On the first of August I went to Bottom of The Hill and saw Tally Hall, a band from Ann Arbor, Michigan who have enjoyed a big cult following over the years and totally impressed me with their musical acumen. The show opened up with Casey Shea, an awesome musician, strapped to an acoustic guitar plugged in to an amp. His voice was impressive, delivering great blues and soul mixed in with some indie flavor. He had some audience participation too, bringing up two fans – the female wearing a rabbit mask, the male wearing a pig mask – dancing to a great song and pulling one of those NYE poppers at the height of the song. Next up was Speak, more on the indie-pop side of things, they were pretty amazing and the crowd loved them. They also did a great cover of “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by the 80’s band Simple Minds. After them, Tally Hall got on stage, all dressed in suits with vests and different colored ties, of course. They were incredibly entertaining – you could definitely sense the classic rock influence, especially from The Beatles and Queen. The stage presence was phenomenal as well: from middle school kids to adults in their 50s, the crowd was jumping and cheering. Tally Hall absolutely had a broad audience. It was an amazing set, and judging by the show, Tally Hall will have a wildly successful tour and their new album, Good & Evil will receive the recognition it deserves.
Before the show, I had a chance to talk with Joe Hawley, songwriter, guitarist, and self proclaimed “1st Baseman” of Tally Hall:
Thrillcall: How did Tally Hall form? How did you meet?
Joe: We were all in school together. Rob actually started a band in high school and kinda recruited me. As for the name Tally Hall, it was a mini mall that had a bunch of antique arcade games in it. There’s also a place in San Francisco that’s similar called Musee Mecanique, they’re kind of like kindred spirits with us and each other.
Thrillcall: So you guys all met in high school?
Joe: Actually Rob had a band in high school and they were actually a rival high school of mine, we went to college and formed the band there. Andrew, the keyboardist from New Jersey, it’s like he’s from outer space. Then the band got together in college, started playing shows, got a lot better.
Thrillcall: How did it feel to play in different cities?
Joe: At first it was very daunting and I didn’t even know that bands really toured. All of the bands that I liked when I was a kid were dead. Then all of a sudden I’m in a touring band, I didn’t like it, I didn’t really want to tour, even in college it was kind of stressful to go to shows. I love music, I write music, I couldn’t afford to mess with that, especially going to foreign cities.
Thrillcall: What foreign cities did you play in?
Joe: Oh, not foreign, American, foreign relative to Detroit. I grew up in Michigan, been on some vacations, but never for work. It was pretty stressful at first. Difficult work, It’s like loading a living room every time you play; loading up, driving, basically becoming a moving service when I though I was a musician. We played a show one time and there was literally two people in the audience, very attentive and nice crowd, but in the early days, it was very difficult to play outside of Michigan. It was for fun at the start, we were just college people.
Thrillcall: Going back to what you said about dead musicians, I can see that you have some classic rock influences on your newest album, Good & Evil. What are some of your major influences?
Joe: Well I was always all about The Beatles and Queen, a lot of others like Micheal Jackson and The Beach Boys. The ones that hit the hardest and get into my psyche are The Beatles and Queen.
Thrillcall: According to your official Tally Hall website it says that your new Album Good & Evil was nearly 6 years in the making. What were your techniques, or what made it so frustrating for you that it took so long to create that album? What was the recording process like?
Joe: Well, a lot of it was systematic, getting the album made. We had a major label deal at the time, we wanted to make sure we had the right producer and stuff, there was a lot of pressure to impress a label like that. We didn’t want to mess it up, so made sure we had the best songs and for whatever reason it was slow going. There was also some requirements and other, political issues, that I would have never foreseen. If it were up to me, we’d make an album every year, to be honest, it just went crazy… I don’t even know how it happened. Six years later, we got another album. We were playing The Pringy EP, previous album for six years, ad naseum, on the road…
Thrillcall: What are the significances of the colors for Tally Hall “red, grey, blue, green, yellow” ?
Joe: It was really, actually genuinely influenced by the Ninja Turtles, like we had all different color guitars, so we decided on the Ninja Turtle thing.
Thrillcall: What was it like playing on live TV (Craig Ferguson)?
Joe: It was pretty cool, it was fun. Craig’s a gracious host, first time we went on, there were a lot of drinks backstage. It was kind of a difficult challenge to determine how many to imbibe before going on. It was there to help the guests, but at the same time it’s important to stay focused. We’re all adults here, but we’re also appealing to kids… we want to be role models. We’re trying to appeal to the broadest possible audience , some people try to narrow it down to a specific demographic. The bands that I admire, like The Beatles and Queen, have a broad audience. For a band like Tally Hall we take ourselves lightly, kids go there and have fun, adults go there and have fun too.
Thrillcall: So you mostly play all ages shows?
Joe: We try to play as many all ages shows as we can, but the way the music industry is structured, it’s mostly conducive to playing in bars, to people who are drinking. Ideally, we like to reach a broad audience.
Thrillcall: What inspired you to create an Internet show – was it originally for creativity or promotion?
Joe: I stared filming and writing early in college, I was really into that and it was kind of a hobby at first. When we signed with the label, I think our lawyer suggested that we, utilize that angle. So, we were kind of pressured by management to make ten episodes and I’m not saying we didn’t want to do it. We were like, cool, let’s try it. It was a lot of work, we got a budget from Atlantic that went right back into the show. Kind of an home-spun operation, we didn’t hire like MTV to produce it or anything. We had hoped that something we produce would make it on MTV, but that didn’t happen. The producer we worked with was our number one choice, he’s a great, amazing guy, very talented… for what it’s worth, that’s my judgement. He works usually with major label bands, but now we have an album on an indie label. It’s kind of a weird amalgamation, sort of a tightrope.
Thrillcall: Do you have any good “on the road” tour stories you want to share?
Joe: Zuben was driving this one time and there were two motorcyclists ahead of us and they got into an accident… I’m not trying to be a downer or anything, but being in the van and seeing an accident, kind of scary. Then there’s this other one, we performed in Columbus at this bar where there was strip karaoke going on. After our set, we thought why not and stripped down to our underwear and sang some karaoke, it was pretty embarrassing and we wouldn’t repeat it.
Thrillcall: So what’s next for you guys? What are you working on now?
Joe: Well, this is going to be the only tour for this album, because it’s been a long process. We really struggled to make it work. Thinking about going back to school, maybe Graduate school. If something happens that’s really ridiculous and people take notice of the album, more than we expect them to take notice; then we may consider recording another album. We’re trying to keep it simple, we have a lot of avid listeners and hardcore supporters, so we would do it for them.