Made Out of Babies: An Interview with the Band

UPDATE: I’ve got an entire update/lowdown from Julie Xmas on her new solo record as well as what has been going on in the MOOB camp including info on their new record, new producer!, new loads of noisy AWESOME. I saw Brendan last Friday night at the Casbah, looks like he is doing some tour dates with Red Sparrowes. Hopefully we’ll see a spring release for the new record. The following interview took place on their first West Coast tour with Blackfire Revelation and Unsane in person at the Casbah. They had just released their Neurot debut, Trophy and I think I was the first person to interview the band. I’ll be adding the update/interview with Julie later this week so check back. Live they are magnificent, like a wolf pack in a cage covered in caribou parts, Julie as Asena stalking the stage, tearing through the crowd with her howl.

made out of babies

Brendan—guitar
Julie—vocals
Cooper—bass
Matt—drums

It’d be easy to do a bunch of metaphors using their name, but I’ll do my best to refrain from that lowest common denominator of writing gimmickry and provide a tale of my sordid encounter with Brooklyn’s fiercest “heavy” music act.

When Charles (musicedge.com photographer) and I made it to San Diego’s Casbah, much to our chagrin Made Out of Babies was three songs into its set. We got our wrists stamped and entered the venue with a spring in our step. Noticing the lack of people standing near the stage, we took it upon ourselves to show support by getting close—close enough to see the veins pop out of vocalist Julie X-Mas’ forehead as she spit the chorus of “Gut Shoveler” into her white-knuckled fist that was strangling the microphone.

Fans started to trickle in as MOoB went deeper into its set; most of the gathered masses were there to see noise core progenitors Unsane, who are touring in support of their latest Relapse Records release, Bloodrun. Yet those lucky enough early birds in attendance got a taste of what can only be described as awe-inspiring. MOoB combines the best of The Jesus Lizard chain-saw guitar effect (Brendan) with gut churning bass lines (Cooper) and bombastic, Keith Moon-like percussion (Matt). The apex of MOoB (aside from the talented instrument players) comes in the form of an auburn-haired Siren named Julie X-Mas, whose tortured, rage-filled screams are punctuated by moments of melodic beauty, enchanting listeners and raising obligatory devil horns from even the most cynical scenesters.

Their debut record, Trophy (Neurot Records), has a dozen gems that range in feel from manic chaos to schizophrenic surrealism. Their live set had the same feel of controlled chaos as their album with Julie caterwauling, spinning like a winged airliner in a final dive to the beckoning earth below.  Brendan and Cooper wield their instruments like weapons and their bodies act as if in the midst of some transcendental aboriginal dance, swaying back and forth to Matt’s maple splitting drum beat. This is a band that demands your attention while simultaneously command a sound with a passion and fury more than worthy of the barbaric applause and exalted screams from the crowd.
My only complaint was that the band didn’t play my favorite song, “Sugar,” which guitarist Brendan explained “is in a different tuning.”

With their set finished, we gathered in the Atari Lounge in the rear of the Casbah. The Lounge is a room filled with games like Gallaga, Ms. Pacman and Centipede. With the cacophony of video game music and the second act, Blackfire Revelation for ambiance, we sit at a table with an inlaid map of the U.S. and make jokes about Red and Blue states.  I’m impressed with the bands generosity as I attempt to conduct a very intimate interview.

SR: How did you all meet?
Julie: I dated him and him (pointing to Matt and Brendan). Brendan and I started playing together first about two or three years ago. Cooper’s been with us for over a year.

They proceed to argue benevolently on the precise time when Cooper joined the band.

Brendan: We drafted him about a year and a half ago.
Cooper: Here’s how it went. I played in my other band that’s called Players Club, and they opened for us on their first show and they weren’t good
Brendan: We were terrible.
Cooper: But I loved them. Anyway, a year later they recorded some stuff with the guitar player from Players Club, Joel Hamilton, and they recorded a bunch of songs with him, three of which are still on the record [Trophy]. I was at a party with these guys and said, “If you guys need a rhythm guitarist I’ll totally play rhythm guitar.” So a week later Brendan called me up and said “Why don’t you play bass guitar with us instead?” So I said, “Doesn’t Matt’s sister play bass guitar?” and they said, “Not anymore.” Then we immediately wrote the rest of the record.
Brendan: We were already in the process of recording but we weren’t happy with it, and we knew we could do better so we decided to scrap most of it and start all over.
Cooper: They had about five songs and we kept three.
Brendan: We had written bits of other songs then Cooper came along and …
Cooper (mockingly): Then we gelled, man.
Matt: Like a three-cheese quesadilla.
Brendan: Four.

SR: How did the writing change with the addition of Cooper, and how does the process work in the band? Is there one person writing songs or is it collaborative?
Brendan: It’s pretty much everyone. Different songs have started from different places. Some start with a guitar riff. “Sugar” started with a drumbeat and I wanted to do something “jerky” sounding, and Matt said, “Well I have this drum beat.” And it kind of went from there.
Cooper: I try and bring in like two parts that go together and let it go from there.
Matt: Lyrics come together once the skeleton of the song is in place.
Brendan: The great thing about Julie is that the lyrics come fairly easy to her. We’ll be figuring something out and she’ll say, “I want to try something right here.”
Julie: I always think of things as a singer. In writing, these guys have their own specific job. But thinking of things as a singer … that changes the writing too.
Cooper: That’s the great thing ’cause she can say; “I only have words for half of that.” So we’ll shorten that. Or “I have more than that” and we’ll double it.
Brendan: And most of the time it works ’cause it will break the cadence of the song up in a way that we wouldn’t have written it. The vocals and the melody will lend itself better to the song.

At this point we are interrupted by Dave from Unsane, bringing friendly shots to his friends and band mate, Cooper, who moonlights as a guitarist and vocalist for Players Club.

SR: As a writer, do you have things that you’ve already set down on paper prior to hitting the rehearsal or is it more spontaneous, creating words on the spot?

Julie: Well, sometimes I’ll use stuff that I already have, but most of the time I don’t even think about the words. Even some songs now I don’t have lyric sheets for because I use more sounds than actual lyrics. But I definitely take influences from things that I’m reading or something that strikes me when I hear their music.
Brendan: Like “Gut Shoveler”; what was that book you were reading?
Julie: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.
Brendan: She said to me, “We should do something that sounds like a machine” and that’s when I did that thing with the slide that makes it sound like something is churning over and over again.
Cooper: The other great thing about the recording process is all the stuff we had written together as a band had changed quite a bit.  The vocals were still pretty loose but when we went into the studio there was such a format and so many different ways to do it that Julie was really receptive.  We were in the control room and she was laying down tracks and we could say, ‘try the other one.’  She’s awesome because she can do the songs a million different ways.
Brendan: In some ways, Joel Hamilton who produced the record is in a lot of ways another member of the band because he came up with a lot of ideas that we ended up really liking.  Getting back to the song ‘Sugar’ Julie had a basic melody and when we recorded it she had a couple of different things she would do.  She would improvise a lot of things when we were in the studio and she would change something or do something different and we’d be like, ‘that, do that again!’  Joe sat down with that song over the course of an hour and came up with the melody in the chorus.
Matt: At that point it was nice to have an objective pair of ears cause we had been in the studio for a while and doing the same thing over and over and he’d suggest something and the light bulb would go off, ‘Bing!’
Julie: The song and lyrics are based on my sister and me. When I wrote that song I was thinking of a character so I took certain traits of my sister and I (who’s at every show that we play) and put it into one person.
Brendan: All right, enough about that song. [He says laughing]

SR: how did you get started playing guitar?
Brendan: Some friends of mine were starting a band right as I was finishing high school, and I was always going to the shows and I just wanted to be in the band with them. The guitar player was a really good friend of mine and he showed me how to play a few of the songs, and in about six months I was playing in that band. I played with them for about four or five years but it never went anywhere. I didn’t play for years and years and then Julie and I went out for a while, then split up.
Julie: Like a hundred and seven years.
Brendan: It lasted for years. It lasted forever! But then we didn’t talk for a year, and she called me and it was her sister’s birthday, and she was already playing music with Matt and they needed a guitar player. So I went and practiced with them for about four days and played the show for her birthday with Cooper’s other band, Players Club.
Cooper: I love ’em but they played awful.
Brendan: Matt hadn’t played drums for a number of years and I hadn’t played guitar for six or seven years so it was terrible.

SR: Did you just start playing bass for this band?
Brendan: He’s our celebrity.
Matt: Lets stick with bass; who’ve you played bass for?
Cooper: Sweet Diesel and this band. On guitar, I played for Thursday. Their first tour they were all 21 and I was 28. They are my best buddies in the whole world. They’re a bunch of dirt bags and I love them. Their first tour was a series of house shows from here to Florida for two weeks and back. I have great photos of that tour.
Cooper: They’re my boys. I love those guys. I went on tour with them and only had one practice with them. Jeff, aside from singing, is a really good guitar player and he’d tack up these teachings for me that were in guitarist speak that said things like, First chug-chug part, eighteen times—into second light emo part into second light emo part— two times.

SR: Matt, when did you start playing?
Matt: I started playing drums in the sixth grade, because there was a girl in band that I had a crush on. ’Course she dropped out of band the day that I started. I stayed in there and ended up loving it. So I was a band geek from sixth grade through junior high and high school. I played in marching band: bass, cymbals, triangle, snare, I played the roto toms. It was cool. I had a blast during that time.
Cooper: You played bass in the marching band?
Matt: Yeah. The bass drum.
Cooper: I pictured you walking down the street playing a bass guitar.
(Laughs all around)
Matt: I stayed all the way through school, learned how to read music.

SR: Julie, how did you get your start?
Brendan: Julie has the most formal training out of all of us.
Julie: I come from a big Irish family and everyone plays music. My dad still plays music. He started a local prison band in a minimum-security prison upstate—in his spare time. I started very young … and I can sing so I went to Julliard for six months and dropped out. [It was] all vocal training.
(Dave from Unsane interrupts again)
Dave: You’re still here?
Julie: We played with Neurosis last night. We didn’t play as well as we did tonight. It was scary. We’ve never played for that many people before.

SR: And how did the relationship with Neurot Records come about?
Julie: We sent our demo in to them on a gamble and they called us like a few months later. It was a joke that we sent it to them and we are constantly reminded that we are the only band that they’ve picked up from a demo submission. We were sitting there and talking about where and who we should send it to, and Brendan is a huge Neurosis fan so we sent it. It was out of nowhere.
Cooper: I’m on tour in California with Players Club and Brendan thinks I’m calling to [mess] with him.
Brendan: But then I called Steve [Von Till, owner of Neurot Records, lead man in sludge-core giant Neurosis] back and was like yelling, “Who is this?” And he’s like “Steve Von Till” and I was like, “Yeah, whatever.” And after I talked to him (and realized it wasn’t a joke), he said that he really liked the record and asked if we would want Neurot to put it out. And I had to think about for 2 seconds. I hung up the phone because I would start telling him how much I love him. Then I called every person in the band and blubbered it out.
Cooper: The funny thing is that we really like them, but they really like Red Sparowes, who we hate (he says smiling while wearing a Red Sparowes T-shirt).
Brendan: They’re knob-twiddling hacks.
Matt: Shoe-gazing long hairs.
Brendan: Please add into the interview Greg’s proclivity for hair products.

MOoB!

Click here to listen to the track “Swarm” from their album, Trophy

Planet Rooth Studios Show

This was the highlight of the “San Diego” Indie Music Fest. It was great! I did go over to the Rubber Rose and caught a good punk rock band bashing it out. It was hard to get to though cause of that stupid Beer Garden set up right in front. Stopped by Bar Pink Elephant and waited for a drink for 15 minutes as a gaggle of lesbians had a bartender making 20 Jaeger bombs–fucking amateurs. Not sure if those bar tenders had been getting a steady stream of douche bags all night or if the service at the Pink Elephant always sucks balls but suffice to say I never got a drink and left in a huff. Boo hoo for booze! Ventured on to the main area of the SDIMF but it began to rain so we left. I can’t give an honest report so I can’t say if it sucked or not but it looked like a lot of people were stoked. Quite a few young indie rock kids walking around. Some older college types. Can’t wait for next year.

Swim Party played really well. I’d never seen them before and now I am a huge fan. Great tunes. Loved the bass player, right combo of finger tapping/plucking and picking made for an interesting sound. I missed Hialeah and the first band but the ambiance was nice. Wish Rooth would do live stuff during Ray at night. Subsequently it is always my favorite studio during Ray at Night. Citybeat had an interesting article (yay they’re improving!) about the SDIMF and Rooth and that is what inspired me to go and check out Rooth first.

The Good Life: An Interview with Tim Kasher

I love indie rock. Cursive is indie rock. So is Tim’s other band, The Good Life. Sometimes when I listen to Storms of Early Summer, I’ll listen to Album of the Year directly after. They are a part of a whole. A body of work from one of our generations most talented artists. I had the pleasure of drinking with Matt and Tim at the bowling alley in Claremont a few years back before a Cursive show. It was great. I had the pleasure of drinking with Tim at the Casbah before a Good Life show a few years back as well. Music and booze–the bringer together of people and things.

the good lifeOmaha, Nebraska, is known for its rash of indie rock bands that bubbled up to the surface of the mainstream in the past few years. Bands like The Faint, Cursive and Bright Eyes have burst out of obscurity and ‘fringe’ into a quality music-hungry public itching for something new and honest and, of course, relevant. It’s a local scene that has taken its queue’s from like-minded record companies like Dischord and Jade Tree—labels that make the big companies flush with envy.

There, in Omaha, amidst the wind from the Rocky Mountains and the tan and green sea of wheat and corn, are where most of the bands housed on local record company, Saddle Creek, reside. Founded by members of Cursive and The Faint, Saddle Creek has etched out a successful niche in a market that has been rife with poorly conceived music. Saddle Creek, like its contemporaries, offered up the alternative

Tim Kasher, lead singer and guitarist for the rock band Cursive, has another band that many neophyte Cursive fans may be unfamiliar with called, The Good Life. Originally started as an alternative outlet for Tim’s prolific songwriting, The Good Life has come into its own as one of the great bands that, while maintaining Tim’s vocal style and honest lyrics, separates itself nicely and equally apart from his other project.

The Good Life’s latest outing on Saddle Creek is titled, Album of the Year. All pretense aside, Album of the Year is a trip through the months of the year beginning with that lonely halfling month of April (“Album of the Year”), and ending with that decidedly bright spring month of March (“Two Years This Month”). A highly talented songwriter, Tim takes the listener on a journey of a year in a relationship, a theme that rears its head in almost all of his compositions. Whereas for Cursive, Tim’s lyrics are a bit more esoteric, with The Good Life his prose is much more user-friendly.

Tim was about 14 when he picked up his first guitar and joined his first band, March Hares, with fellow Cursive member and bassist Matt Maginn. Tim’s first recollection of music came when he was a child. “I remember sitting around Sunday morning on the floor as my parents read the paper, and I think that’s what I think of when looking back. I think that’s when I started understanding music as it was coming out of the speakers, I also learned how to put records on because we had all these 7-inch and albums.

“I took some local music lessons when I was a teenager and took some classical guitar lessons when I was in college, but not for very long,” he adds.

“I think at the time they helped, but I’d like to go and take them again. I took some vocal lessons also, just to help me learn how to sing correctly. I think any kind of intensive studying of guitar is helpful.”

Just after Cursive released a split EP, 8 Teeth to Eat You, with Japanese rockers Eastern Youth, Tim had a life-changing experience in the form of a collapsed lung. It was an unfortunate event that took him off the road for several months and made many fans step up to the plate, giving what they could by way of donations to help him pay for the costly operation and rehabilitation. While it was a traumatizing event for Tim, it also was a time of great healing. He says, “It took a while. But doing the vocals for Ugly Organ kind of doubled as therapy. The first day that we started, we looked at each other and thought maybe we should wait another six months, but as we did it my vocals grew stronger every day. I think the positive benefit of something like that happening was that I lived a very healthy lifestyle for a big chunk of time. I was in a smoke-free environment in the hospital for a long time, and when I was recovering I wasn’t drinking at all and getting a lot of sleep. It was actually a good opportune time for my lungs and vocal chords to get cleaned out.”

An experience like that would seem like the kind to change a person—or perhaps the way they go about creating a song. Yet, Tim says, “I don’t ever really feel like it has (changed). As an example, I don’t ever really think about it that much because it was a very mortal experience so it’s kind of a lot different than your run-of-the-mill difficult situation. It’s more serious because you don’t know if you’re living or dying so you kind just shut off, or at least that’s what I did. It’s probably the most emotionless I’ve ever been. So I don’t think it’s really had an effect on anything like that.”

When it comes to writing for The Good Life, Tim says, “It’s not really all that different (from Cursive). I write for both on acoustic guitar and tend to write mostly in my apartment. The difference is that I think I have a tendency to write more Good Life songs because I have a more relaxed approach to writing for that band, just more for the joy of playing guitar and humming along to it and writing lyrics.

“It’s more of a natural process. Cursive is a lot of sitting down and playing guitar but not really coming up with things that I think are right. Those songs get translated so differently when it gets to the band, so sometimes when I bring something that I think is okay, it gets translated by the band and it sounds great. And sometimes I’ll bring something to the band that I think is great and something gets lost in the translation and doesn’t turn out so great.

“I don’t know—I guess it’s more of a profit thing with Cursive and more enjoyable with The Good Life. But I like working, so I like the difficult process,” he adds with a laugh.

If Cursive is ‘buzzworthy,’ then The Good Life is exactly what its name suggests—good but filled with all that ‘life’ stuff that comes with waking up every morning.

Visit www.saddle-creek.com for more info on The Good Life

Radio Dead Transmission

This is an essay/in depth version of my Radio’s Dying Gasps post. This latest post was published on Milehive.com a few weeks back.

“We can control the medium/ We can control the context of presentation.” – T. Gabel

You don’t really need a wiki entry to tell you that Top 40 radio acts as” an arbiter and barometer of musical taste.” We just accept that radio has always been a place to go and listen to music. Formats are determined by market demographics. In widely diverse markets you have a rock station, hip hop station, oldies station, pop or Top 40’s station broadcast to the widest array of listeners. We have early commercial radio, pervasive proliferation of the television set and it’s subsequent siphoning off of dramatic content to TV and poor black southern communities to thank for the popularity of rock music.

You also don’t need Sarah Silverman to tell you Radio sucks either, however, radio has been dying a slow death for the past decade (just like the CD), losing ad revenue to companies that have increased their spending online. I’ve always held contempt for the radio system. Pay to play payola was and has been rampant for decades even though its not really talked about much now. Yes, it still happens, just google payola and you’ll find out about some major label (Sony) payola that was swept under the table within the past few years Not that Elliot Spitzer is the most credible person right now but in 2005 he was quoted in the Sony BMG settlement saying, “Sony BMG and the other record labels present the public with a skewed picture of the country’s ‘best’ and’ most popular’ recorded music.” Besides, public airwaves sold toprivate companies to sell products to consumers seemed like an ethically flawed system ultimately.

Santa Monica, Calif.’s, KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic host Nic Harcourt (pictured above) doesn’t see commercial radio getting any better either. “Commercial radio has finessed its approach to such a point where its sole purpose is to sell products and deliver goods to a specific demographic audience. It comes down to selling beer and donut sand burgers. I don’t see that changing. But the good news is that we now have the Internet.”

Harcourt also puts faith in continued technological advances. Entire cities with wireless internet are now possible. Soon the point will tip to a majority of hand held devices that are able to tune into any internet radio program available from around the world-further democratizing a slowly dying corporate system.

Bands have begun to operate differently as a result of the industry shortfall. In a recent Adage article, James McQuivey, a former Forrester analyst, said the days of the big endorsement contracts like MJ or Britney had with Pepsi are gone. The new version looks a lot more like Nascar and I’ll estimate that within half a decade you’ll have bands endorsing dozens of products to offset the lost revenue from things like radio royalties increased touring costs and downloading. Sure, fans will scream ‘sell-out’ till they are blue in the face but any working band out there will counter by showing you their bank statement before and after an endorsement deal. So prior to sending that righteously indignant email to Band Of Horses for licensing a song to Wal-Mart, imagine what it’d be like to get paid the equivalent of 9 dollars a day touring the country in a cramped van and sleeping on a strangers floor.

Besides, there is only ONE Madonna, who can land a 365 contract with LiveNation.

So now brands will become music promotion vehicles and the relevancy of the Radio format drops further. I doubt you heard Sara Bareilles, Feist or Paramore on your local dial before you heard them on their respective television placement commercials. Traditional methods of measuring media’s effectiveness are “reaching a breaking point,”according to Konrad Feldman, CEO of Quantcast, and as a result many Ad agencies are trying to find better ways to spend their clients money for effective advertising. So while most commonly you’ll find more successful media outlets angling toward hyper local markets and niches, floundering media entities will continue to wrap their desperate tentacles around the idea of being everything for everyone.

In another example of Radio’s crumbling empire, EMusic, an online music retailer inked a deal with Avis car rental company to provide content for it’s rental cars, effectively taking control of the car stereo, a place once reserved for traditional radio. Sirius Satellite radio has a similar agreement with Hertz (and an exclusive partnership with Astin Martin) and more and more autos are being manufactured with MP3 players or with a direct connect to a digital device, further shrinking the reach of radio. Just within the past 2 years corporate spending onmedia, which once favored Radio and Television has shifted to stronger showing online, where a company can directly measure the success of anad campaign through trusted analytics measurement.

Radio has helped perpetuate a culture of lame tunes pitch corrected to dust (I’m talking about you Rhianna AND you Britney)! By playing a song so many times consumers are compelled to plug their ears. How can that be an effective way for a radio station to do business? The stations mine a tune until that little flicker of brilliance that made the song catchy in the first place has dulled. If you haven’t noticed, music has become predictable, less dangerous and more disposable as the market where it exists has become less profitable and more stagnant. Why would I buy a song I know they’re going to play 3 more times in the next hour when I can go online to a torrent and download the single immediately? And for those of you, who cry foul at downloading, help yourself to a big scoop of shut the fuck up! The rest of the album sucks anyway right? Do you have any idea how much money it costs a band to make a record? Do you have any idea how much of that money ends up back at the label?

Radio is the product delivery system. So when you change your FM dial and end up with the last 30 seconds of the same song your current station just started playing, it’s not to annoy you, it is because the music is as much a product as the commercials.

We CAN control the medium. Turn off your radio.

Tally Hall: An Interview with Rob, Joe, Andrew, Zubin and Ross

This particular interview was a bit difficult to set up. To get these five gents in a room, hovering over a cell phone or office type phone on speaker, then have them answer questions about their ‘process.’ It was a good interview though. They are a very talented band and don’t really fall into traditional genre’s. Instead they pull from just about everything and they’re visual artistry employed in their videos is admirable and inspiring. They hit the road this season, maybe they’ll be in your town soon. The played San Diego recently and apparently they are now on Atlantic Records and will be doing showcases at SXSW next week. I will have to go check that action out, hopefully there will be free beer, you’ve got to follow the free beer when in Austin. Some folks say its about the music but its not. Those people lie. Its interesting how they mention the use of facebook (when facebook was still college/high school only) as a marketing tool. This band has fully embraced new tech since their inception and it has worked out quite well for them.

What do five students from the University of Michigan have in common? Music, a strong appreciation of orchestration and a good sense of humor are the ingredients that make up pop band Tally Hall. Their sound is somewhere on the weird road to The Beatles, Frank Zappa, early Elton John, Weezer, They Might Be Giants and the Bare Naked Ladies. Tally Hall’s sound could be described as a jumble of words and complimentary influences thrown into a stew of clever songwriting and stellar musicianship.

Formed in December of 2002, Tally Hall began writing songs, playing together and doing shows around Ann Arbor, MI. They did this all while attending class, recording their songs and doing their own videos-as well as building and maintaining the band Web site and making T-Shirts. Their music is quirky but not steeped in kitsch. Though their sound is fun, it is by all accounts ‘pop music,’ and the inherent talent of the bands five members is immediately obvious upon first listen. Recently, themusicedge.com caught up with Tally Hall and conducted a phone interview (or attempted to rather) with all five members (at the same time) to understand the way the band makes music, how they got to were they are and how they go about doing what they do.

*In order to avoid confusion on the part of the interviewer, “Tally Hall” will represent the collective voice of the band.
Shane: How far along are all of you in school?
Tally Hall*: Three of us are seniors, one of us is a junior and one of us is a sophomore. We’re going fulltime with the band in May. The plan is to do some touring.

S: How did the Tally Hall meet?
Tally Hall: Most of us met in college.
Joe: Rob and Zubin grew up together and were in a band together in high school. Andrew met us in college and he’s from New Jersey, but the other four of us are from Bloomfield, MI. Ross and I weren’t friends; we still aren’t friends in fact (laughing). That kind of aggression in our band has really paid off. You can tell in our music, its very aggressive (more laughing). We’re transforming into screamo.

S: Were any of you involved in school music or did you take lessons?
Tally Hall: All of us did some music in high school, orchestra and band.
Andrew: I’m studying music composition now and everyone else is involved in music some way. Ross is in the marching band.
Ross: I’m a music lieutenant.
Andrew: We started the band as a hobby and now it’s sort of taken off. So once we get full time I think we will be doing quite a few different things.

S: The video for ‘Banana Man’ is great, who put that together?
Tally Hall: Those are all Joe’s brainchildren.
Joe: I’m a film and English major.
Andrew: Zubin is our Webmaster. We all sort of pitch in and do different things.
Ross: I think we’ve been really lucky in that everyone in the band can specialize in certain things.
Tally Hall: We’re like the A-Team!
Rob: Ross is just a clumsy bystander!
Tally Hall: He’s the Steve Urkle on our A-Team (laughing)!
Zubin: Or maybe he’s Balki [from the television show Perfect Strangers]?
Rob: Ross has just become the butt of every joke. But he laughs with us – but he might be crying inside.

S: On a more serious note, what were some of the benefits you guys have gained from being involved in school music? More specifically, how have those things benefited your band?
Andrew: (mumbles something inaudible)
Rob: Andrew was distracted by the Wurthers Original Candy he is eating.
Andrew: (mumbles again)
Rob: He’s frazzled by the Wurthers.
Andrew: I learned how to write classical and contemporary classical and that is what my main focus has been. My main passion is rock, but I’ve always been sort of forced into the classical idiom and have always sort of rejected it but its influence has helped. It’s helped my confidence in playing. When you play rock music, there’s a certain type of energy that is undeniable in that genre of music. I think recording is also more involved with rock music. You can do pretty much anything you want in a recording.
Ross: Our musicology professor wrote a book about how recording is the new poetics of rock. Sheet music doesn’t do justice to rock music.
Andrew: With rock music, there have been a lot of advances and they continue to do innovative stuff. With classical music they’re still playing the same stuff they were playing 50 years ago.
Tally Hall: There’s no reason you can’t incorporate classical influences into rock music and make it part of the art.

S: With regards to recording, is that a technique you learned along the way by doing your own demo’s (Partyboobytrap EP and Welcome to Tally Hall EP), or is that another area of study for one of the band members?
Joe: I’ve actually mastered Final Cut Pro, which is video editing software. I used it to record all of our demos. It’s supposed to be for video, but I developed an unusual technique by doing high-quality recordings by building a metronome track in an iPod (it’s sort of complicated) and I had been experimenting with that and when it came time to do the Tally Hall recordings I went with that.
Rob: The Tally Hall recordings sound pretty professional to our ears (I think). We recorded them in the attic of our house and laid them down one track at a time. We were turning off the refrigerator and the lights to cut back on the fuzz – it was a very low-tech operation relative to the product that came out of the session. We were proud of the process.
Joe: We recorded everything through my camcorder. I had a microphone and a ‘line in’ jack. It was grueling.

S: How does the writing process work for Tally Hall?
Rob: We have three different songwriters in the band: Joe, Andrew and I. It’s about equal numbers of songs. I think each of us have a uniquely different style.
Joe: My style is I have a song in my head and I can’t get it out and I put a lyric to the music and do a rough demo in Final Cut or Garage Band and then show it to the band. I usually have specific ideas for the song. I put it together pretty meticulously before I present it to the band. Rob is a little bit looser.
Rob: I usually start with some sort of concept or basic idea and it ends up becoming part of the hook or the chorus and then I come to the band and everyone fills in their parts. The harmonies are usually worked out well in advance. It’s more of a fusion of musical ideas versus Joe who comes with these finely tuned versions of songs.
Joe: And for Horowitz (Andrew) he just shows up at practice and a song just comes out of him.
Andrew: I usually come up with songs in spurts (giggling heard from band). I’ll sit down for a couple of hours and just come up with something. A lot of the songs grow when they get to the band, and we’re all pretty harsh critics within the band. There’s been times when any number of us has brought a song to the band and we’ve decided that it needs a lot of work.
Rob: We’re hypercritical of each other.
Joe: We don’t like filler. I think that when we get into a real studio we’ll try and make every song it’s own little masterpiece.

S: What are some of the lessons you all have learned playing together as a band?
Zubin: First thing we learned was to work with each other. All of us have pretty strong personalities. We all have busy schedules; we’re all tied to other commitments. Basically working together and as a group tends to be more of a compromise in order to be successful. Would anyone like to add anything?
Joe: I’ve learned a lot about how other people work and how to compromise in a group setting. Not to be cliché, but learning how to write and create songs as a group…And making Zubin answer the phone.
Ross: That is sort of banal. (Pauses) By the way I didn’t mean the question was banal, I meant his answer was banal.
Rob: We have an intra-band conflict over the pronunciation of the word ‘banal.’ (Arguing over the word ensues)

S: What are some things that you guys rely on dynamically during live performances?
Ross: I think we rely on each other to make sure we really have everything down before we play. The last thing I want to worry about is whether Rob is going to hit a note, or whether Andrew has his parts down on the keyboard, or if Joe is going to remember the lyrics. I rely on everyone else to be on the ball when it comes time to perform.
Zubin: I’m going to add something to that. Because we spend so much time together and because we are all such good friends, I think that adds something to our performance. It’s an almost inside joke type banter with each other. It keeps things relaxed. A camaraderie of sorts.

S: In what ways has the Internet helped your band?
Tally Hall: We couldn’t have done it without the Internet.
Rob: There are a few major Internet factions that have been able to help us along. The first is that Zubin designed an awesome Web site using flash. Our Web site is awesome. Joe’s videos on our Internet site have allowed us to attract a lot of people and they’ve allowed us to branch out and reach other Internet hot spots. The ‘Banana Man’ video was on a site called albinoblacksheep.com that got a ton of hits. Because it was on there it spread to a lot of other blogs and forums. Online networking communities, mainly Myspace.com, have enabled us to promote ourselves online effectively.
Joe: TheFaceBook.com (it’s a college specific Web site like Myspace.com) is a local site that I went through and added a ton of friends to and we’d email everyone when we had a show in Ann Arbor.
Rob: And themusicedge has been helpful, we’ve had a lot of downloads off of there as well.
Andrew: We figured if we let people download our music for free, and if they liked it, they’d pass it on to friends. So, in that way it’s been a great success.
Rob: We should mention one other Web sitethat has been helpful to us called indie911.com. They allow us to stream our material for free and that’s where a lot of people say they first hear us. They also give us a little bit of money for radio play. It’s not much but it’s still pretty cool.

Tally Hall is a band that is utilizing every resource available to make their presence felt in the world of music. From the Internet and benefit shows to song competitions like BMI’s John Lennon Scholarship Competition, which garnered the band a first prize for their song “Good Day,” the possibilities are virtually endless for a band with the right amount of patience and ambition. Tally Hall will be touring this summer, so keep your eyes open. This might be your last chance to catch them in a small, intimate setting.

For more information, please visit www.tallyhall.com

In Rainbows: Discbox at a Glance

Not to worry gay men of Canada! If you have received your discbox from W.A.S.T.E. and have been keeping tabs on the Ad Busters litigation then you won’t need to donate any organs anyway!

Here it is, laid out on my red Ikea rug (that the wife picked out)!

in rainbows discbox

Here is another angle not much different from the first but still worthy of posting a second, almost identical pick. BTW – the vinyl is eatable, edible, you can eat the vinyl in the event of a natural or nuclear holocaust. (not really but its so thick and chunky and sounds like a full meal!) “Bangers and Mash” is a super awesome b-side. Many boners have been popped for this one!

Cheers!

radiohead in rainbows discbox