An Interview With The Duo TALL HEIGHTS About Their Brand New Sophomore Album and More!
Posted On 29 Oct 2018
Meet the duo of Tall Heights! They began performing on the streets of Boston and have since built up a massive fan base, amassing over 130 million streams on Spotify alone and touring alongside the likes of Ben Folds, Judah & the Lion and Colony House. They’ve gotten a ton of critical acclaim and buzz from NPR, Paste, Stereogum, Interview, Wonderland and Refinery29 to name a few.
On October 5th, they released their sophomore album Pretty Colors For Your Actions. The new album is a big shift for them musically towards a more electro-pop/indie sound, and the lead single “The Deep End” will have a huge push at alt radio this Fall. They are currently on their own North American headlining tour, playing more than 35 dates across the country.
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Learn more about Tall Heights in the following All Access interview:
Since we are now at the back-end of 2018, how has this year treated this band? What is one musical goal that you have had for this year? How close are you to reaching it?
It’s been a wild ride of a year. We’ve gotten to do the kind of touring we always dreamed of, playing for huge crowds in beautiful rooms all over the country and Europe, as the opening act. We even got to go to Russia. With all that touring comes a lot of stress and wear and tear on the personnel. I’m just happy to say we all still like each other. In fact I think we’re closer than we’ve ever been. I want to stay focused on that. Of course, getting to play in Ben Folds’ band this summer was amazing. We learned a lot, not just from Ben, but from ourselves. You learn your value and your worth when you’re in that kind of situation. All we ever do is dump 100% of our hearts into our music, that’s all our music really is, but to be able to do that on his songs really made me and I think it made all of us realize the value of that input. To be able to light up a crowd with a backing harmony part or a guitar addition to one of his masterpieces was a rare honor. We’re so grateful to Ben for all that.
Can you recall the moment when you thought you could be in this group together? Was it hard to think of a name that you could agree on?
I remember Tim suggesting the name Tall Heights when we first started writing songs together. It was as casual as deciding what to do for lunch, and we haven’t looked back. And I remember the moment I believed in our union, on a night of street performing that started out like any other. Regardless of the weather or the day of the week, we’d go out to Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Bost
on and play until we made enough to pay for our recordings, and groceries, and electricity, and everything else you need money for. As artists we were suffering dearly ‘cuz when making money is so imperative, you can easily lose yourself. It turned into nothing but long hours of grueling crowd pleasing, I confess, we’d even play Wagon Wheel. One night, however, the sun had just dipped away and the classy-ass exterior illumination around that marketplace had just switched on. It was a beautiful, cool late summer evening and we started playing only our new original tunes. In the twilight, one-by-one the tourists started actually sitting cross legged on the piazza floor to watch and listen. As we played some new songs in the most understated manner, the crowd grew up past 400 and they loved it. It was no longer busking, it was just a show. That felt like a defining moment to me. It was the night we learned to be artists.
How do you think your hometowns have influenced the sound and how you all carry yourselves in this group?
I guess there’s a soul-baring quality to our writing that comes naturally to us being from small town New England rather than a music industry city full of jaded folks. I know lots of folks who saw us street performing in scenic Boston formed a strong connection between our songs and the city. I love that, but I can’t experience that association the way they do. Mostly I think about how our music is what it is because our parents stayed together and our were supportive of our creativity.
What was it like recently releasing your sophomore album, “Pretty Colors For Your Actions”? How did you celebrate the release on October 5th?
It was special for sure. Releasing a record is like finally getting to share a big ol’ exciting secret that you’ve been sitting on. I read Tim messages all day long from fans who were listening to Pretty Colors for the first time, sharing their thoughts with us an telling us how our music has affected them. That’s all we could hope for out of a release day, and that’s why we do what we do.
I understand that this collection shows a big musical shift for this band in that it is more electro-pop. Was this a conscious change that you made or did it just happen organically on this second album?
We actually don’t think of it as a big shift. We’ve realized that our voices are a real sound, a real fingerprint that makes all of our recordings one catalogue. It’s a fucked up, fractured world right now, so we think that two people singing with one unified voice in unison or in harmony is about the best thing we can offer up right now. Pretty Colors is our newest chapter in an ongoing exploration of a sound and a voice. We didn’t always know what we were doing as Tall Heights. As younger artists I think we created from an undisciplined, but highly inspired place of joy and passion. By that I mean I think we had our heads only on the task in front of us : street perform now, eat this, write a song, pay this bill, sleep, now learn how to record music, that sort of thing. So we used our voices and our instruments. We did the best we could, and we kept our heads down to get through those early days. Now that we’re more experienced, and mature, and a touch more successful, I think we have more field awareness, and can make deliberate choices. So the production and delivery of the music has matured a lot : it’s good old fashioned studio music making complete with a band of wizards. It’s so much richer and more alive, much less patchwork and less janky than our earliest recordings. We’ve been reflecting more on what we’ve done though, and what we want to do, and I think we’ve realized that the thing we were mindlessly doing back then, the thing we have always done, and the thing we should continue to do in Tall Heights is sing together.
While it’s difficult to pick, can you choose a few of your favorite songs on this album and talk about the inspiration behind them and what it was like writing them?
Really hard to pick a favorite on a new album. Over time I’m sure I’ll scan through and appreciate different ones at different times as it always happens. Midnight Oil is the song where the album title comes from. I think there’s a certain sadness and desperation behind the lyric and album title “I’ve got pretty colors for your actions.” It gives the whole album a beating heart. We as the artist are offering people colors for their actions. It’s both a gift and a quid pro quo. To us, the song are the colors, and maybe they’re like background twinkling lights there to keep you feeling chipper like all the bulbs in Rockefeller Center do in the winter, or maybe they’re the colors and hues to illuminate greater action taking, like protesting or fighting climate change or injustice. We feel music has the power to splash color on all scales, and that’s our feeling about this album too.
Where do you think you are all happiest- in the studio recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere?
Finding balance is what makes us happiest. The studio brings a turning inward, and a soul searching that can meaningful, exciting and scary. Touring has a great forward motion to it. It’s joyful output, a sharing with others that fills up our tank of inspiration. And yes, once we’ve finished this headlining tour and driven all over the country to connect with our fans, we’ll take some much needed time for ourselves and get back to writing.
What’s next for this duo? How excited are you to be headed out on tour with this new album?
We’ve been supporting other artists on tour – Ben Folds, Judah and the Lion, Colony House, for over a year now. Amazing experiences, all of them. But there is nothing like performing for a crowd that knows our songs and has come out to experience them with us. We are so excited to be doing this run. It’s our biggest headline push yet, and so far it’s been amazing!
We are currently living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious to know how you all think being musicians and in this band still gives you the most joy in life today? Do you find that your music is an escape to all the current events?
We can’t stand it when people say “stick to music.” It has happened a million times on social media, whenever we make any sort of statement that’s not just us playing music. I always see that and I’m like “what the hell do you think music is?” I think the artist’s role in society is and always has been to observe, document, and comment. I don’t think we’re trailblazers in that regard, I think we’re just working within a tradition of writing about the pressing issues of the day.
What musicians would you love to work with in the future? What artists have really been inspiring this group and your music since day 1?
We’ve been so lucky to work with Ben Folds, to peer inside his wizard mind and see how he comes up with band arrangements. It’s been an incredible growth opportunity for us. Now I find myself wondering whose mind do I want to peer into from a writing perspective, to see how they generate ideas and what moves them. Maybe someone like Beck, or Kendrick.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
We intended Pretty Colors For You Actions to suggest the idea of “art to inspire good deeds”. On the one hand, our songs are a small offering – just emotion, just paint on canvas, and they can accompany small actions, played through an iPhone speaker as you pay your bills. But “actions” is no small word, and neither are colors, you know? If you think about actions on a larger scale : protests, political rallies, working against climate change, fighting a war, not fighting a war, the emotions and colors that inspire those actions start to seem a lot more important. We hope these pretty colors inspire the actions, small and large, that the world needs right now.