panthers. The group includes Chad Wachtel as band dad and guitarist, Daniel Michicoff as bassist and all-around fun dude, and Phil Shaheen as drummer and resident band artist. They take turns singing lead and have distinguished a well-rounded sound by doing so.

These guys go way back to playing bands in junior high and high school. Michicoff and Shaheen were first in a band together called The Fancy Lads. After Michicoff went off to college, Shaheen formed a surf rock band with Wachtel called Pencils. But Michicoff wasn’t to be parted from his musical partners for very long.

Eventually, Shaheen and Wachtel wanted something a little less surfer and a little more rock and roll, so Michicoff swooped back in to aid with a transition that put them on the path towards what is now Tijuana Panthers, and has been for eight years.

The band name came from an old song during their Pencils days. It was based off of a porcelain panther that Shaheen’s neighbor gave to him to fix. The figurine was from Tijuana, Mexico. Unfortunately, Shaheen was unable to return it after the neighbor passed away. However, the name Tijuana Panthers clicked in his head and the memory lives on.

Bottom line is that these Long Beach natives were just a few punks who loved to play music, and they still stay true to that title today.

“We’ve never tried to adapt to what’s going on… we continually are post-whatever trend’s going on,” Michicoff tells BTRtoday. “Not in a pretentious way! We’re consistently us…we recognize when it’s our sound and if it fits us.”

Last May they released their latest album “Poster,” which Michicoff describes as still holding very much true to the Tijuana Panthers’ vibe, but with a more matured sound.

“I think we’re past where we were and we’re progressing,” he admits.

“Poster” is the conceptual idea about how humanity uses the word “post.” Post-war, post-modern, post-punk, or post-whatever—the album encompasses seemingly every musical and artistic sub-genre or foretelling sounds of rock and roll. Not to mention the badass album cover by Shaheen, who collaborated with Matt Maust from Cold War Kids. The artwork includes soft colors, collaged with photos of a house being fumigated and a business casual mannequin, labeled with rigid font.

Tijuana Panther’s creative process includes each member equally. Michicoff describes choosing who should take lead on vocals as a piece of cake. He explains that usually it’s whoever wants to do it, but sometimes the tone of the song will call for a certain member to take the reins.

“Like, sometimes certain songs ask for Phil to sing and we just assign it to him,” Michicoff clarifies. “It’s kind of just whatever we’re feeling or ideas we come up with.” He adds that lyrical inspiration for him often arise from reading books and viewing stimulating art.

The entire song creating process usually goes one of two ways—it could be an idea that’s been brewing in each of their heads and they’ll flesh it out at practice, or they just start jamming and improvising to see what comes out of that. Michicoff professes that the latter approach constitutes much of the new album, where being simple and rolling with the punches trumped over-calculation and thought.

Michicoff tells BTRtoday that so far they’ve written enough songs to fill up an EP. They hope to get reconnected with producer Richard Swift who worked with them on their last two albums, “Poster” and “Wayne Interest,” and work towards developing a new musical angle for a full length album.

In the meantime they’re touring around the U.S. before making their way to Europe for a larger tour.

A few weeks ago they played a very exciting show in San Francisco with the well-known punk band, The Damned—an obvious musical inspiration of Michicoff’s. On Facebook he posted a picture of him beaming with the singer of The Damned and captioned it, “played with one of my favorite bands in high school last night.”

That seems like a monumental night for the boys, however, Michicoff admits that they feel like they have already hit all the milestones of being in a succesful band.

“I mean, we’ve played Coachella, we’re on the radio, we’ve been to Europe,” he lists, “so now we just keep doing it because we love it.”

He states that they’re reaching for the stars, but that at this point it’s just them living out their passion.

“The money is not always there,” he acknowledges. “You’ll have to be on the road like nine months out of the year, and we’re just not interested in that.”

This past September they sold-out a 1,200-person venue in L.A. called The Regent Theater. Michicoff confesses that the crowds in California get pretty rowdy for Tijuana Panthers, but that they tend to find something great about every crowd they’ve played for.

“I know there’s an overall interest in the music, whatever the vibe is, that there’s never much of a judgment like, ‘alright, let’s see what you got,’” he explains. “It’s more so that people have been listening and they get what we’re doing.”

Tijuana Panthers is always one step ahead of the music-crave curve; so make sure to keep an ear out for new tunes and live shows. Check out their Facebook or website to see what they’re cooking up next!

To hear the rest of the interview, tune into this week’s episode of the Discovery Corner!