Tall Heights Rise Above
Photos by Erez Avissar
Taking your sound to the next level can be a daunting task, fan-bases can be pulled in by sound and they can be pushed away by them just as easily. For Tall Heights, continuing to evolve their sound has meant a lot of risk with their folk-drawn fans, and on their latest record Neptune, they've pushed even further from their busking roots while maintaining a spirit that will keep fans coming back. We talked to singer Tim Harrington ahead of their show at Babylon on Thursday May 25 about how they've continued forward.
Ottawa Life: How did you initially meet and decide to start playing together?
Tim Harrington (Tall Heights): We met back when we were kids, went to the same high school, sung a little bit there and then went to separate colleges. After college we got together and started writing music together. It was more of a gradual thing that happened over time.
Did you find transitioning from the street jam style for busking to more developed, fleshed out studio sounds difficult?
The biggest hurdle was an emotional and mental one, rather than a physical and technical difficulty. At some point you have a certain way that you think people perceive you and that if you stray from that they won't like you. At one point we felt we'd worked pretty hard to set up an acoustic guitar and cello duo so we thought we'd lose all those people. So it took a mental leap of faith to cut those ties and move to sounds that were more inspiring for us, and we knew that people following us for the right reasons would take that trip along with us.
How did you make sure you kept your sound in all of this and do you still start writing from the same place?
The knee-jerk reaction is to find an acceptable average of what they think you are and what we think we are and we learned that we had to just put that thought process out of our heads entirely. Understanding that where we are is a changing thing, and we've come to accept change and address it as it happens. We try not to think about what we've done in the past and be 100% of what we want to do today, hopefully people accept and understand the changes and come with us.
I think the music is still coming from the same place, it's being driven by our voices and perspectives, just taking notes and snapshots of our life. There's the writing process and then the bringing to life studio or live that's filled with a lot of new challenges to make it sound fresh and exciting. That's the puzzle we still work with on a day-to-day basis with our new sound?
Who else has helped you guys find your broadened voice and what did they bring to the table?
Tons of people have helped us, from our immediate family who encourage us and embrace the changes. Those people really inform your writing no matter what you do. One producer that comes to mind was the co-producer on Neptune, Oliver Hill, who's a little younger than us but he's insanely smart and a bright individual. He was a big guiding force to open our doors to change. All these bands that have been around long enough to seem timeless, always seem true to themselves while sounding timeless.
What do you think doing takes together and not just writing through voice memos has added to your sound?
Even though we're really close to each other physically, our creative partnership is still challenging when we want to find time for ourselves. With touring and administrative stuff we have to do while on the road, there's a need for the two of us to have solitary time to write alone. Over the past two months despite all our time and effort to write stuff together, there's been a lot of creative work as individuals that we hope we can get to.
How it has shifted though, is a growing trust in our process which is really great, because we've done it enough and seen it with enough people. So now there's enough swagger in the creative process that we can trust what we're doing artistically to just believe in what we're doing artistically and make it more us.
You're one of the few artists actively thanking Spotify for professional success, while many are slamming it, how have you felt they've helped you get crowds?
You'll never hear either of us b*tch about Spotify, we feel like our music and Spotify found ourselves at the right time. I just have no idea what other way our music would have found as many people, with the music industry the way it is and the way people are finding their music right now. I remember the days when Napster was starting, that there were people fighting it and others embracing it. I just don't see a reason to fight it. People just want to consume and listen to music so get them the music in the first place, because if they don't get it there, they'll get it somewhere else, so we're really thankful to them for getting it out there. When were on there first, we were independent and we were really hungry to grow our listenership.
What's next along with the tour?
We'll be putting out a single with a video, "Horse To Water" coming out soon. We also have most of a record written and we'll be bringing those songs to life in one way or another this summer in the studio. It might not be a full album but it's definitely where we're heading.
Tall Heights play Babylon Thursday May 25, doors are 8 pm and tickets are $13. (19+)