Lyell Evans Roeder (COL ’13) and Mary Ellen Funke (SFS ’15), who make up the alternative pop group Tigers Are Bad For Horses, have come a long way since they first bonded over their mutual passion for electronic music as students at Georgetown University. Since the duo formed in 2014, Roeder and Funke have worked to turn their casual interest into a serious endeavor, resulting in their debut EP — “TABFH” — that was released today.
According to Roeder, the pair started by experimenting with musical styles, influenced by the sounds of artists, such as Bonobo and Bon Iver.
“We knew each other through mutual friends and from recording together my senior year,” Roeder said. “Late in the following year, we decided it would be fun to make some more music. We started with a few songs and then went from there.”
After producing a few songs and a background track for a student-made film, Roeder and Funke decided to expand beyond Georgetown. In the fall of 2014, the two began to play at local Washington, D.C. shows and devoted more time to songwriting and producing. Their work soon amassed listeners both inside and outside of Georgetown, and the two steadily gained traction in the industry.
A year ago, the group released their first single, a smooth electronic track featuring Funke’s velvety vocals called “Recovery.” The track begins with rich harmonies and sustains a full, haunting tone throughout various musical segments. Shortly after the song’s release, it was picked up by electro radio station SiriusXM Chill.
“Around the same time we started playing shows, we found the opportunity to write ‘Recovery,’” Roeder said. “That jumpstarted us to start playing seriously and making a lot more music.”
So far, the group has produced two additional singles while simultaneously working on three songs set to be released on its debut EP. According to the duo, this upcoming release will provide fans with a taste of the band’s true style built up in previous singles.
“We think it’s our best work and way more representative of the sound that we want to go for,” Funke said. “We’re excited to get it out there.”
Roeder and Funke said that they both contribute equally to the writing and production of each song. “Messenger,” the first track on the EP, was a product of this synergy.
“We sat down together and decided we wanted something that would have a chorus — a little bit more like alt-J,” Roeder said. “We wrote some of the melodies and chords together; and then Mary Ellen wrote the lyrics, and the story of the song on top of that. It grew from there in terms of the production.”
Although each of the tracks on “TABFH” started in a different place and with unique inspiration, Roeder and Funke have been consistently meticulous in the writing and production processes.
“It’s very collaborative, but it takes a lot,” Roeder said. “We started working on the EP a year ago.”
Since their formation, the group has also played a number of venues and shows around the D.C. area, from lounges to benefit concerts to Georgetown’s very own Kickback Music and Arts Festival hosted by Students of Georgetown, Inc. in both 2014 and 2015.
“We’ve played a couple of shows at DC9 which have been really fun,” Roeder said. “It’s a great venue with good sound and energy. Some of the art shows we’ve played have been awesome too. They have this local, Georgetown vibe and the whole audience is really into the music.”
However, the duo admit that not every performance has been a perfect one, even joking about shows that did not go as planned.
“Our most memorable night might be when the sound guy had a delay on our mix,” Funke laughed. “Yeah, we’ve had some pretty bad shows.”
Despite flawed stage mixes and obstacles along the way, Roeder and Funke are clearly destined for success. With plans to play at more hot venues around D.C. and the rising anticipation of its new EP, the pair is steadily breaking into the electronic music scene.
Even with the excitement surrounding this rapid takeoff, however, the two remain humble by keeping their original goal in mind. Tigers Are Bad For Horses formed due to a genuine passion for electronic music, and this motivation will remain a priority.
“Our focus is on trying to get our sound out now and setting goals from there,” Funke said. “We primarily want people to hear us and to get our music out to as many people as we can.”
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Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly named one of the band’s first single as “Revolver.” The name of the band’s first single is “Recovery.”