- April 2015 -
HAVE A BEER WITH TALL HEIGHTS
Tim Harrington and Paul Wright got their start playing for spare change in Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace. In a few short years since, Tall Heights has headlined venues across the country, toured down to Austin to showcase at SXSW and performed alongside national acts including Laura Marling, Andrew Belle and Wild Child.
"Folk" has become a funny label for Tall Heights. It felt right when they went all-in on a career in music, street performing over 100 days in six months to fund their first recordings. It felt right when their plucky single, "To Be Young," worked its way into the hearts of their hometown, Boston Mass., and spread to the nation on Pandora and Spotify. It felt right when they played 300+ shows in 2013 and 2014 all across the United States.
Following their March show at Evanston SPACE, Tim and Paul sat down with us to chat about on-the-road idiosyncrasies, touring with Darlingside and their forthcoming second album, recorded at Color Study Studios in Goshen, Vermont.
The Show: Tall Heights with Darlingside and Heather Maloney // March 29, 2015 // Evanston SPACE
Drinks of Choice: Tim Harrington (Bourbon); Paul Wright (IPAs, bourbon or scotch)
Kristen from A Beer with the Band: What’s your drink of choice? Or, let me phrase it this way: You go to a bar. What’s the first thing you order?
Tim: Well, in my mind, those are two different questions. The first drink I would order at a bar might not actually be my favorite drink. Like, oh man…
Paul: This is going to take 30 minutes.
Tim: I'm just so infatuous with my drinks. I go through these extremely infatuated states for months at a time, you know? Paul can attest. Once it was Wachusett blueberry beer from Massachusetts. But I'm not obsessed with it anymore.
Kristen: Did you get burnt out on it?
Tim: Yeah, because I just go way hard. So, it was that for a while. Then I went through a thing with dirty martinis. Dirty martinis, gin — Tanqueray. Bourbon is just kind of a constant. And now, for the first time, I’m learning to appreciate an IPA. It took me a long time to get there.
Kristen: Do you drink local stuff?
Tim: Yeah, I’m that urban hipster that likes local beer. Surprise. One IPA that’s not at all local, but crafty, that I'm super into is called Sculpin by Ballast Point out in San Diego. And our producer just exposed us to All Day IPA by Founders.
Kristen: How about you, Paul?
Paul: At a bar, I would either have an IPA or get something on tap like an Anchor Steam. If I'm going liquor then it's bourbon or, maybe cheap scotch like Dewar's.
Tim: You seem to be getting more and more into scotch, I think. I think you're on your way ... You started at Dewar's, but you're on your way to being a sophisticated scotch drinker…
Kristen: Is it an acquired taste?
Paul: Totally. First time I had scotch I was like, "This should not be consumed by humans." I usually drink it neat. Or with just water. My friend got me this great bottle that I never would have purchased on my own. Lagavulin 16-year.
Kristen: That sounds super fancy.
Paul: Yeah, I like that smokiness. Oh, now look at me. Just talking away now ... In spring and fall it tastes really good.
Kristen: You guys are at the half-way point in the tour. How is it going so far?
Paul: It has been great. We've known the guys in Darlingside for a few years and, as I said onstage, we just respect the hell out of them as musicians and, thankfully, we just have a blast together. We just love them as people, too.
Tim: I think we're super compatible with them. We're similarly psychotic. Well, maybe that's just across the board for a lot of singer/songwriter/musician/bandy-type people. We're all pretty upfront about our idiosyncrasies.
Kristen: What would you say some of those are?
Tim: We're all hyper-perfectionists, particularly when it comes to our music. The shit that sets us off is such minutia, but they get that and we get that. After the show, for example, Harris pulled me to the side and debriefed me on how he thought our performance went. That didn’t just come with, “Oh, you guys did great;” it came with stuff I wanted to hear as well, which was, “You could've used a little more of this or a little more of that.” It takes a real friend to deliver that.
Paul: Sometimes after a show you want some real feedback and a person is just not speaking the same language as you, and that can be frustrating. That doesn’t happen with us.
Tim: Also, there are other weird idiosyncrasies we have in common like being particular about how we prefer to sleep and where and when and what we want to drink and eat. We're all kind of on the same page about that, too.
Kristen: What's the hardest thing about being on tour?
Paul: For me it would probably be the complete lack of regularity, right? There's this rhythm of how your day is going to go, but the timing of it and the stress it can cause…The worst part is waking up in the morning when we have a seven hour drive and we have to get going. That’s the worst.
Tim: Yeah. I think it's also really hard when you’re comparing your schedule to the schedule of people back home. Right around the time when we’re going into that psycho zone of being focused and thinking about the show, people back home are just getting to a place where they can hang out and relax. It’s hard. Just now, for example, my friend came to the show and I feel guilty because I’m not spending time with him and I’m not going to be able to spend enough quality time with him. I’ve got to get back on stage with Darlingside or do whatever is needed of me while I’m here to perform. Sometimes people have a hard time understanding that. What we're doing while we're at our shows is very important to us. So when people are getting out of work just as we're getting into work it can be hard.
Kristen: It's almost like you have to split yourself in two in a certain way, right? I mean, the way you live your life on tour is probably a bit different than the way you live your life at home.
Tim: I can relate to that, definitely. Then you get home and you need to start being that “home” person. From a performing standpoint, too, there's a certain attachment that occurs when you're on the road for several nights in a row. Then you get home and you’re just Tim from Boston: the guy that everybody knows and expects certain things of. So, getting back on stage and embracing that stage persona starts to become more and more of a challenge the longer I stay in that “home” zone, and vice-versa.
Kristen: Let's talk music. You guys have put out two EPs and a full-length record. What are you working on now?
Paul: We’ve been recording a whole bunch the last few months. We might be done or we might not be done with the record. But we're really excited about what we've been creating in the studio. Our last record we did just the two of us at home. It was very duo-centric, but we've been itching to branch out a little more. We've spent a long time thinking about how we wanted to make the next record and we both feel really good about the people we chose and the way we chose to do it.
Kristen: Where did you record it?
Paul: We recorded up in Vermont at a studio called Color Study in Goshen, Vermont.
Kristen: How did you find the studio?
Tim: It was five or six years in the making, basically. We played with this one band who eventually broke up and then started the studio. Another band who were friends of ours ended up making their record that this new studio. We listened to it, talked to them, and networked with our other buddy who decided to produce it with us. It was about five or six blooming contacts — and by contacts I mean friendships —
Paul: — that just all converged. It was great.
Kristen: It’s nice in that way because you can really trust who you're working with.
Tim: Yeah. I hadn't actually explained the lineage of how we came to that studio until a friend’s parents asked. When I explained the whole thing and I was like, "Wow!"
Paul: “That's really a long story!”
Tim: Yeah, it took a long time for us to get to that studio for this album.
Kristen: When does that album drop?
Paul: We don't know when yet. But we’re really excited.
Kristen: You’ll remain a duo on this album, I'm assuming. Or are you planning to branch out?
Tim: Well, we want to remain a duo at heart but unlike our last album, we are not married to keeping every sonic moment to just what we do as a duo. Our core values as a duo will remain the same — that totally gets felt in these recordings — but we’re pushing the sound out a little bit and including some percussive noises like electronic percussion, as well as some synths. At times it sounds a little bit ‘80s. At times a little R&B. At times very chamber.
Kristen: That’s exciting. I can’t wait to hear it. What's the least rock-‘n’-roll thing you've done in the past year?
Paul: Everything. Oh my God, we do so many uncool things.
Tim: I've been renting books from the public library. I'm loving it.
Kristen: Any recent reads you’d recommend?
Tim: I came off a several year Steinbeck kick. It's a lifelong commitment. Now, I'm digging into some Hemingway. Also, spin class is something pretty un-rock-‘n’-roll for us…
Paul: Oh yeah, nice one! We even did it together once.
Kristen: I heard that's intense. I don't think I'd let myself walk into that.
Paul: Yeah, don't. We don't do it on the road; just when we're home.
Kristen: What's the best advice you've ever received?
Tim: I think it's sort of Buddhist, this idea that happiness is not down the river; happiness is here. In other words, waiting for something to happen that will bring you happiness is not, and will never be, a state of happiness. Achieving a goal might bring you temporary happiness, but that’s the thrill of victory — not happiness. So it’s this idea: wherever you are, whenever you are, whatever the scenario is, you have everything right now. It’s about realizing that you don't need to get across the river when you're in the rapids. If you're waiting to get across the river, you're going to get across it eventually, then you’re going to want to get to the forest, and then you get through the forest, and you want to make it to the mountain…It's just going to be this cyclical thing.
Kristen: Yeah, so essentially, happiness is an internal state, right? I think a lot of people search for external objectives to make them happy, when in reality it has to start from within. Is that kind of along the same lines?
Tim: Right. Happiness is totally, totally divorced from goals. Happiness is totally divorced from what you think you need.
Kristen: That's a good reminder. I need that sometimes.
Tim: I need that all the time.
Paul: To a similar end, I honestly think about this thing that happened a few summers ago all the time. We used to street perform. We were selling CDs and this little kid came up to me. He was super earnest and he said, “What are you saving for?” I think about that—and the way he said it—all the time. On the one hand, I was like, "Man, it's not that simple." At the time I didn't really know what to say. I think I might have said, "We're trying to get a new van" or something, you know? But it just isn't that simple at all. I think about it now more as him, unintentionally posing this question: "To what end are you doing this?” As in “Why? Why are you doing this?”
Kristen: And what would you say to him now…Looking back on that experience?
Paul: Well, I think it's the same idea that Tim just touched on. If I’m all in my head and worrying about the minutiae of my performance then I'm missing the point. We’re making music because it's about relating to people and making people feel. That's all that matters.