Catch tunes from Tally Hall's upcoming CD at Blind Pig show on Tuesday
For a handful of young bands, scoring a recording deal with a major label can be a quick ticket to the top. For Ann Arbor’s Tally Hall, the ride to fame and fortune has been a little slower.
That may be about to change. A new CD is on the way, and the group is headed out on tour, with a stop at Ann Arbor’s Blind Pig for a hometown show Tuesday night.
Lon Horwedel | File photo
“Waiting for things to happen can be hard sometimes, especially when it’s out of your control,” acknowledges bassist Zubin Sedghi, on the phone from New York City, where he and the other band members now live. “You’re just stuck waiting and feeling ready. Fortunately, new things are moving forward and we’re no longer waiting.”
Tally Hall, which formed in 2002 while its members were attending the University of Michigan, released their debut album, “Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum,” in 2006 on the local label Quack! Media. Atlantic Records picked them up in 2008, and the label re-released “Marvin” nationally. The album didn’t chart, and though Tally Hall kept busy touring, it seemed — at least to outsiders — that the band had stalled out.
Not true, although vocalist/guitarist Rob Cantor agreed it has been a while between albums.
“We’ve just been waiting a really long time to release this music, and I think the fun in all this is going to start again,” he said. “It’s been 8 years and we’ve been through a process — we wanted to be prolific, but we’ve been held back. It’s going to start becoming really, really fun again once we start releasing all this stuff and things start happening again and we have new material to give to people and to feed off of.
“We were hermits before we went into the studio, sitting and writing music,” he added. “We had almost 50 demos that we consolidated into this album, and we were all just working away. That part was definitely fun at times, but also it was not our most fun year as Tally Hall.”
Besides Cantor and Sedghi, Tally Hall’s lineup consists of guitarist Joe Hawley, keyboardist Andrew Horowitz, and drummer Ross Federman. After graduating from the U-M, band members put further education on hold to see where their music would take them. Cantor even put his plans to attend the U-M Medical School — and a scholarship — aside.
For the new album, the band worked with producer Tony Hoffer (Depeche Mode, Beck). The disc was recorded in Los Angeles in October and November. No release date has been set. “It’s a little premature — we just turned it in to Atlantic about a week ago. They’re listening to it now,” Cantor said. A question about the new CD’s name prompted a quick consultation between the two band members. “Are we going to ? Yeah — we’re all committed to it. (It will be called) ‘Good & Evil,’” said Cantor. “It is actually a thematic album, it relies heavily the theme of dualities, or at least that is very much interweaved in all the songs, the idea thereof.”
If that sounds a little intense, rest assured these guys are still the same fun-loving wonk-rockers whose infectious blend of ’60s pop, playful sense of humor and indie rock sensibilities won them a large local and regional following 4 years ago. But, Cantor and Sedghi both say the band’s sound has evolved, at least a little bit.
Listen to the Tally Hall album “Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum”:
“It’s not drastically different I don’t know if I’m drastically different than I was 3-4 years ago,” Sedghi said. “I think definitely the sound has matured a lot. It’s definitely an older sound. Where ‘Marvin’ had an element lot of obvious kitsch, I think this has less.” Cantor agreed. “We have a terrible perspective on this, but I think it’s a lot better, personally. I would hope it would sound a little different. The (new) songs were written 5-7 years later (than those on “Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum”), depending on what song you’re looking at.”
“There’s always this degree of unpredictability in what we’re doing, so yeah, we’ve grown as musicians, and we’ve certainly come to have a much better understanding of the business side of music,” Sedghi continued. “The idea of growth in art is a little difficult; it’s like an evolution. I don’t want to look back at what we did and say it was any lesser or any more. I just think we’ve all grown up and evolved and changed, not necessarily better or worse.”
They said work on “Good & Evil” progressed without much involvement from Atlantic.
“It doesn’t feel like they are going to have their hands all over this,” said Sedghi. “Normally they would have an A&R person in the studio working with us, over our shoulders, listening to every track, making comments. That wasn’t our experience. They gave us total control over making the album. We were in there making what we wanted to make and so at this point they haven’t really done anything. They haven’t affected our art. We’re all really happy about that. There are no indications that they will.”
Working with a producer like Hoffer was a positive experience as well.
“He was really fun and made the recording process a lot happier, to have another person there that we trusted and could rely on, and who brought his own batch of creative ideas to the project. It was wonderful,” said Cantor.
By the band’s own, um, tally, it’s been a little more than a year since their last local show at the Pig. Besides old favorites, such as “Good Day” and “Banana Man,” the crowd can expect to hear some of the new material.
Many of the tunes were road-tested during a December tour, Sedghi added. “While we were writing this past year we did some local shows here in New York City (and) they went over well.”
When asked if they are glad now they went the major label route, Sedghi and Cantor navigated carefully around the answer.
“It’s very possible this was a very good decision,” Sedghi allows.
Cantor was surer. “We really like everyone at Atlantic personally and they understand what we’re going for. I think in the long run it will be a good decision.”
There is no hesitation, however, when it comes to the music.” It’s a great thrill to get something new, that’s for sure,” he said.
Roger LeLievre is a freelance writer who covers music for AnnArbor.com.
Tally Hall performing live in Massachusetts last year: