These guys caught my attention with their solid combination of metal and hardcore and solid vocal work. Straight up, very well executed and to the point. Kalamazoo, Michigan’s heavy hardcore act TALL TALES has just released their Hotfoot Records debut called “Nightlife” and I sat down with the band’s guitarist Dabe to break it down, tell their story and reveal some details about their local music scene.
Play it loud and scroll down to read the full interview, conducted over the last couple of months!
Hey man! What’s up? How’s Michigan this fine February? :)
Michigan is cold, but great. We’re gearing up for the our cd release show on March 7th and getting things ready for this Summer.
Yup, “Nightlife” is your first release in cooperation with a label, right? What’s different about recording and putting it out with Hotfoot?
Yeah, Nightlife is our first record to be released with a label. The cool thing about releasing the record with Hotfoot has been all exposure that it has got. We’ve never really had this much press for any release we’ve done. So it makes it feel very special.
As for the recording process. We went to Bone at Threshold Studios in Indianapolis, Indiana. We’ve been working with Bone since day one and he always has a way of knowing what we want to do before we say it.
Was it hard to put the record together? How much practice, research and work was involved in the creation of “Nightlife”?
Putting together Nightlife kinda came in spurts. Somedays we would be able to write like 2 or 3 songs, somedays we would come up with nothing. And honestly that’s kinda how it’s always worked. Once we were done with writing we took a month off to tighten up all the songs as much as we could before entering the studio.
No real research went into writing Nightlife. For any song or release we try to write something that just works. We don’t spend countless hours trying to think of a catchy chorus or a cool breakdown or something along those lines. It’s just trying find the right groove to make a song actually work.
When do you work on new music for TALL TALES? Do you keep to a strict schedule? Are all the hours during the process of writing pleasurable? Could you say something more of this process?
Writing new material starts right after we do a release show for whatever record we record. For instance, Nightlife has been done for months now and writing for the next record will be taking place here shortly. It’s exciting on one end because you want to see what you can come with. But on the other end it’s like “man, we just got done writing”.
I guess you can say I have mixed feelings about it. But overall I am stoked to see what we will come up with next. Only because we have never really changed our sound. Sometimes we add different genre elements like southern sounding guitars or real tough sounding hardcore parts but overall we’ve managed to stay the same. Some may argue that we’ve changed our sound a lot over the years. But really we mainly stay true to punk and hardcore. There is always different influences that play major roles, but somehow it still sounds like TALL TALES.
Were you inspired by any particular tune of record while designing this outing?
I cannot really speak for all of us when it comes to what inspired us when writing Nightlife. I know we all like a lot of different bands. Some of us listen to real positive hardcore, some like heavier hardcore. Or some of us like skate punk while the others like death metal. It’s really all over the place and there isn’t many bands I can honestly say we all agree on. But see, I think that’s what really sets us apart from other bands. When we’re writing, it’s not like we’re going into saying “we really need to try to write a (insert your favorite band here) sounding song today” sort of thing. Each song is just an idea at first. Some of them work, some don’t. I know what we’re doing isn’t exactly brand new, but it’s not like we’re going out there trying to be something we aren’t either.
Would you admit to there being symbolism in your songs? What message and how much of it are you sending through this record?
Each time we start the writing process for a record, it seems like the title of the record is the first thing that is thought up. For example, we released a EP in 2012 called Slut City. The name was in reference to the town we are from, Kalamazoo Michigan. I feel like that record had a theme, but no overall message. After Slut City we released Demons in 2013. Again, the songs had went with the theme of the title, but no real message.
TALL TALES never had a gimmick. Unless you count when we all wore jean jackets before it was cool, haha. But seriously, we don’t have a gimmick or message we are trying to sell to you. We’re not a faith/ministry band. We’re not a crew band. We’re not a straight edge band. We’re just five guys that just so happen to play in a band together. Sometimes we give off the impression that we like to party, but we just like to have a good time. And it’s not like we’re trying to sell that either.
In your lyrics, have you ever tried to describe any type of situation of which you had no personal knowledge?
All of the lyrics our vocalist Bryan writes are from the heart for sure. Quite honestly if you take the time to listen you can tell that he has been through hell and back. Most people don’t really hear that I don’t think. I only say that because most of time people really focus on what they consider the catchy parts of the songs.
Ok David, the release party for the record took place at New Republic Skate on March 1st. How was it? How did you choose this particular place?
Our release show at New Republic Skatepark in Fort Wayne, IN was awesome. We had a great lineup of some of our closest friends. Not to mention, Mick and Seth that run New Republic were nice enough to let us put everything together for the show. Fort Wayne, IN is a very special town to us. We’ve been playing there since the beginning and they have always welcomed us with open arms. Basically, Fort Wayne Indiana is our second hometown.
One week later, you arranged one more release gig, right? How come? :)
The reason we did two release shows in two different states was because we felt that it was a must. Again, we frequently play in Indiana and Fort Wayne is always awesome. But we also had to do a release show near our hometown of Kalamazoo. We would have liked to play in Kalamazoo, but most of the venues here are bars. And the one bar venue that allows all ages shows was booked for the night. So we had to make due and we worked with a skatepark in Plainwell, MI. I’m not gonna lie, I was sweating bullets until I realized that there was a good turn out. Just because we had a lot of really great bands on the bill and I wanted to make sure they got home and stuff. But all in all, our hometown release show was really fun. We only play 4 to 5 hometown shows a year, so doing a release show was very special.
Any plans to change the low ratio this year? Would you like to travel more? What gigs do you have already lined up for the coming months?
The low ratio of hometown shows? Honestly, no. Only because we’ve never really played our hometown that much to begin with. Our first couple shows were in Kalamazoo. Which hey, that was great. But the vision behind TALL TALES was to take the show on the road. And we did just that. Instead of building one “fan base” we built as many as we could. Was it smart move? Honestly at first this was for fun, just seeing where it would go you know? Once 2012 hit it got a hell of a lot more serious. We released our first EP called “Slut City” and we played nearly 80 shows that year. Still though, we always found time to come back home when we could. And I think that’s what makes our hometown awesome. We never tried to sell them on anything, we just tried to have fun and give them a show.
As for the coming months, we’re kinda keeping low until June. In June we’ll be doing a tour by ourselves in support of Nightlife. We’ll be heading out east and also playing a few midwest dates. After 4th of July we’ll get back into the swing of things. We have some cool stuff planned for the rest of the year.
By the way, how do you book your shows? Is it hard to put these pieces together?
Booking seems like a nightmare for me sometimes. Because I will book 2 to 3 months out while maintaining time for us all to be able to celebrate holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. It gets frustrating especially when you send out a lot of emails. You have to understand that in the Midwest or just in hardcore in general that you have to know someone. As much as I like to think I’m well connected, it’s still hard for us to get booked in certain areas. You’ll never see TALL TALES play a real hardcore show. Not because we don’t want to, believe I’ve tried countless times. It’s just that because we aren’t as heavy, or fast or “tough” enough. Which hey, that’s cool. It wasn’t easy getting to where we are now, but I’m glad we took the route that we did. Everything that we’ve been able to achieve had a lot of time and effort put in to it. And looking back, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
How would you compare the touring experience in various states?
Every music scene is different. There are places they love us and there are places they hate us. Some crowds usually depend on a select group of people and if they are into it, so is everyone else. Other crowds are into anything new. It just depends on where you go and who you are working with. Promotion plays a big part into every show we play. I want people to know who TALL TALES is. So I’ll put the word out as much as I can that hey, we’re coming to your town. If you can get a couple to check you out beforehand, that only helps you in the long run. That’s how we have done it since day one.
So what’s new in Michigan hardcore/metal community? Are there any other bands emerging from there? What’s it like and what are the styles and subgenres that draw the crowds?
Michigan as a whole has a great music scene. There are so many different bands, genres, underground scenes, etc. Kalamazoo has forever been a staple in the Midwest in my eyes. Long ago before TALL TALES, I lived in Northwest, Indiana. And coming to Kalamazoo was always awesome. Like 200 – 300 kids for just locals. It was insane. And that was just for metal and hardcore. Since then there has been a steady decline in how many people come out to shows. But then again, there is no actual all ages venue either. We find it extremely difficult sometimes to book our hometown shows because of this. But luckily we’ve been able to work with a local bowling alley and skatepark that let us do shows from time to time.
As for emerging bands, there are a couple bands from Michigan that everyone should check out. First one is a band from our home town called FOSSIL EYES. They are hardcore infused with an indie sound, kinda like DEFEATER. They are real solid guys and friends of ours. Another band from Michigan that everyone should check out is a band called KNOW LYFE. They have been together for 10+ years and have maintained almost the same line up since day one.
Cool. Thanks, man.
Have you considered moving to a larger city with more opportunity?
Moving to a larger city wouldn’t really help us just because we don’t play local that often. If we were ever to move, I would suggest moving to another country. Like Canada. It seems like Canadian metal/hardcore/punk fans just care more up there. We’re in the process of actually trying to go up there this Fall possibly if the stars line up right. Once we get back, I’ll let you know how it went.
Great! Feel free to do that.
Ok, so here you are, 3,5 year after founding this band. After having achieved all of this, how do you see yourselves? How has the band changed over the years?
I always have and still view TALL TALES as the underdog.Three and a half years ago when we first started getting together the idea was just to play basement shows around our area. I didn’t really think that any of the “success” that we have got would have ever happened. Never in my mind did I think we’d ever release four records. And getting signed, haha. That was a total shot in the dark.
If you compare us now to ourselves back then, we haven’t changed much. Which is really cool to me. 2014 has kinda been a up and down year so far. We released our first full length, played out when we could and we’re trying to do a lot more. But we’ve endured a line up change which kinda kept us from playing out a lot during the Spring. We have a tour coming up in June and after that, I expect us to get back on track to our previous years. Playing out as much as possible has been a big key to us getting here and we have to get back to that.
Going even more back in time, can you recall an exact moment when you decided to become a musician?
I can recall a few times when I was younger and wanting to become a musician. I remember the first time I heard the band KORN back when I was in 5th grade. They were playing out on the “Follow the Leader” record and I remember thinking how cool it would be to be a musician. A few years later I started attending local shows in my hometown in Indiana. Of course by that time I was not listening to KORN anymore, but I was super into skate punk. One band I can credit to making me want to play hardcore/metal/punk/etc is a band called BLOOD IN/BLOOD OUT. I went to what I believe was their first show and thinking that were honestly the greatest band ever. I still actually think they are one of, if not the best hardcore band. It seems like it was a short time after that I started bands, played shows and really got this idea in my head that doing this was going to be my life. Fast forward to 07′, I was touring. Once I got to tour and see how local scenes were in other places than just Indiana, that’s when I knew for sure that this was really it for me. I had other plans in my life at one time, but they all took a back seat to being a touring musician. My family, friends, co workers ask me constantly when will it be enough? I’ve accomplished a lot not only with TALL TALES but with music in general. And honestly, it’ll never be enough for me. I simply just love doing this way to much to ever really give up.
Is there a piece of advice you wish you’d gotten early on in this adventure?
No. I know that may sound weird, but I have a good reason. Before TALL TALES I played in several bands, toured, etc. So a lot of the mistakes I made over those years, I learned from and really put my best foot forward with TALL TALES.
If however I could give newer bands a couple pieces of advice, it would be these. Don’t ever be cheap when it comes to recordings. Yeah you might put on a good live show, but having solid recordings will help you out in the end, trust me. Secondly, PROMOTE! If you want to keep playing out of town or for good promoters/venues, promote your shows heavily. Promoters/venues can’t see “word of mouth”. So use social media to your advantage and as much as possible. Your band is a brand, make it known. If you don’t do this, you will stay in your hometown forever and keep playing pre sale shows, simple as that. Also, save any money you can. Being in a band isn’t cheap. I mean yeah, pay your bills first. But honestly if you want to really make your band into something more than just the norm, get a van, get good gear, get merch, get good recordings and get ready for the ride. Gas isn’t cheap. Last but not least, stay out of trouble!
How do you see this all evolving in the future? What is new with the band and what’s on the horizon?
TALL TALES will always keep evolving, but still stay the same. Or at least I’d like to think it will always be that way. Now that we have a lot of possible opportunities at hand, I see things getting a little bigger as far as touring and exposure. Which for any band, is really awesome. As for what’s on the horizon… Well myself and our lead guitarist (Bryan #2) talked today on our way to practice about getting together and starting to write a new record, or at least some new songs. So for me, that’s something to get pumped on. Other than that though, we’re just gonna keep doing what we’re doing and tour when possible. We all know that TALL TALES isn’t the biggest hardcore band in the world, but hey, you never know what’s around the corner.
Thanks a lot for your time Dave! Feel free to add anything you want! Greetz from Warsaw!
I just want to give a “shout out” to anyone who knows about Tall Tales overseas. And also to our record label Hotfoot Records for just being awesome and taking us on. Thank you Jeremy!
We are also doing a tour in June, here are the dates!
06/20 – Paychecks Lounge – Hamtramck, MI
06/21 – Goodfellas – McMechen, WV
06/22 – The Millhill Basement – Trenton, NJ
06/23 – Amityville Music Hall – Amityville, NY
06/24 – Kungfu Necktie – Philadelphia, PA
06/25 – The Electric Maid – Washington D.C.
06/26 – Chris’s Cafe – Mansfield, OH
06/27 – The Company Concourse – Bedford, IN
06/28 – Howard’s H Club – Bowling Green, OH
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