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Your backstage pass to Northeast Ohio's independent music scene.

Cleveland's Jenna Fournier channels past trauma into experimental songs as Kid Tigrrr

Vocalist and guitarist Jenna Fournier performs on stage
Jarrod Berger
Jenna Fournier performs on the Mahall's stage with her band, NIIGHTS, in 2019. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she began recording and producing solo experimental songs as Kid Tigrrr.

Kid Tigrrr is the gauzy, solo dream-pop project of Jenna Fournier, who fronted the Cleveland shoegaze band NIIGHTS. When the band went on hiatus due to COVID-19, Fournier began writing and recording her own songs.

She experienced overwhelming losses during the pandemic, from death in the family to relationships falling apart and her career being upended.

“I bought myself therapy as a birthday present,” Fournier said. “I think 2020, just it stripped so much from me.”

Fournier parted ways with her record label following three album releases and four international tours to Japan.

Like many artists left with no choice but to cancel gigs and stay indoors, Fournier started learning how to record and produce music on her own to maintain her creative outlet.

“I had started listening to a lot of bedroom pop, and I had already been sort of enamored with the idea of lo-fi, self-produced music,” she said. “2020 was just when I was like, ‘Now's the time to do it.’”

What began as a stripped-down, acoustic collection of songs evolved into experimental, electronic music that blends art-rock, indie-folk and lush soundscapes.

Fournier releases her Kid Tigrrr songs this spring. She said the work is her most personal writing to date, with lyrics exploring themes of abuse, addiction and mental health.

Exploring new methods of musical expression

Fournier worked on 12 songs over the course of three years, beginning with the track “Skin,” an intimate piece of songwriting that allowed her to rediscover her true self.

“It's about feeling alienated in yourself and losing that sense of self. You become sort of dissociative,” she said. “You're kind of looking at the world through a piece of lace or a haze and looking in the mirror with a piece of lace over your eyes, or the world sort of becomes a blurry photograph.”

She said she went through an abusive relationship, and “Skin” was a way for her to reclaim a sense of clarity and work through that trauma.

“You tell yourself, ‘I'm being strong. I'm going through my life every day. I'm not thinking about this stuff. I don't have to let this stuff affect me,’” she said. “But it's sort of operating in the background."

“I'm here with art and a message."
Jenna Fournier

To create the song, Fournier used a looping pedal to build upon an initial hook, strip some sounds away and add new layers of voice and instrumentation. The result is a texturally rich, immersive listening experience.

Her tracks “Shapes Of Water” and “Scry” began as official demos for Akron-based guitar pedal company EarthQuaker Devices.

“Before this, I'd only really made studio albums, and I did end up mixing it in a studio. And we added live drums in the studio, but otherwise it was all done from home,” she said. “So, it felt like a good launch for me. “

The former track runs nearly seven minutes long, which Fournier said rebels against the “algorithm game” that often favors shorter tracks.

“I'm here with art and a message,” she said.

She cites artists like My Bloody Valentine, the Smashing Pumpkins, Slowdive and the Cure as influences on her hazy, complex wash of sound.

Fournier said the title of her debut Kid Tigrrr album, "Stoned and Animald," blends her experiences as a performer and navigating her own personal challenges.

“I loved the metaphor of stoning as being judged. You put yourself out there as an artist and people judge you, and the more vulnerable you get, the more it seems they judge you,” she said.

“Animald” was her way of explaining survival mode and being on guard, particularly through the darkness of the pandemic.

Tracks like “PTSD” and “Therapy” reflect these themes.

“Starting off with ‘Therapy’ as the first track is also, sort of, ‘Let's set the ground. Here's my thesis statement,’” Fournier said.

Growing as an artist

Sonically, the album embraces experimentation and shows Fournier’s growth as a producer and songwriter.

"Lyrically, it's dealing with the stuff from the vault,” she said.

Fournier turned to journaling and workshopping to process her thoughts and emotions during the pandemic, and the music she created helped her turn them into songs.

She has already garnered attention from her musical heroes like Billy Corgan, who shared her track “Skin” for his social media followers.

Although she’s only released a few Kid Tigrrr tracks so far, Fournier said she is already receiving feedback that her songs have helped listeners work through their own experiences.

“I don't have a huge audience, but the people that are listening sometimes tell me things, that these lyrics mean so much to them,” Fournier said.

Kid Tigrrr will perform songs from “Stoned and Animald” at Happy Dog with Youth Pallet and Benjamin Liar on Saturday.

Expertise: Audio storytelling, journalism and production
Brittany Nader is the producer of "Shuffle" on Ideastream Public Media. She joins "All Things Considered" host Amanda Rabinowitz on Thursdays to chat about Northeast Ohio’s vibrant music scene.