Rin Tin Tiger: the roaring sounds of rowdy folk rock

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Rin Tin Tiger/Courtesy

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“It’s very high energy — it’s no fucks given, and we try and rock super hard,” said Sean Sullivan, describing his band’s live shows.

Sullivan is the bassist of Rin Tin Tiger, a rowdy folk rock band from San Francisco. The trio, consisting of a pair of brothers on guitar and bass (Kevin and Sean Sullivan) as well as a drummer (Andrew Skewes-Cox), brings together an array of surprising influences to form one groovy, delightfully rootsy sound. The band cites influences ranging from Bob Dylan to Tupac and everything in between.

“That’s what our band is about,” Sean Sullivan explained. “Honoring a classic, rootsy twang but also appreciating our different influences and experimenting with other realms of rock and roll.”

Rin Tin Tiger has released three albums so far in its career, the most recent being the 2013 Splinter Remedies. Now the group is gearing up for the release of its fourth album, Burial Grounds, which will be released June 30.

The new album is a venture into a fuller, more intense sound for Rin Tin Tiger. While the difference in sound is substantial, the change the band made was relatively straightforward: switching from acoustic to electric guitar.

“Stylistically, it’s pretty similar to what we were doing before, but the album has a bigger, fuller sound because of the electric guitar,” Sean Sullivan said.

The album’s single, “Small Cuts That Bleed a Lot,” is a driving, energetic tune with a catchy harmonica hook and thoughtful lyrics that contemplate making wrong choices and feeling shame, guilt or fear.

“It’s about trying to hold onto a dream and feeling like that dream isn’t mature, but then in the end just saying, ‘Fuck it,’ and going on with your life,” Sean Sullivan said.

The sound established in the single is certainly more intense with the addition of electric guitar, but it’s a natural evolution from the trio’s previous work. In any case, “Small Cuts That Bleed a Lot” is definitely a dance-worthy summer jam.

Summer jams aside, Sean Sullivan took a moment to reflect on how the group approaches live shows.

“I really don’t like concerts where it feels like there’s a wall between the performers and the audience,” he explained.

This sentiment is certainly true, as Rin Tin Tiger makes it its mission to show audience members a good time. The members of the group specialize in entertaining onstage banter, and they always try to feed off the crowd.

As members of a San Francisco band, these guys have gotten to play their fair share of amazing venues. Sean Sullivan expressed an appreciation for the quality of the venues available to them in the Bay Area, as well as the diversity of the music scenes. In his experience, from San Francisco to San Jose to Oakland to Berkeley, there’s something different going on in each city. Different genres of music are prominent in different locales, even if the scenes are quite close to one another, geographically speaking.

“I find the Bay Area really inspirational because of its historical context in terms of rock and roll,” Sean Sullivan said. “Whether that means the birthplace of the Grateful Dead or Metallica, or the big free-love music festivals that went on in Golden Gate Park, I find it to be a very inspirational place, where art and music is concerned.”

Rin Tin Tiger is certainly carving out a place for itself in the Bay Area’s rich musical history. To truly experience the raw, groovy magic of this trio, you can see the band play at the Independent on July 10 for its album release show with Owl Paws.

You can rest assured that it’ll be a rollicking good time.

Contact Madeline Wells at [email protected].