Eye of the Tiger

Bae Tigre’s classical-flecked indie pop roars without falling prey to cinematic tropes

Ranelle Johnson, Alex Galle and Nathaniel Bates of Bae Tigre rehearse in their basement practice space on Sunday. Bae Tigre are an indie-electro group from Minneapolis and will be playing a show this Saturday March 14th at the Triple Rock Social Club

Alex Tuthill-Preus

Ranelle Johnson, Alex Galle and Nathaniel Bates of Bae Tigre rehearse in their basement practice space on Sunday. Bae Tigre are an indie-electro group from Minneapolis and will be playing a show this Saturday March 14th at the Triple Rock Social Club

Grant Tillery

Ranelle Johnson is nervous in interviews. The Bae Tigre vocalist and keyboardist credits social paralysis and external stimuli to her scattered, charming demeanor. Yet she switches into tunnel vision on stage and tunes out the world around her to focus on music.

“The pressure of knowing that this is something that’s going to be presented to other people and the person presenting is meeting me for the first time [is nerve-wracking],” Johnson said about the interview process. “I tend to lose my train of thought when I get really anxious.”

Bae Tigre is Johnson’s latest electronic music project, and the act’s rising profile is a testament to her focus.

Formed as a solo project in July, Johnson recorded the debut album, “Memoir of a Happy Drifting Chemical,” in her basement. The album was released in November 2014, and Johnson expanded the band’s stage size since then, growing from one to five members. They’ll open for Botzy this Saturday at the Triple Rock, and several of the band’s members will accompany the local rapper on stage.

“Memoir of a Happy Drifting Chemical” sits at the intersection of indie rock and electronica. Johnson’s swooping vocals punctuate melodies that are futuristic interpretations of classical music; her vocal style is at odds with her shy persona. Bae Tigre’s tunes incorporate the catharsis of modern classical music without falling victim to the genre’s tropes and avoid the cinematic, flamboyant effect that defines similar bands.

Johnson’s love affair with music began during college. She graduated from University of Minnesota-Duluth with a psychology major and music minor and works as a music therapist during the day. A surprising seduction by a beguiling stranger convinced Johnson to pursue music beyond her classical training.

Enter Ableton (the stranger in question), a music-production program designed for real time.

“I got Ableton on Valentine’s Day 2009,” Johnson said. “I was single and decided to learn it and eat pizza. It’s one of those vivid memories, like when you meet someone special.”

“I’m going to name my kid Ableton, regardless of gender,” electric cellist Addison Wasson joked.

Despite her love for Ableton, Johnson prefers to write songs by hand. She enjoys playing with chord structures — a nod to her music school roots — to create compositions with intricate voicing.

“When [Ranelle] finally gets the stuff to us, it’s noticeable that it’s from a really raw place,” Wasson said. “The things she gives us are phenomenal — they’re already well thought out. If we didn’t do a thing, it would be amazing.”

Bae Tigre become more impressive considering the speed at which Johnson works. Between her music therapy job and bands, she’s constantly busy, a sentiment echoed throughout the band. Balance isn’t in their vocabulary.

“We go full speed all the time,” Wasson said. “If I’m not sleeping, I’m playing, and I’d rather be playing.”

When free time arises, Johnson keeps her eye on the music and new material. Though the idea of living and breathing music is cliché, she proves it to be true, thanks to the fear of failure nipping at her heels.

“I create at a fast rate,” Johnson said. “I just want to be able to not get stuck on one thing. Maybe I’ll live to be 90 and make a million albums, or I [could] die tomorrow and [be like], ‘Oh, I never put out a record.’”

 

Bae Tigre (opening for Botzy)

 

When: 9 p.m. Saturday

Where: The Triple Rock Social Club, 629 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis

Cost: $5-$10

Ages: 18+