Growing up together in South Gate, LA, the members of The Tender Box subsisted on a steady diet of synth-laden Britpop and post punk…not exactly what you’d expect from a place best known for producing hip-hoppers Cypress Hill. Since releasing their debut album, The Score, in 2007, the group has garnered themselves praise from everyone from D.J. Rodney Bingenheimer on his “Rodney On The ‘Roq” program to the blogmaster himself, Perez Hilton. In addition, they’ve also toured with indie favorites She Wants Revenge and Kill Hannah, landed themselves a spot on the new “Shaun White Snowboarding: World Stage” game for Wii, and even recorded the theme song to the Stan Lee-created “The Spectacular Spiderman” cartoon.

LA Music Blog recently talked with band frontman Joey Medina about the upcoming release of their second EP, working with acclaimed producer Jack Douglas, and their East Vs. West tour that kicks off tomorrow night at the Viper Room.

Joey Medina of The Tender Box
Photo by: Elizabeth Thorp

For the people who might not know of The Tender Box, can you tell us a little bit about the background of the band?

Well, three of us were friends from junior high, and we went all through high school together. Basically we just listened to the same music and decided to get a band together, and we’ve been doing it ever since. One of the bands that we used to play with back in the day was called Ashbury, and the guitarist joined us about a year ago.

Do you think that being together for this long as friends and as a group has helped developed the band’s sound?

Definitely. I think all the elements that come together have a lot to do with what we all listened to ever since we were kids. That definitely plays a major part on the whole essence of the band, and it’s really easy to reference things as far as ideas and when we’re composing the music. We can always just go back to our influences to get the general idea of what we’re going for.

Can you describe the group’s songwriting process?

Usually it starts off with just jamming out, just letting ideas flow naturally, and we start picking up the vibe. I think we all pretty much feel what we like, and we start structurizing everything. Everybody puts in their unique part of themselves, and I think that’s where the songs come together.

What was it like working with Jack Douglas on the new EP?

Personally, I think it was such a blessing because I’ve been a huge John Lennon fan ever since I started listening to music, I would say. To be working personally with someone that played a part in John Lennon’s sound and his final days of writing and recording is, like I said, a true blessing. It’s funny because he didn’t know that I was a John Lennon fan until I made a reference to one of his songs, “Just Like Starting Over,” and then he started telling me some stories. It was just awesome. When you have somebody like that, that was so close to one of your influences, it’s quite a treat.

The Tender Box
Photo by: Joseph Llanes

What do you feel like he brought to the table with the recordings?

I think what he likes to do is strip it down and make it sound as natural as possible, get that natural element of the song itself. He liked to try to record it live as opposed to just running through track by track on ProTools. We set up in a recording room and basically just ran through the song until we got it right and got all the basic tracks down, and then we did the vocals after. It was a more natural way of doing things, and it was something that we weren’t really too used to before, but we all enjoyed it and I think we were all pretty happy with the sound.

Was that the first time you guys have done that type of recording?

To be honest, yeah. We’ve worked with several other producers, and it’s not to say that we liked it any more or less—it was just different. Being that it was such a natural way of recording, it just brought things a little bit more down to earth, and it was a little bit more true as far as trying to play the songs live after that. Sometimes when you’re in the studio, the songs will come out totally different than what you originally went in to record it for. It just brought a whole natural feel to it. It’s just honest.

Do you prefer being in the studio or playing live?

I have to say I love it equally, 50/50. I love the live experience. I love playing in front of people, but at the same time, you get that experience of just being really creative and coming up with those new ideas while you’re in studio. I think I would have to say I love each just as much as the other.

What can your fans expect from your East Vs. West Tour with Deadbeat Darling?

We have a couple new songs that we’re playing that we haven’t performed live yet, so we’re pretty excited to see the reaction to playing those songs for the first time. For the most part, we’re just willing to have a good time, like always, and hoping for the best.

The Tender Box Tour

Are there any cities that you guys always want to hit on tour or any cities that you haven’t been to yet that you’d like to go check out?

We love playing in the U.K. That’s one of our favorites. We love the response that we get there, and it just seems there’s always that yearning for new music. You can feel that when you’re performing live, whether it be in front of three people or more than 100 people. It’s just always a great experience. Here in America, I really enjoy playing San Francisco. Vegas is always fun. Those are just a few of my favorites.

What are your favorite songs to play live?

I like when we use both electronic beats and the natural feel, and “Beautiful Sin” is one of those song. Another favorite is “The Score,” which is the title track from our debut album.

You released your first EP last year and will be following it up with your second later in 2010. What’s the title of that new release?

The first EP we titled simply EP1, so this is gonna be EP2. We try to keep it simple. [LAUGHS]

What else can people expect from the band in 2010?

I definitely like to think that the music has progressed. Not just sonically, but as far as lyrics as well. I think one of the things we hear a lot is that the songs are a bit morbid, but I think the newer songs have a bit more of a positive beat to them.

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