- The Washington Times - Friday, September 18, 2009

Pop music will receive a makeover Friday, when Miniature Tigers and Fun bring their polished pep to Jammin’ Java.

Although he hails from central Arizona, songwriter Charlie Brand officially formed Miniature Tigers in California, where he drew upon the area’s warm climate for inspiration. “I became very interested in jungle imagery and ‘Indiana Jones’ stuff,” the singer says of his songwriting process.

Such tropical elements made their way into his music, adding some luster to Mr. Brand’s ruminations on failed relationships. An emphasis on upbeat melodies tied the whole package together, creating a sweet-and-sour mix of acoustic pop songs, campfire singalongs and puppy-love ballads.

It’s been a year since Miniature Tigers’ debut album, “Tell It to the Volcano,” was released. The musicians have been touring steadily since January, starting with a series of shows alongside Ben Folds, another singer who strikes a balance between melancholia and sunny optimism.

“We’re driving through the Colorado mountains right now,” Mr. Brand reports from his band’s van, which recently canvassed much of the Southwest and Rust Belt. “The last time we were here, things were very snowy. Now everything’s green. It’s been interesting to return to these places and watch the seasons change.”

When autumn eventually gives way to winter, Miniature Tigers will retire to the recording studio and begin working on a second album. At the moment, however, the musicians are playing national shows with Fun, another pop band with ties to the Southwest.

Arizona native Nate Ruess first made a name for himself as leader of the Format. When the lineup disbanded last year, he chose to form a different group with two friends: Jack Antonoff, co-founder and lead vocalist of Steel Train, and Andrew Dost, a multi-instrumentalist from the Michigan-based group Anathallo.

Fun creates music that is, like its moniker’s eccentric punctuation (fun.), at once breezy and bizarre. The trio’s debut album, “Aim and Ignite,” is filled with orchestral flourishes and inspired, nearly frantic vocals, and the material takes on an aggressive tone in concert.

“We’re not trying to re-create anything,” Mr. Antonoff says of the live show. “Instead of finding ways to play every last orchestral part, we’re finding a way to take the parts we have and make them more interesting. It’s about being unique.”

c Miniature Tigers and Fun will perform at Jammin’ Java on Friday. The show starts at 9:30 p.m., with Miniature Tigers taking the stage first. Tickets are $13 at the door.

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