Ellen Siberian Tiger is a feminist indie rock band helmed by songwriter and guitarist Ellen Tiberio Shultz. Band members Tiberio Shultz, who plays guitar and sings lead vocals, Collin Dennen, who plays bass and synthesizer, and drummer Rich Straube are based in West Philadelphia, but Tiberio Shultz began performing under the Siberian Tiger moniker over a decade ago, while still a high school student in central Pennsylvania. This summer, the band entered Miner Street Studios to begin work on a new album, Cinderblock Cindy, which will be released in the Spring of 2020. This album, the band’s first full length work since 2015’s I Can’t Help It, features a simpler lineup and a grungier sound, but it is a continuation rather than a departure from the ultimate project of I Can’t Help It: to create more spaces in the musical landscape for healthy queer catharsis and healing, a space where others will feel empowered to speak about their lives as well.
In 2018 the band was invited to participate in the recording of a Shaking Through Session with Weathervane Music, a Philly based non-profit that specializes in exploring the creative process of making music and its greater social impact. The music video they recorded for this session, “everybody, always,” received national recognition when it was selected as one of NPR’s Slingshot Series 10 Must-Watch Music Videos from Philadelphia for 2019. The single will appear on the upcoming album.
While Ellen Siberian Tiger has experimented with a wide variety of styles and musical arrangements over the years, their work has always been informed by the desire to provide femme and queer audiences with a musical framework with which to contextualize the full range of their experiences. The album’s first single, “Kitchen Knife,” which was released in October of last year, explores the dangers and risks inherent for femme and gender-nonconforming people in romantic relationships with those who have been raised with male privilege. The lyrics examine the consequences of ignoring the darker aspects of this kind of relationship in order to “keep it simple,” a directive that is mirrored in the music.
Paring down to a guitar, bass, and drums, Tiberio Shultz creates extra breathing room for their lyrics, which seem to contract and expand between the specific and the universal from moment to moment. This spare line-up also showcases the skill each member of the band brings to the project, as well as Tiberio Shultz’s talent for songwriting. In “everybody, always,” wondering whether or not a new lover can be trusted, the narrator insists “I never worry, I know you wouldn’t lie to me,” but follows up this cozy declaration of love with “everybody always lies, don’t they?” and the tempo lurches suddenly from 6:8 to 5:8, that dropped beat jolting the listener like a missed step on a flight of stairs.
Ellen Siberian Tiger’s music explores the process of working through new experiences, which is to say, the process of being alive, with all of its moments of heartbreak, uncertainty, and joy, using a combination of music and lyrics that provide ample space to explore nuanced expressions of anger and contentment, doubt and self confidence, romantic love and love for the self.
“Ellen Siberian Tiger’s latest album is just over the horizon and the initial samples are shaping up to be bigger, blunter, and bolder than ever before.”
– Alt Citizen