Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound Engineering by Patrick Stolley
The easiest thing to do when writing about Tilly and the Wall is to latch onto something. It can be the perpetual youthfulness, the exuberance that they seem to downright pulse with, or it can be their unbearable burden of making sure that frowns are always turned upside down and that the glass or the barrel - depending on your tolerance and capacity - are always half-full, not the other way around.
They achieved early - if you are to believe the clippings -- because of what was deemed a gimmick, the tap dancer for percussionist and the close personal friendship with Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst. Sure, it's a novel approach to not have to drag a drummer into the mixture, to keep the stage lineup as straight as an arrow. Not one member needs to be tucked behind the others, the even billing sets you free.
It's the democracy of the situation that makes it all the more special - the phalanx that consists of a straight line of performers, none relegated to the deep stage or the corner slot. It's one of the pesky problems that the Omaha five-piece - occasionally bigger when the tour calls for it - sometimes faces because of its unorthodox instrumentation. I mean, what kind of sick funny business are they trying to pull when they don't furnish themselves with a drummer, but instead opt for the capable and rock steady Jamie Pressnall, whose shoes do all of the happy work for her? There's nothing more wacky than a band without the employ of a drummer, someone to bang on things with sticks and brushes, or to tap upon things with harder instruments. You can do that. You can focus on the copout, the elevator speech, selling the band to your friends as the group - the only group - with a tap dancer. It's been done. It's old news and we couldn't be happier that it's old news.
Everyone's moved on to seeing the band of compadres as more than what they perceived as the Johnny-come-lately, we did something odd to get us blurbs. Have you ever watched people when they get their photos taken? This could be anywhere and at any time, but for now these photographs will be completely associated with posturing and the faÃ§ade of celluloid and digital capturing for all of eternity. The permanence of a photograph can be debilitating if one really wanted to consult within themselves if such and such was a good idea.
So the mechanism that is used most frequently is a posture that kings the formality of the piece of paper with the glossy reflection bounces back off of it. One is to look unduly tough, hard enough to be bedrock and yet the effort is for naught. No one will ever believe that the photographed - when performing this rite - is actually tough. It becomes a joke, a hoax and it undermines those real photos of people whose faces really do hurt from the grins, from the complete happiness felt from inside.
With digital cameras, where the results can be examined instantaneously, there's no question that the look has overtaken the feel. The only reason any of us would like to glimpse that just-taken photograph is to confirm that we looked cool enough and tough enough that other people - should they ever come across that very photo - will immediately halt what they're doing and remark to a random man, woman or child or directly into the open air, "This is someone whose valor is obvious. If you don't believe it, please, here, observe them looking stone-faced and lost. That will do to convince the daylights out of your ass."
Tilly and the Wall, will smile in photographs. They will flash some big ones because they live the merry-go-round. There's that part of them - all five of the regulars - that suffers through the regular, run-of-the-mill atrocities of Monday-through-Sunday, but it does not define them or cause them worry. They get concerned about their friends and their loves. They think about the way a relationship can become, given the correct nursing. It can become a strain. It can become daunting to believe in the grand outcome. It can be frightening to know that the amazingly stealth eraser can come along at any moment and swipe, just grab the curtains and close them. But Tilly will smile for the betterment of sufferers everywhere, for the hope that it won't last. They will show up in photographs looking like sunrises.
*The Daytrotter interview:*
*You talked about it briefly, but please explain the kind of party it was when you toured with CSS. Everyone wants to know what this was like and they want details.*
Jamie Pressnall: CSS was amazing. They are all such sweet people. They are our Brazilian musical soul mates. We just clicked. Sometimes there is like magical connection you have with other artists and musicians, and CSS is definitely one of them. We had some crazy nights. I remember partying in the bus, and we all took turns crowd surfing across the bus tables...good times!!
*Orenda Fink stole your residency this summer. What have you been doing with yourselves to keep busy and new material on the right track?*
JP: We we're so stoked for Orenda. The Bemis is such a wonderful space to write and be creative. We now have our very own practice space working on the record. We try to write and work together every day. There is no set schedule. We all just try to be there as much as possible, and make every day productive.
*Feist sure has been getting a lot of her friends to form choirs for her when she makes national television appearances. When do you think she'll ask you?*
JP: Hmmm, I don't know. Anytime though, we'd fucking love it!! At my wedding, I walked down the isle to Nick playing "Secret Heart" on piano. Ahh memories!! I tap dance, does that sweeten the deal?? Hee hee.
*I like in this set that you have a song called "Urgency" and one called "Too Excited." That sums you guys up doesn't it?*
JP: Well, it's weird. We all write songs. Derek wrote "Urgency," Kianna wrote "Too Excited." I think all the songs have different meanings to whoever's listening to them. I will say this, they are both fun to tap too.
*What's the best new band you've heard and what makes them so goddamn great?*
JP: Cap Gun Coup. Check them out in the new year on Team Love. They are from Omaha too, and they are fucking great -- totally full of life, and youth, literally. The oldest one, I think just turned 21.
*What are your fans going to need to expect from the next record, though they get a good sampler here?*
JP: Ya know, we are so early in the stages of writing it's hard to say. I think this record is going to be a little more punk, and low-fi. It's actually not the direction I expected the record to go, but I am totally loving it.