(group photo by Nathaniel Wood, live photos by Rick Rodney)

Here are some things you will not learn about Tijuana Panthers from this extraordinarily well-thought-out and well-executed interview: childhood friends Daniel Michicoff, Chad Wachtel, and Phil Shaheen are kind of the unicorns of garage/surf punk/whatever-the-fuck-adjective-is-hip-now scene. They are well-groomed and polite and clean-looking (I didn’t do any scientific tests but they definitely give off the impression of being people who bathe regularly), and they make music filled with the purest sort of angst: the kind you had before you started to slowly and willfully give up on life, the kind that still holds onto hope like a fluttery moth trapped in its hands. Their newest album Semi-Sweet (out today on Innovative Leisure) sometimes sounds like a walk on a beautiful (but windy) beach with a person you’re about to break up with and sometimes sounds like the feeling you get when you see photos of yourself in the third grade holding up a certificate of excellence in reading, and sometimes I can describe music in a way that makes sense but not today.

I caught up with Daniel, Chad, and Phil after a recent show and procured the following piece of excellence (and then I did their merch afterwards, pocketing a very cool pin for my troubles):

 

Hi Tijuana Panthers.

Daniel: Hi Yasi Cultist.

 

Tell me how you guys all met. What’s the magical back story behind the Tijuana Panthers? Give me magic.

Chad: We met as babies.

Phil: Which means junior high.

D: I like to say surf camp, because Chad and I shared a temp.

 

Like a secretary?

D: No, I meant a tent, not a temp.

C: She was good though.

D: What?

C: No, not like that. I meant like, competent.

D: Anyway, we shared a TENT. I was probably like 11, Chad was about 13. And at the time Phil and I were in a band together called The Fancy Lads, and Chad and Phil were in a band together called The Pencils. We all grew up together in church, like church groups, and skateboarding in high school, going to rock shows and sermons. We met some very interesting people then, including each other. And then we like our music that we like, and then we do our thing.

 

To recap: you like your music you like, and then you do your thing?

C: We don’t need to mention the music we like. Just that we like it.

P: We like it!

D: I like my music.

P: I like music. I’m a music fan.

 

You’re into music?

P: Yeah, I’m into music.

 

Music’s cool I guess.

D: Basically after surf camp, I remember going over to Chad’s house and him laying down some Ritchie Valens for me. Was it 7 inches?

C: It was just recordings that weren’t released, that he had done. They were CDs.

So then eventually you gelled as Tijuana Panthers?

D: They were in a band called The Pencils, and they played really heavy surf stuff. And they used to play The Smell, and they were like “we’re over this, we want to add a bass player.”

Random Fan: “Sorry to interrupt, you guys played a great show, but um, there’s no one selling merch.”

C: Oh man, sorry, we’ll have someone over there soon.

D: Yasi, why aren’t you selling our merch?

 

I can’t do all the things Daniel. I can’t do this interview and sell merch at the same time. I’m not a wizard. So where are we at? Tijuana Panthers suck at selling merch and they formed some time, we’re not sure when. What was your first show like?

D: Wasn’t it at a party?

P: No, it was at Que Sera.

D: Que Sera is a lesbian bar in Long Beach. There’s some great art there, and pool tables, and we played a really nervous, 6-song show.

C: It just sounded like a wall of sound, I think.

D: Which was like Phil Spector, so we were definitely on it.

 

Oh.

D: It was a joke.

 

Oh yes, it was funny.

D: No, it wasn’t funny. You didn’t laugh.

 

I smiled a little. So that was your first show. How did people respond?

P: There were a few people there. It was good, though it’s hard to remember that long ago. It was 2005. Long Beach was dead in the early 2000s.

 

So you guys sort of helped resurrect the Long Beach scene?

C: We don’t like to claim things.

D: Maybe we perceive that we were part of it. In our minds, we were part of it.

P: There were quite a few different routes, and we were one route. We were playing surf music in the early 2000s.

C: Not like we were the only ones playing surf music.

P: No, the other people playing surf music were more traditional though. The Pencils used to play with Traditional Fools, which was Ty Segall’s band.

D: And that’s how they met him, and we all reconnected at SXSW a few years ago. So it’s just been a very nice on-going process.

Since then you guys have toured a bunch and visited many different cities. What is your guys’ tour snacks of choice?

P: We like to eat fresh.

 

So…Subway?

D: Exactly. And Phil’s mom has a cure-all for everything, the way Chris Rock’s mom says Robitussin cures everything: bananas. Potassium.

P: Oh, wipes. Those are a snack right?

 

No, but I appreciate that you guys are into cleanliness.

P: We keep it clean.

 

You guys aren’t the kind of band that goes on tour without any changes of socks or underwear right?

D: No, you’re probably thinking of Pangea or something.

P: I wear the same pants for like a week.

 

I wear the same pants for like a month without washing them and I don’t even go on tour.

P: But you’re a girl, it’s different.

D: We all know how to go low-profile with our gear. I like to keep it clean.

P: For the record, Dan keeps it clean.

D: I’m single.

 

For the record, Dan keeps it clean, he is single, and you should call him. He’s into long walks on the beach…

D: No. I’m into long walks on ice.

 

Great. So what can we look forward to with the new album that comes out May 28th?

D: We’re genuinely proud of this second album, it took a while and we grew from it. It’s cliché that I’m saying that, but we’re all genuinely proud of it.

P: I already leaked it and gave a bunch of CDs to my students and they say it’s A-OK.

D: You have one Yasi, what do you think?

 

It’s really fucking good.

P: The kids like it, and I don’t care what adults think. Are you an adult now Yasi?

 

Not in practice. If you guys were Larry, Moe, And Curly, who would be who?

D: Can we do the Marx Brothers? I think Chad is Harpo, he’s the mysterious genius. I’m probably Groucho, and Phil is the other cousin.

 

They were brothers. No cousin. So Phil is the third Marx brother, the one who no one can remember his name?

D: I think Phil’s kind of a hottie, in my opinion. His last name is Shaheen and they call him Shahottie at school.

 

Phil looks like Stephen Malkmus.

D: I’m an asshole, I’m clearly Groucho.

 

And now it seems we’ve reached the end of this interview. Group hug.

 

 You can find Tijuana Panthers on Facebook, Twitter, and helping old ladies cross the street. You can buy their new album HERE. They will be playing an album release party on May 31st in Los Angeles, flyer below:

 

Yasi Salek

About Yasi Salek

likes parentheses.