If you were to chuck a live hand-grenade center-stage at a lavish Broadway musical, the smoking crater and scattered remains might somewhat resemble Mighty Tiny. Putting on a show that's "as entertaining visually as it is musically", Mighty Tiny creates intricate and modern music that comes straight from the soul of the golden age (Kevin Junker, TeaParty Boston). The musical influences of Mighty Tiny reach all the way from the classic compositions of Gershwin and Bernstein to the modern experimental realm of Modest Mouse and Mr. Bungle (while stopping somewhere along the way to ask directions from Tom Waits and Led Zeppelin). Lyrically driven, musically lush, frequently beautiful, and occasionally hideous, Mighty Tiny shares borders with experimental rock, blues, punk, Americana, and tin-pan alley jazz.
Musical peculiarities aside, Mighty Tiny has earned a reputation for their uproarious stage show. Over the span of their existence, the group has formed a border-line unhealthy habit of adorning Commedia d'ell Arte-style masks during all live performances that serve to further immerse the audience in their own twisted world. Says Hilary Hughes of Dig Boston, "carrying bells and getting a chant going with audience before they even hit the stage, Mighty Tiny can take charge of a curious crowd and hush a room in seconds." Their raw energy during live performance also caught the attention of Dick Valentine, the lead singer of garage-dance-metal stars, the Electric Six. Valentine said of the act, "They play old-timey music in such a future-forward manner. I think the more shows they play, the more the world will be forced to fall in love with them." He even went as far as to offer up his vocal cords for Mighty Tiny's first full-length album "White Dog Rough Again". Valentine is featured on the tracks "Hey, Mambosso" and "Book of Poems" of the release.
Formed in Boston in the August of 2008, Mighty Tiny immediately gained local exposure by opening for the uniquely talented That 1 Guy. Since their initial foray into the Boston music scene, Mighty Tiny has warmed the hearts of the natives - being referred to as "anachrotastic" and "sophisticated carnies" by the Boston Phoenix. Meanwhile the Improper Bostonian and Dig Boston have said Mighty Tiny "conveys songwriting chops that stand apart from many Boston bands" and has created "auricular, organized chaos through their songwriting." Throughout their career, Mighty Tiny has performed with a long list of local acts as well as several internationally touring artists including the Electric Six, That 1 Guy, Katzenjammer, Caspian, and Kate Miller-Heidke.
Matt Tompkins - Guitar, Lead Vocal, and Harmonica
Max Rose - Guitar, Lead Vocals
Kana Zink - Accordion, background vocals
Amy Alvey - Violin, background vocals
Dave Pezzano - Bass, background vocals
Noah Appel - Drums
"White Dog Rough Again" 2011
"Eat People." 2009
"Berklee Demos" 2009
Getting Under the Musical Masks of Mighty Tiny
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Rumors that Mighty Tiny are all huge Eyes Wide Shut fans have been greatly exaggerated. Bassist a...Rumors that Mighty Tiny are all huge Eyes Wide Shut fans have been greatly exaggerated.
Bassist and revisionist historian Dave Pezzano is the only one of the six band members who's ever seen Stanley Kubrick's final directorial effort, an "erotic thriller" that has something to do with an occultist swinger party where everyone wears Venetian masks. And to judge from the Kill Bill, Planet Terror, and Sin City posters hanging on the walls of singer/guitarist/mouth organist Matt Tompkins's bedroom (which this is evening doubling as a conference room adjacent to their practice space in a Brighton house), Mighty Tiny would prefer to watch a good movie.
"When the mask idea came up," says singer/guitarist Max Rose, nursing a Scotch, "we said, 'Okay, we like theatrics. We like creative dramatic elements in performance, but if we walked on stage with bowler hats and dusty jackets, played random notes at the piano, and told weird stories, we'd be doing Tom Waits. So how do we present ourselves in a way that hasn't been done and allows us to be flexible?' The masks are nice, 'cause they conceal our identities, and it's hard to tell what kind of music is going to come out of something that looks the way we do."
"The masks are like a dare," adds Pezzano. "The masks say, 'Look at this! It's flamboyant!' You're either going to walk out on us because you think we're stupid, or you'll stand around and say, 'Hey, what the fuck is that?' "
And even after the uninitiated recover from "What the fuck is that?" this Friday, when Might Tiny release White Dog Rough Again at the Middle East, some collective bafflement is apt to remain. Bafflement that has nothing to do anyone's costume. By weaving around and through elaborate permutations of bluegrass, dark folk, and circus music, Mighty Tiny have made themselves a band onto which you can project almost anything you want. And that projection would probably be "true," in a subjective sense. But truth and accuracy are not always the same thing. The only accurate way to describe this band is to be as literal and direct as possible.
So, let's say Mighty Tiny are a classically trained violinist, a classically trained pianist turned accordionist, two jazz guitarists, a heavy-metal bass player, and a drummer specializing in funk/hip-hop styles. Concerned about toxic and false preconceived notions, they prefer not to say exactly where most of them started playing together in 2008. Electric Six songster and rabid Mighty Tiny enthusiast Dick Valentine makes brief but poignant vocal cameos on White Dog, the result of 130 hours of tracking and, Tompkins speculates, "easily that much, if not a considerable amount more," of mixing and mastering.
"A lot of bands begin with someone who says, 'Okay, I've got these songs of mine, and I'm going to get a couple players to play them,' " Rose explains. "That's cool, but that's not how we do it. We don't just play the songs. We beat the shit out of them until they're as close to perfect as we can get."
One online retailer who can't ever have listened to White Dog categorized it as children's music, no doubt etching the beastishly magnificent prison lament "Hey Mambosso" into the nightmares of at least one toddler. It would be wiser to market Mighty Tiny to those who can appreciate obsessive attention to detail — and playing dress-up 'cause, fuck it, it's fun. Mighty Tiny take themselves very seriously . . . and also not seriously at all.
"A lot of bands start off doing something cool and adapt their musicianship based on what they think their crowd wants," says accordionist Kana Zink. "In a way, we don't give a fuck."
Pezzano interjects, "Also, we don't know what our crowd wants."
"White Dog Rough Again" Review
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It starts, like an old barn-housed engine, with a blast of smoke, harmonicas that creek like rusty w...It starts, like an old barn-housed engine, with a blast of smoke, harmonicas that creek like rusty wheels and the percussive banjo rattling of startled chickens. By the time that leadoff tune “Misery” is fully airborne, it’s already apparent that Mighty Tiny has constructed a retro-futuristic flying machine using tin-pan alley songwriter tools and quasi-modern metals, with tendrils of gypsy punk fabric and Appalachian stringwork dangling from the cabin windows. It’s like the Hindenburg with better wiring!
For their full-length debut, the Mighty TIny misfits in dell’arte masks have medicated their stylistic psychosis with some added milligrams of steady-handed songcraft. The prescription leavesroom for erratic behavior and mood swings, falling somewhere between Faith No More and Mr. Bungle with veins oiled more so by Tom Waits’ whiskey than Mike Patton’s espresso.
Improper Bostonian's Top Breakout Bands of 2010
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The twisted world of Mighty Tiny extends from its music to the Venetian masks that members sport ons...The twisted world of Mighty Tiny extends from its music to the Venetian masks that members sport onstage. “Everyone in the band wants to make their own character and stage presence, and the masks definitely influence that,” Matt Tompkins says. “If we can get away with [masks], we can get away with a lot of musical oddities as well.”
Tompkins and fellow singer/songwriter Max Rose formed the band at Berklee two years ago and began layering the eccentricities. The two guitarists often slap their guitar strings in a rhythmic convulsion recalling Primus bassist Les Claypool (who has donned similar masks live), while violinist Amy Alvey and accordionist Kana Zink provide Gypsy-esque icing that nods to Gogol Bordello, whose “Start Wearing Purple” the band has covered on occasion.
But the sextet, filled out by bassist Dave Pezzano and drummer Noah Appel, also conveys songwriting chops that stand apart from many Boston bands. Influenced by dark lyricists like Tom Waits and Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock, Tompkins and Rose trade songs about a beheaded suitor and a little girl lost in a well where a would-be rescuer returns “missing most of his skin.”
“We try to maintain a level of satire,” Tompkins says of the group, which has released a self-made EP named Eat People and aims to expand its audience through diverse club bills. “Even though we’re kooky and insane, we can appeal to a lot of different people. We end up with a strange demographic.”
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Before hearing a single bar of Mighty Tiny's music, a glimpse at their crazy-ass Commedia dell'Arte-...Before hearing a single bar of Mighty Tiny's music, a glimpse at their crazy-ass Commedia dell'Arte-style masks is enough to indicate that these guys (and girls) aren't your average Berklee breakout band. Instead of shuffling their feet and avoiding eye contact like most indie kids in town, Mighty Tiny's spritely musicians march single file onstage, clad in vibrant reds, frilly lace and long-snouted garb. Carrying bells and getting a chant going with the audience before they even hit the stage, Mighty Tiny can take charge of a curious crowd and hush a room in seconds. Throw in some crazed cackles, a set full of swinging downbeats, a sparkly dress or two and some intoxicating oom-pah-pah tempos and you've got yourself one group of talented, sharp-dressed players whose "circus rock" is a lot more stirring than their gypsy-meets-Tim Burton wardrobe.
What exactly is circus rock? For Mighty Tiny, it's a blend of inventive guitar, classic accordion refrains and the melancholy touch of a violin atop a boisterous drumbeat. Guitarists/vocalists Matt Tompkins and Max Rose (founding members of Mighty Tiny) came up with the term when they were trying to describe the auricular, organized chaos they birthed through their songwriting. "I use 'circus rock' not because we're really circus influenced, but because we try to incorporate a bunch of different genres into our sound," says Tompkins. "The music of Mighty Tiny gets mashed up and turns into this circus of its own, and the term kind of catches the ear, anyway." Though frenzied and at times overwhelming, the explosive energy that results from this meshing of styles leads to a handful of exciting moments during live sets and on Mighty Tiny's premier release, Eat People. The second-to-last track on the disc, "Moving On," is a five-minute hodgepodge of reggae rhythms and syncopated basslines that whirl out of control at a pace meant for a mosh pit. "Hey, Mambasso" is a favorite number among Mighty Tiny fans and members alike, and Rose looks forward to playing it each show. "I get so excited for the first chorus of that song," he says. "I get giddy as soon as I feel the volume go up, and the whole crowd is always moving and chanting by the end of it."
As their insatiable energy grabs a hold of fans across Boston, Mighty Tiny is building momentum by playing gigs on the regular at some of the most popular venues in town, as well as a few Allston house parties. With no plans to tour or record in the near future, Tompkins, Rose and the rest of Mighty Tiny plan to relish the opportunity to work on new material while doing what they do best: dressing up and getting people down to sounds they can't quite put their finger on. In a city where folks are inclined to stick to the comforts of acoustic jams or the latest incarnation of Brooklyn-based garage rock, Mighty Tiny have made themselves quite comfortable outside the box, and while wailing on accordions in top hats and sequins, at that.
Mighty Tiny Bring the Masquerade to the Middle East
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Back on the eve of Halloween, we had a chance to catch an eye-opening set by Allston’s masked madmen...Back on the eve of Halloween, we had a chance to catch an eye-opening set by Allston’s masked madmen (and women), Mighty Tiny. Local instrumental post-rockers Caspian were headlining, and the Middle East Upstairs was packed to near capacity with dozens of fans dressed in costume. Mighty Tiny got on stage decked out in turn-of-the-century Vaudevillian attire, complete with masks straight out of commedia dell’arte, creating a definitive air of mystery. A causal concert-goer might assume this was a special get up for Halloween, but elaborate costuming is just one of the many elements of the unique theatrics of Mighty Tiny’s performance.
Opening their set with an accordion- and fiddle-laden cover of “This Is Halloween” from the ever-popular Tim Burton film, The Nightmare Before Christmas, it was clear that Mighty Tiny were going to bring something different to the table. It’s difficult to characterize the band’s sound, which strangely floats somewhere around blues, jazz, punk, and gypsy music, sometimes shifting gears from one to another in an instant. What might be even stranger is how seamlessly it all comes together. The music serves as a great vehicle to allow the musicians to get into character, like Max Rose and his spidery antics as he leaps around the stage, laying out some sinister slide guitar solos. The effort that the sextet puts into performance, to make the show as entertaining visually as it is musically, is what sets them apart from so many other local bands.
Before their set, we sat down with all six members of the band and talked about their eclectic influences, creating a stage persona, and what it’s like to be a band on the rise in Boston.
DELI Magazine Review
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The blend of blues, americana, and Roussillon (Provencal?) folk music could be viewed as either the ...The blend of blues, americana, and Roussillon (Provencal?) folk music could be viewed as either the next fusion for bored Berklee kids to kick around/to death or as an exciting avenue for musical exploration, possibly because of it's relative obscurity in the pop music landscape. Maybe there is another viewpoint I'm missing. I don't know. It's polarizing, is what I'm saying. But for those of you who may enjoy a bit of sonic adventure (being a fan of Tom Waits and Gogel Bordello wouldn't hurt either), Mighty Tiny would be well worth your time. Their new release, White Dog Rough Again, skips jauntily through a number of different styles and genres within each song, creating an interesting, if somewhat manic, listening experience. The best feature of this band is if you don't like a particular part of a song, just wait for a few seconds and it will be completely different. The worst part is that you may not like the following parts either. You shouldn't necessarily listen to this as a soundtrack for any particular task or commute, but I did find it an enjoyable exercise in active listening, which I don't often feel compelled to do.
You can preview the album from their website, though I would highly suggest going to see them perform live at their CD release party at the Middle East Downstairs on Friday, May 13th, before reaching a purchasing decision.
Live Review: Mighty Tiny at Middle East Downstairs
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Then Mighty Tiny takes the stage. They look like the kind of band you’d find carousing at the sidesh...Then Mighty Tiny takes the stage. They look like the kind of band you’d find carousing at the sideshow of some Euro-circus run by Salvador Dalí or playing into the wee hours at a masquerade ball thrown by Edgar Allan Poe. Tonight this sexed-up sextet comes bearing new material to unleash upon the unsuspecting crowd. Yes, some of the songs are new, but it’s still the same ol’ Mighty Tiny we’ve all come to know and love and fear. Their music is still a grotesque conglomeration of gypsy tunes, Primus-style prog-rock, and pretty much any other style of music you can think of thrown in there for good measure. Onstage, the band is still a broiling font of psychosexual energy. They dance, skulk, and even seize to the sounds of their own twisted music. A cannibal feast for the eyes and the ears.
Live Review: Mighty Tiny at PA's Lounge
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By 11pm, a packed crowd awaits the headliners. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step right up...
By 11pm, a packed crowd awaits the headliners. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step right up and witness the amazing, the astounding, the astonishing Mighty Tiny! The masked bandits take the stage, launching into their twisted sideshow of circus-rock, hauntingly grotesque like a carnival mirror. Oompah basslines from the bird-faced bassist ground the checker-masked ringmaster as he percussively spanks his guitar like a red-headed stepchild. The Mardi Gras debutante saws on her fiddle in tandem with the forest-nymph accordionist, locked together in a gypsy-polka trance. Then, what looks like Lucifer himself (crooked red nose, matching boots) sings in a nasal tenor, exorcising demons from his blood-red Gibson SG. Underneath it all, the white-masked slasher-villain-lookin’ drummer pounds somersaulting rhythms, moving from dirge to shuffle to waltz to rumba. And that’s just their one song “Moving On.” The carnival mayhem ensues until they finally parade offstage, their instruments still humming, leaving the crowd under a spell or, better yet, a gypsy curse.
Tiny Band Makes a Mighty Sound
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When they were attending Hebrew school at Congregation Beth El in Sudbury, Noah Appel and Max Rose n...When they were attending Hebrew school at Congregation Beth El in Sudbury, Noah Appel and Max Rose never planned on being in a band together. Truth be told, the pair never really spoke to each other.
However, Appel and Rose struck up a friendship as freshmen at Berklee College of Music in 2006, and began having jam sessions. Fast forward to 2011: The duo now makes up one-third of Mighty Tiny, a Boston-based rock group that has gained some fame for its odd style of music and flair for the dramatic.
The band is scheduled to release its first full-length CD tomorrow night with a show at the Middle East in Cambridge.
For Appel and Rose, it’s been a surreal journey since their days as strangers at Beth El.
“I had known about Max because we went to Hebrew school together, but on our last day there we found out that we were going to the same college,’’ said Appel, a Belmont native who is the band’s drummer. “Then we were actually put in the same dorm our freshman year.
“Eventually I started playing together with Max and the other people in the band and everything clicked. We were playing these cool songs and our different styles worked well together. It seemed that we were onto something,’’ Appel said.
Joining Appel and Rose in Mighty Tiny are Matt Tompkins (a guitarist and singer who cofounded the band with Rose), Amy Alvey (violin), Kana Zink (accordion), and Dave Pezzano (bass). Rose plays the guitar and sings, and he and Appel are the band’s only Bay State natives.
As for the band’s name, it was taken from a Tom Waits song, “Circus.’’ Not surprisingly, the band’s members describe their musical genre as “circus rock,’’ a hodgepodge of styles and haunting instrumentation.
What catches the eye is their stage presence. Each member wears a different mask when they perform, making them look as if they belong in a Tim Burton movie rather than a rock club. Some of the masks were bought for $10 at local stores. Others were imported from Paris.
“When we put the masks on, each of us gets to be our own new character,’’ said Rose, a Sudbury native. “We get to become these new personalities and feel larger than life.’’
Since its launch three years ago, Mighty Tiny has put together an impressive resume.
They’ve shared the stage with acts such as the Detroit-based Electric Six, were named one of 10 bands to watch by the Improper Bostonian, and are planning a tour to promote their new album, entitled “White Dog Rough Again.’’
Describing Mighty Tiny’s music is no easy task. When asked to give an opinion, record executive Jeff Cloud said he was struck by the band’s unique arrangements.
“I’m having a hard time accurately putting Mighty Tiny’s sound into words, which might just be the highest compliment,’’ wrote Cloud, the founder of a California-based label, Velvet Blue Music, in an e-mail.
Tyler Spencer, who is the lead singer of Electric Six, sees the band as having the potential to develop a wide fan base.
“I think Mighty Tiny is less of a band, more of a family,’’ said Spencer. “They play old-timey music in such a future-forward manner. I think the more shows they play, the more the world will be forced to fall in love with them.’’
With Mighty Tiny, Appel and Rose have been able to feel their most comfortable as musicians. Originally the pair had different visions for their musical futures, with Appel considering the funk genre and Rose dreaming of being a jazz guitarist.
However, they both had trouble finding the right outlet for their styles and creative visions. For them, Mighty Tiny has been a blessing.
“I love working with the band because every person brings all of these crazy ideas, both musically and theatrically,’’ said Appel, who described Mighty Tiny as a close-knit family.
Rose echoed his sentiments, noting how every member in the band contributes ideas when they are writing songs.
“It’s really no-holds-barred with us, as anyone can suggest anything and we are willing to try it,’’ said Rose.
“We will just keep trying stuff out, and eventually things just start to fall in line.’’
Though Rose and Appel, who both graduated from Berklee last spring, entered college with different goals, they now share a common desire: making Mighty Tiny their full-time job.
“We want to be successful with the band and to do things like eventually play alongside our heroes,’’ said Rose.
“Having a dream to make a living with something like Mighty Tiny gives us a future where we are working with this creative process,’’ he said.
“It allows is to approach music as if it is a blank slate for us to create with.’’
All material is original, though some suitable covers have known to be included. Our set list ranges anywhere from 8-15 songs, and can range from 30-120 minutes.
Song titles include: Fuel for the Stars, Island in the Sea, My Kind of Predator, Four More Days, The Wedding Song, Dance Nobody Knew, Moving On, Down in the Well, Black Street Dawn, What Mammon Gave Away, Waving at the Air, Misery, Sweetest Dream, End of the Day, Hey, Mambosso, By the Hammer, One by One, Dream Girl, and Anna Moratta.
There are no upcoming dates at this time.