by Juliette Paige
Congratulations on your forthcoming album, Pretty Colors For Your Actions, which is coming out October 3! In the meantime, you have a crazy year ahead of you. You’re about to start a tour with Cake and Ben Folds, which appropriately starts at Blue Hills Pavilion this Monday. How are you feeling about getting on the road?
We’re really excited! We’ve toured with Ben before, but this is the first time we’re not only doing our opening set, but then playing in his band as well! We don’t get to do that very often, so it’ll be fun for us to play with someone as amazing as Ben.
I know both you and Tim are Boston/Massachusetts locals, and Tall Heights started by literally busking the streets of Boston with a guitar and a cello. How did starting in Boston affect the way you approach your music?
We started off with playing the streets in Boston and we’d play Faneuil Hall all the time. That’s where Tim and I learned how to perform and sing together. Since Faneuil is such a touristy area, we realized that people began to define Boston with the band and we were a product of our city.
One thing I love about the band is that you aren’t afraid of changing or evolving your sound. In a past interview, you mention the band is following this natural sonic evolution of music. Since your singles came out, what kind of reactions have you been getting from your audience who’ve been fans of your past LPs?
People seem really fired up! When we first started moving into electronic percussion and synths in addition to the vocals and the cello, we were really nervous how people would react. We didn’t want them to think we were betraying our musical identity. But people loved it, and all the doubts were just the voices in our head. I think we’re much more confident now to be able to change directions, and I think the real drums and dryer vocals and slightly lagging feel of these tracks is something people are really responding to. It’s much more energetic.
I wanted to talk a bit about your released singles. ‘Midnight Oil’ came out [on August 10] and it’s so beautiful! I got the chills on the first line, which is the title of the LP. I wanted to know who the female vocalist is?
It’s funny, I think we’re going to get that question a lot! It’s actually us, or maybe me. We slowed the track down, recorded a vocal take at a lower pitch, then speeded it back up so the vocal sounds higher and more feminine.
Oh my goodness, I am so sorry.
No no! I love it, I remember when we were working on the track and we heard the vocal take. Then someone in the studio asked, “Who’s she?”
That’s insane and so cool! What gave you the idea to do that?
From the way we wrote it, I wanted it to be from a male perspective. We weren’t thinking about bringing someone in. We were excited to make it sound more processed and jarring. There’s a lot of space in that verse and those vocals really punch through.
For the story, I wanted it to be a love song about pining for someone to commit in a relationship. We wanted the opening line, which became the album title, to feel like a weird mismatch: “I’ve got pretty colors for your actions.” Pretty colors are unquantifiable and vague, but it worked well because love is like an unquantifiable gift for people’s tiny moments and actions.
In another single you released, ‘Not Like it Was,’ the lyrics go, “I know it’s not like it was / that don’t mean I’m just hanging it up.” When I was listening to it, I smiled because I interpreted it as paying homage to your old sound. I was wondering what point in time you had in mind when writing this song.
I was thinking it in a universal context, and it’s something we can all relate to. As people, there’s a pressure to be living our best lives and to be at our peak. And that’s great if you are; but if you’re not, it’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling your best life is behind you. The song is more of a universal pep talk than a particular time of myself and Tim.
When we first started out, we were so excited to play outside of Massachusetts. We didn’t have gigs outside of Boston, then all of a sudden we got an opportunity in New York City! I still feel this excitement when I get to go to new places, and it’s important to remember that feeling with every opportunity and moment. When you’re slugging it out on the road, you can certainly get jaded and lose that youthful optimism. Yet now we’re getting the best opportunities of our careers and I need to remember to appreciate those.
Thank you so much for opening up about your stories, I can’t wait to see you at Blue Hills on August 13!