For the first installment of the AEO Up Next Series, we called up Phil Shaheen of Cali based Tijuana Panthers to learn where his musical inspiration stems from; chat about how mowing the lawn can inspire inspiration and how cool cassettes still are. Stop into AEO to hear a playlist curated by the Tijuana Panthers. And be sure to head over to their website to buy their latest record, which, of course comes on cassette.
AEO: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Where are the other Panthers though?
Phil from Tijuana Panthers: Ha! We’re sorta spread out. We’re still close enough where we can drive like a half hour for practice in LA. Dan lives there so we just practice either in the Silver Lake area or Echo Park or Glendale.
AEO: How has the landscape or just the vibes of California affected the sound of your music?
Phil: I think because of the 60’s there’s a lot of these garage surf bands that came up. And of course there’s the Beach Boys and all that. There was a lot of surf music going on back then. So I guess, the environment affected those people and we are influenced by those sounds for some guitar riffs and things like that. I think, overall, the landscape didn’t really affect us that much. But it affected us in that manner, I guess.
AEO: So you were affected by the Cali sounds that came before you more so than the space itself.
Phil: Yeah, we just grew up playing punk music. And a lot of punk music was influenced by surfing so there was a lot of influences that come from that.
AEO: Can you narrow your influences down to one album or artist that really affected your path in music?
Phil: For me it would be the Dead Milkmen. “Big Lizard in My Backyard” is the name of the record. I heard that record when I was in junior high, from a friend’s older brother. He gave us the tape to listen to, a cassette tape. We wore it out. I even buried it in my yard because it meant that much to me. It was like the best thing ever as a junior high kid. I mean, it’s the best thing ever now still. I still enjoy all those records that they put out. And we got to play with them.
AEO: Oh, you did?!
Phil: Yeah, we got to play with them at FYF in 2011. And then someone from FYF hooked up a show on Long Beach where the Dead Milkmen came and we got to open for them.
AEO: That’s very cool.
Phil: Yeah, it’s insane! The heros, who maybe aren’t heros to most people, but I had them up on this pedestal, we got to hang with them and play. So it was pretty cool.
AEO: How was that show for you? Do you remember much of it or were you just awe-struck?
Phil: It was fun. I geeked out a bit but it was a more memorable show. We’ve gotten to play with a lot of old punk bands that I never thought we’d ever meet or play with. Like, hanging out with Keith Morris, from Black Flag and Circle Jerks, asked us to come do his radio show. So that was crazy.
AEO: So you first heard that Dead Milkmen record on a cassette tape. And you sell your music on cassette and vinyl. How does a physical release, as opposed to a digital one, change your perception of a record?
Phil: I think its personal preference. Some people really like the sound of analog. They love the sound of the hiss, pops and cracks on records. I never stopped collecting records from when I started listening to music. I think that maybe that’s the area that I grew up in. Long Beach, it’s pretty easy to get records. And it wasn’t even like my parents kept listening to records. It was my friends. When we were growing up tapes were what the medium was. Digital is great. I love it. I’m definitely not one to go either way. I like ‘em both. With digital, you can get music out to everyone, for free too a lot of the time.
AEO: So, what’s the songwriting process like for you guys?
Phil: We work on everything by ourselves. And then we come together and just hash stuff out. That’s just something we’ve always done, even when we first started out. We kind of jammed a little but we were never like a jam band. We’d never really get into it like that and just have a jam session. There are moments of inspiration, like I’ll be mowing my lawn and I’ll have this moment of, “Oh, I got some lyrics now.” It’s not about mowing my lawn. It’s just doing that mundane task helps me write stuff. Dan is different. Chad is different. Everyone has their own way of doing things but I kinda just zone out on some stupid task. Things come to me that way. I can’t just sit down and write anything.
Now that you’ve gotten to know more about Phil and the Tijuana Panthers, channel the band’s Punk rock style below: