[PREMIERE]: Tall Heights’ New Video & EP ‘Neptune’
If you’re like me, you’re looking for albums to match whatever #mood you might be in at the moment — and while I do enjoy myself a pop-synth tune with a hip hop backbeat, sometimes I need something a little more chill.
Enter Tall Heights and their debut album, Neptune. Let’s just say that I’m pretty sure that if Cameron Crowe were looking for songs for the sequel to Almost Famous, he’d probably lose his shit over this album.
These indie-folk rockers are not only cuties, but also have that modern Simon and Garfunkel thing that’ll make you fall in love after just one song. This album is gorgeous with it’s emotive choral sad-yet-joyful harmonies, and has made fans of both James Franco and Demi Lovato.
The duo made up of singer/guitarist Tim Harrington and singer/cellist Paul Wright busked for 100 days (meaning, they played their instruments on the streets collecting dolla-dolla bills y’all) and made enough money to record their first album and have enough leftover to live on. Turns out their hard work has paid off. Their single, “Spirit Cold” has over 7 million spins on Spotify, and was the very thing that got them the attention they deserved and signed to their record label.
If you don’t find a favorite in Spirit Cold as 7 million others have, try the reverse synth-sounding Infrared or Horse to Water, which sounds like it should be in a Peter Jackson film.
Check out Tall Heights’ video premiere for their St. Vincent cover “Year of The Tiger,” and then check out the Q&A below with Paul Wright.
First of all, we need the origin story – where did you come from? How did each of you realize you could make music?
Tim and I grew up in the same small town, Sturbridge Massachusetts. I was lucky to have music around me from the start, as my parents and grandparents all played instruments, almost exclusively in the classical vein. So I would’ve been making music from a young age whether I had enjoyed it or not, and fortunately, I did. Tim took piano lessons as a kid but didn’t take to it. Then in high school he picked up the guitar and began songwriting, which he’d call the start of his music-making.
How did you meet each other?
We went to the same grade school, and Tim’s older brother Ryan and I found ourselves in the same first grade class (I was one of those sad kids on the first day of school who misses his mom). Ryan and I became close, our families became close, and much, much later, Tim and I started singing together, and then writing together.
Assuming you discovered you wanted to be a band before the infamous 100 day busking happened – what prompted you to choose that method in order to fund your album?
We had already tried to be a band before that, and it had gone poorly. The Faneuil Hall decision was honestly more about wanting to get in front of fresh ears in Boston, cuz the only gigs we got in town at the time were shitty bar gigs.
Our friends were really supportive and would help get people out to those shows, but it didn’t feel super fan-building. We also wanted to figure out an effective presentation of our music as a duo. Busking was great for that, because people either stopped and engaged, or they just kept walking. We had no idea when we first signed up that people would actually buy our records or that it would be a huge part of the transition into becoming full-time musicians.
What instruments did you play while busking? How many instruments can each of you play?
I played cello, Tim played guitar. I have long faked my way at piano, and I play a little guitar, the instrument that got both of us writing songs.
What are some of your influences? If you were to describe your sound, like Cyndi Lauper meets Guitar metal, what would it be? If you were to tell someone about your music that hasn’t heard it – how would you want it described?
We love and are quick to cite friends Darlingside, The Ballroom Thieves, and Gregory Alan Isakov. Not super into the elevator pitch sound description, though I recall its merit when I awkwardly string together a few genres for a blank-faced older man who has never heard our music and is politely asking about it. I’d rather people just listen and decide for themselves.
You guys were actually discovered via Spotify after your single, Spirit Cold, got over 7 million spins – Do you think it’s easier to be an artist in the day and age of digital music and spotify? Do you think it’s harder to connect with people in terms of getting the music out there?
I think digital platforms have the potential to help young bands gain a ton of exposure, though actually finding traction on any given platform may be just as tricky and nebulous as mailing in a demo to a record label in the pre-digital age ( I watched 2 episode of Vinyl). We feel very lucky that Spotify took a liking to Spirit Cold, and it opened a number of doors for us in our career. In terms of connecting, obviously we don’t hear personally from the vast majority of our digital listeners, but we have received a huge number of heartfelt messages about Spirit Cold in particular, often with inspiration returned to us in a different art form. And that feels pretty amazing.
If your music were to appear on a movie soundtrack, set to a specific scene maybe, what would it be and why?
Emotionally-charged sex scene in a serious film. Or maybe it could be the first ever Game of Thrones usage of a pop song when Jon Snow, now a White Walker, finally meets Khaleesi, and she “wakes his spirit cold”. Just worked that one out with Devin Mauch of The Ballroom Thieves.
We’ve heard James Franco is a fan — would you ever let him come along and jam with you at one of your gigs?
Absolutely. Especially if he’s down to play some bass. I can picture it.
What are your thoughts on Demi Lovato sharing your lyrics via Social Media?
We honestly don’t know much about her, other than that she’s got a great voice and seems to be a positive role model for young women. I will say that we were pretty frustrated when she shared our lyrics but didn’t attribute them to us. I would’ve thought she’d understand the importance of giving credit. Even simple quotation marks would’ve helped, because a lot of her fans assumed the lyrics were her own.
Do you believe that every song is about something?
It better be. Sometimes I’ll work up a musical idea only to find I haven’t settled on a subject, and no matter how creative or evocative the music is, the songs feels soulless and hollow. I think the best songs happen when the music offers sonic cues that perfectly match the subject matter. And I’m not saying sad songs should be in minor keys.
What song on Neptune means the most to each of you and why?
“Spirit Cold” is an obvious first choice for both of us, but I’ll go one deeper. “Cross My Mind” is one that came together so quickly and enthusiastically that we can’t help but be pumped about it as a composition, and as a lyrical co-venture. When we got home from tracking it in the studio and opened up the first mix, it was a pretty triumphant feeling, so much so that in the original track listing we had it as the first song. I know not everyone will have the same reaction to it, but for us, in our journey, it was sort of perfect.
Have either of you ever done anything using your musical abilities to convince a girl to go out with you?
In high school, sure. Music was a scrawny kid’s ticket to romance.
What’s next for you? Is there an upcoming tour?
Yes, indeed. Neptune release tour starts in September – West Coast, Midwest, New England, UK, Germany and Austria, and then our final release show is in Boston before the holidays.
Where can we find out more about you? Social media links?
Photo by Samantha Casolari