Can Tiles finally hit the big time now they have Ian Anderson on board?
Tiles are releasing a new double concept album featuring guests Ian Anderson and Dream Theater. They never managed to hit the big time in the 90s but can they finally elevate their status now?
Timing may not be Tiles’ strong point. Formed in Detroit in the early 90s, they found themselves instantly competing with the discordant grunge scene, and although such releases as 1999’s Presents Of Mind and 2004’s Window Dressing sustained their fanbase, they believed that their last album – 2008’s Fly Paper – had the potential to make a breakthrough. Granted, that album was an articulate and inspired collection but typically, their label went bust shortly before the release, ensuring that it lacked the promotional punch it deserved. That lack of widened public awareness caused a deep dejection within Tiles and was also central to their eight-year delay to record a studio follow-up.
“Musically, when we released Fly Paper, we didn’t really have any momentum coming out of it,” says guitarist Chris Herin. “We felt it was a very good album but it ended up getting caught by the fact that our record label was dissolved. We even had Alex Lifeson making a guest appearance and nobody really picked up on that which was a little surprising. I mean, he is a fairly well known guitar player. So we just didn’t seem to be able to get any traction or make any inroads into a wider audience. We really felt that we’d delivered an interesting and quality recording with Fly Paper. Shortly thereafter, we tried to mount a tour of the Midwest here in the US and it didn’t go well, so we came off that whole experience thinking, ‘Wow, maybe we need to sit back here and take stock.’”
With other harsh realities affecting other members of the band – as Herin puts it, “pretty secure jobs had dropped out from underneath them” – the band’s future was uncertain until they decided to release a pair of live albums to ensure that memories of the band didn’t completely vanish from the consciousness of their fans. Music writing for a prospective album release was still being undertaken in the background though, and the result is their new, monumental double album Pretending 2 Run. Obstinately believing that they needed to record a grand album, it includes performances from a raft of guest musicians, has been produced by Terry Brown and even features cover art from Hugh Syme. Seemingly, this is their make-or-break album.
It’s not a case of, ‘Here’s a 40-second spot for Ian Anderson so we can tell people he is on the album’.
“Well yes, there’s no hiding from the fact that we are trying to create a work of art and I don’t mean that in an arrogant way,” explains Herin. “We wanted this album to have some kind of depth and be a reason for people to come back to us. We thought, ‘How do we create something that is going to capture attention in the first place?’ We knew it had to be as good as the top artists – not that we can compare ourselves necessarily with their quality, skill and success. But we knew that there was no point in doing another album unless we could felt that we could make