Syntax Issue 10
Denver Syntax

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it.”
- Paulo Cohelo, The Alchemist

It is a queer coincidence that an intentional community can form through circumstance and simply driving forward, through grimaces and fits of bravery. In part, this is the color of Speakeasy Tiger. But as things would have it, serendipity doesn’t always reveal itself with the simplicity that you had planned with your eyes closed.

When Kyle Simmons was in middle school, she probably didn’t think that she would haphazardly run into the school’s janitor playing a piano in an empty room. More than that, Simmons probably wouldn’t have believed that now, many years later – this man would have been an involved figure in her musical development, let alone a bandmate.

If you have looked through a kaleidoscope, then you have already looked into the eddy of Speakeasy Tiger (Kyle Simmons, vocals, guitar; Pete Schmidt, keytar, synths, piano; Tavis Alley, guitar; Lauren Gale, bass; Luke Gordon, drums, percussion). A danceable symphony of revolving doors, torrents of emotion, and stories of exploding stars in the periphery of vision, Speakeasy Tiger has unceremoniously roared, supernova, onto the Denver scene. And likely, by year’s end – onto the national stage.

With an EP already tucked into the annals of their short history, Speakeasy Tiger has spent this spring in the studio recording their first full length “The Public”, to be released in July. Already having heard the scratch tracks – it is clear to this author that the band is not standing still. Not even for an entire album. And you can’t blame them – with a wildly adept family of musicians, they are a disco explosion of cosmic light – rocketing outward into the dusty void.

With tracks off their freshman EP like, “Speak Long, Dream On” – one would wonder how many more pieces of musical arson the band would actually commit – but it seems that the quintet has located their nuclear fuel in a sound; an idiosyncratic sound, at that. But this sound is not the kind of symphony that you can dream up, speak on – no, the Speakeasy Tiger sound is the kind of perfect storm that only happens when the right players fall to earth in a meteoric storm – with that kind of velocity to alchemically forge together, from raw materials, precious golds and prized platinums.

Since that fortuitous day in middle school, Kyle Simmons has had a spotlight on her. When she was eighteen, she was signed to a label. Toured. Recorded albums. Fast-forward a couple years down the line, and then, with her bandmates, decided that they needed a change in order to leap over the wall that was facing them. Simply put, something wasn’t flowing like it should. With a series of brave steps, the band dissolved itself, still seeking that cache of gold.

Enter, the rebirth and a completely new, fiery sound: Speakeasy Tiger.

While Simmons’ history is pertinent to the band, it’s not the band’s entire story. It is, however, the most illuminating through line – the one that impossibly represents the whole.

For running parallel to Simmons, Pete Schmidt and Lauren Gale – all who collaborated to form Girl Named Kyle – were a couple other boys. And I can assure you, their roads did not point toward Speakeasy Tiger in any obvious way. Guitarist Tavis Alley was roaming the country, unable to keep his foot planted in one place too long when he answered an ad just as he was leaving the Queen City. Luke Gordon was playing in a mix of metal and grindcore bands, not even in the same arena that Girl Named Kyle played in.

One wonders about the mystery of life in the same way as one wonders about the mystery of death. And where these metaphysics find their common home is in music. For while the universe is a fluid continuum of catastrophes and life and love and reason and the unknowing – music parallels this story, often intersects it. Helps us explain it.

For I’m certain that neither the wandering Alley or Schmidt (the janitor in Simmons’ middle school, who subsequently lugged an upright piano around the country, playing at odd and formal places alike) would have made this kind of prediction – the kind that makes you stay your course. The kind of prediction where you exhale and smile at the formation of something like Speakeasy Tiger and say, there is fortune in trusting your sometimes-aimless journey. For early on, the fortune of all paths intersecting in such a fluid and finicky lifeline has made sense: From Gordon’s high proficiency in percussion to Gale’s history on the saxophone, to Schmidt’s classically trained piano hands to Simmons’ wealth of experience and talent – Speakeasy Tiger, however unlikely, is magnetic. And has been, since the beginning.

One facet that has sustained their polarizing charges has been the element of family, of community. For a collaboration such as this one, it is evident that – apart from organizing highly adept musical talents – the band’s primary challenge is working with each other. Hitherto, they’ve lead a charmed romance, with an uncanny ability to insert parts, drop pieces, and trade instruments, all in an effort to find what the song needs in order to sustain the story. Instead of fighting each other, the band lets all the parts fight each other, to find the song’s singular sense of truth, as laid-out in its space and time.

And while you can preach this all you like, when you practice three times a week, for four hours at a time – you must activate these virtues, utilize those skills. As Gale said, the importance has been on, “being prepared to show-up when the time comes.” And what’s apparent to all the players is that, now is the time. The time has come.

The band collaborates on the sound, the parts, the instrumentation and really – the orchestration and story. With a head for the end, each player is required to understand the bigger picture – the larger fold that they are trying to crease. Like any other symphony, their songs have movements – and not just of the danceable variety – but rather, the kind of movements and changes and breaks and paths that form a literal landscape, a linear, wavy odyssey. It is these movements which create the sense of chapters within the song’s stories. But it is somewhere embedded within the lyrical content where the rest of the band’s story unfolds, nay – where every song’s story unfolds. Where its protagonist aches and the antagonist bellows in mockery. This is where the center of their storm of emotion lives and finds its ultimate, grand exemplification: in the virtue which says that there is power in music.

It is not surprising that Simmons is responsible for the words which saddle this army’s charge. But it is surprising that one songwriter has enough aptitude, or really - bravery, to step in front of that cavalry of sound at all. For if you step back from the compositions and think about the task of trying to match lyrics and vocals to the instrumentation – the duty can become daunting. Nay, should become daunting. For if there is one place where the cosmic lines collide with the sound of Speakeasy Tiger it is in the emotional heft of their songs. With these ideas in-hand, somehow and nearly impossibly, Simmons has taken these reins, only to triumph around every turn, in every story.

If there’s nothing else to do/Let it erupt in me and you. Sing. State. Exalt. Repeat.

If there’s nothing else to do/Let it erupt in me and you. Sing. State. Exalt. Repeat.

This last year, so many Denver bands have lost their steam, and are folding-up in front of us – with more bankruptcies yet to be filed. But, in this age where the musical hierarchy of the Queen City feels awfully naked, just talking with this ambitious band is encouraging. It is hopeful to hear that Speakeasy Tiger is determined. Willing to sweat it out in the practice space, on stage, in the studio. It is hopeful to hear of their approach. That they’re smart. Have done their homework. Know the language of the industry. Are getting out and on the road. This, all because Speakeasy Tiger is that kind of once in a lifetime project – that once in a lifetime space in time where you can hear our sepia-toned forefathers patting you on the back and saying: if you’ve ever prepared yourself to show-up for that time, that one time, when everything, absolutely everything, is right – now is that time.

Stay tuned with for the band’s upcoming performances, releases and tour dates, here: www.myspace.com/speakeasytiger.