Michigan's Tally Hall has been together for over a decade, yet has only released two proper, full-length efforts. That's because, like many bands, Tally Hall has been plagued by the major label blues.
Seems the folks at Atlantic Records were happy to sign and record the band, just not to promote them. It took five years for the band to negotiate for the rights to their own music, the songs that would eventually become Good & Evil, Tally Hall's recently released sophomore album. Full of childlike whimsy and skinny tie, new wave charm, the album is full of tongue-in-cheek fare such as "Cannibal" and "Hymn for a Scarecrow."
Speaking from a tour stop in San Francisco and in anticipation of his band's Friday night's performance at the Cambridge Room, frontman Rob Cantor was eager to talk with us about finally owning his own music and hanging onto childhood memories.
Read the complete Q & A with Castor after the jump.
With a name like Tally Hall, do some people assume you are a British band?
[Laughs.] We're from Michigan, but the name does have an aristocratic ring to it. We named ourselves after a place where we grew up and we never intended it to sound British. If that is a byproduct, we are OK with that.
The band has been together for a decade and has gone through its share of troubles. What advice would you give to a band just starting out?
It takes a while to build a genuine fan base. I think persistence is the key.
I read one article on the band that said you guys have a significant cult following. About how many people is that?
I have no idea. I'll say 200 billion. I think whoever wrote that must consider themselves a cult member.
You guys describe your music as "wonky rock" and "fabloo rock." What the hell do those terms mean?
Those were just terms we jokingly gave ourselves in the olden days. Now, we just say we are a band.
If someone walks up to the venue and asks me what the band sounds like, what should I tell them?
Just say we're OK.
Who came up with the idea of wearing the skinny ties?
I don't remember who came up with that. Since the very early days, we all wore these different colored ties. Originally, we just wanted to distinguish ourselves from other bands playing around Ann Arbor. I think the ties showed professionalism towards the audience.
Why is your tie yellow?
The colors were originally chosen to match the instruments we all had at the time. Those instruments have long since passed. The look just stuck. I guess, in a way, the colors are supposed to represent some side of our personalities, but the choice was fairly arbitrary in the beginning.
Why was there a gap of five years between your debut and sophomore efforts?
We got stuck in a situation where we recorded the album but the record company wasn't ready to put it out. Unfortunately, we didn't have control over the rights to it until last year. It was definitely frustrating, but it is a clichéd story these days. I think there are a lot of bands that get signed and labels, being in the shape that they are nowadays, can't spend money to market and support as many bands that they sign. There are a percentage of acts that are on major labels that get ignored.
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I notice that you didn't mention the major label you were on. Did the company ask you to sign an agreement not to say anything in order to get the rights to your music?
No, we just don't feel that the company is necessarily evil or even to blame. It's just the times and the way the music industry is these days. We can sympathize with them and understand their perspective. They have to do what's best for their stockholders. It was an unfortunate situation where we could say bad things about them, but we choose not to. At the end of the day, if a label is not going to spend money on promotion and marketing, there is no reason to be on that label.
Why did the band create the Tally Hall Internet Show?
We've always made videos. [Guitarist] Joe Hawley was a film major in college and has directed videos ever since I've known him. We wanted to harness our creativity in as many ways as possible. We were walking along the Santa Monica pier in California when we decided that it would be a good idea for us to try to make comedic videos in a more organized fashion. It's a fun thing to do.
There are a lot of childlike references in your music. Do you guys miss being kids?
Certainly Andrew [Horowitz], the keyboard player, does. He is a child at heart. I think we all are to a certain extent.
Tally Hall performs Friday, August 5, at the House of Blues' Cambridge Room