We introduced Tallies earlier last year with their single “Trouble” here on FAR. Our “correspondent” Dane Di Pierro recently went to see them and probed them about stuff, which turned out to be quite an extensive interview with the new darlings of Indiedom. But since they also just released a new, self-titled album, we also wanted to give you an impression of what to expect from Tallies. Dane’s verdict:
“Nostalgic without being derivative and vulnerable while exuding musical confidence, Tallies strike a perfect balance in their debut that fulfills all the promise of their early singles. A few faint hints of Tallies‘ past life as a 1950s inspired Doo Wop group remain, but the overwhelming touchstone here is indie pop’s classic era of the ’80s and early ’90s Britain. Singer Sarah Cogan’s soaring voice takes command of each song lending it an emotional weight as she sings about coming of age, changing relationships and the insecurities can go along with that. Dylan Frankland‘s melodic guitar work can jangle like Johnny Marr and glisten like Guthrie often at the same time while the rhythm section of Cian and Stephen anchor these songs with a lively pace and melodic bass lines. There’s enough diversity across these songs to hold your interest until the end, from the sprightly indie pop of “Mother”, the shoegaze shuffle of “Trains and Snow” to the dreamy acoustic “Midnight”. The hazy textures of Tallies’ music rest over Cogan’s voice like a fog that lifts to reveal instantly catchy songs hiding in plain sight.” (Highlights: Easy Enough, Beat the Heart, Mother / For Fans of: The Sunday’s, Night Flowers, Chorusgirl)
Post-show interview by Dane Di Pierro, January 11th, 2019:
In a cold and claustrophobic kitchen behind Washington DC’s Songbyrd Music House the members of Toronto dreampop band Tallies gathered around fresh from finishing their set. The DJ set outside prevented our interview from taking place in a more conventional setting and Sarah, Tallies‘ singer and guitarist, had suggested a back room. Earlier this evening Tallies played their debut self titled album to a small, but packed room at this Washington record shop. The band had come south of the border on invitation from Rough Trade‘s New York City record store and took the opportunity to play a few other American shows. As it turned out our interview coincided with their official album release day and the band was gracious enough to tell me about what went into creating these songs as well as the band’s story so far.
Dane: We’ve got Sarah (vocals/guitar), Dylan (guitar), Stephen (bass) and Cian (drums) here. First off tonight’s set was amazing! And you’ve just released your debut, it’s a self titled album. What was the process of recording your first album like?
Sarah: A little long!
Dylan: Yeah, we kind of did it in three parts. We originally though we would record an EP, then some labels got interested and it became a full album.
Dane: Any favorite pieces of gear?
Dylan: yeah well.. I don’t know technical you want to get…We recorded at Candle Recording studios in Toronto and they have a lot of great gear. A lot of pedals! The Roland Jazz Chorus was used a lot on this record for a lot of the guitar sounds
Dane: Are these songs written from personal experiences?
Sarah: Yeah, most of them – pretty much all of them are written just from my personal relationships, growing up a bit, family relationships and just emotional feelings.
Dylan: Girly stuff
Sarah: Yeah, girly stuff!
Stephen: It’s not girly stuff it’s human!
Sarah: Sorry, not girly. It’s human girl stuff!
Dane: What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not playing music?
Dylan: Play Red Dead Redemption 2 and smoke weed
Stephen: (laughing) smoke weed
Cian: or play Deception Murder in Hong Kong, it’s a board game that was voted runner-up the best board game of 2015. The best party game.
Sarah: We play it a lot
Stephen: Dylan plays a lot of Red Dead
Sarah: We just watch him play Red Dead
Stephen: And just looking at gear on the Internet, I love doing that haha!
Dylan: All buttons in
Stephen: All buttons in, that’s … that’s my stick time
Dane: There seems to be several talented dreampop bands coming from Toronto in recent years (Alvvays, Elsa, Men I Trust etc.) how would you describe the music scene back home?
Dylan: Aww fuck yeah Elsa! I love that you mentioned Elsa, I’m actually working with Johnny on a new record. I don’t know if I’m supposed to like.. yeah, he’s announced that he’s working on some new stuff
Dane: We’re getting something exclusive now!
Dylan: Yeah. It’s like a solo record and all the band members are still involved in it. It was really fun and um… It’s great, I can’t wait for it to come out.
Sarah: It sounds really good
Dane: So that kind of ties into the other part of my question, how would you describe the music scene back home.
Dylan: There’s a little bit of everything
Sarah: It’s very diverse
Stephen: We were talking about this recent I think, after drinking? Toronto is a bunch of smaller, not really cliquey scenes, but smaller pockets of different kinds of music and they all intermingle at the different venues. It’s like a big scene made up of different friend/group scenes kind of a deal I guess. It’s a very welcoming place for the most part, I’d say
Dane: I need to visit Toronto
Dylan: It’s hard to find the right places to go, it isn’t the best looking city, but once you find the right places you’re good to go.
Stephen: Venues close down all the time too
Dylan: We lost the Silver Dollar
Dane: Is there any themes or message on your debut album lyrically or otherwise that extends across the album?
Sarah: Well, I think we might’ve answered this question before
Dylan: Maybe “Not So Proud”?
Sarah: Yeah “Not So Proud”, that one I can say was pretty much about looking up to somebody, learning a lot and looking up to them like an idol. A lot themes are just how interactions make me feel and where I stand with myself, my insecurities and how sometimes women feel more insecure. It’s everything, I don’t know how to say it!
Stephen: Human nature?
Sarah: Yeah, I guess so. But the theme of it also was to sound very soft, nice and upbeat but then the message behind the songs is also a little dark but it might not sound like it because it’s very uplifting music
Dane: How did Tallies meet and become a band?
Dylan: Me and Sarah met in school
Sarah: We met in college at a recording engineering program and started doing our first EP as a school project.
Dylan: We were in a band before based in Ottawa and then moved to Toronto and then kind of revamped the band playing under the same name, then changed the name and changed the sound through a process of steps with the records. It was like, the first step we were still the old band but our sound was going somewhere else and it kind of went in a different direction and it wasn’t the same band anymore so we renamed ourselves.
Stephen: Everything’s been going pretty well since then
Sarah: Cian and Dylan know each other from a Rock Camp, that’s where they met
Cian: School of Rock Camp. We were twelve. Then I met Stephen in university in Halifax and we formed a band there – that was short lived – then I joined the former version of Tallies immediately after I graduated. Then about a year later we got Stephen?
Stephen: Well, I did some tours with ‘yall
Sarah: You was like our fill-in, yeah
Stephen: I was the fill in bassist for a while
Dylan: Once we got you we were all ready to go
Stephen: We were in Cian’s basement and I kinda had a feeling they were like “do you want to join?” And I was like “yeah!”
Dane: They proposed to you?
Stephen: The rest is history as they say
Dane: That’s interesting, how was your sound different when you first started?
Dylan: I guess it was a throwback to the ’50s and ’60s before and I think that’s still pretty evident in the songwriting, maybe not so much in the sonic aspect, but it’s still in there a little bit. We love that style of music
Stephen: I saw ‘yall play as Thrifty Kids and it was very “Doo Wop” influenced, like fifties pop
Dylan: In high school we used to put on The Crests and Deon and The Belmonts and all the Doo Wop stuff a lot. Not a lot of people liked it but we did.
Dane: As long your having fun
Stephen: In Barrie Ontario?
Dylan: In Barrie Ontario not a lot of people liked it. It’s a small town north on Toronto.
Stephen: We did turn a lot of people onto it though that’s for sure
Cian: That’s true, something you wouldn’t expect
Dane: Who would you say is your musical hero or heroine?
Sarah: We could go one at a time…
Dylan: Johnny Marr, Robin Guthrie..
Dane: Johnny Marr was the last gig I saw before you guys.
Dylan: Fuck man, I wish I could’ve made it
Dane: The man knows how to put on a show
Dylan: I saw some of the videos and his voice, he just started singing in the 2000s! It’s funny that he was just hiding that voice this whole time.
Dane: Maybe he taking notes standing behind Morrissey
Sarah: For me, I would say Harriet Wheeler the singer of The Sundays. I love her songwriting and young Bjork. In the Sugarcubes, I’m not the biggest fan of Bjork now but I loved what she was doing back in the day
Dane: We’re still waiting for the Sundays reunion
Stephen: Mine would be Ben Wallers of the Country Teasers. They’re like a country post punk band and that’s like I’m into now really. They have very poignant political lyrics that are made to offend but also made to make you think. I just really like the songwriting. I was into very angular post punk music and then I heard this band and their songs were written very much like classic country but with very dissonant aspects to them and I was like, oh I guess you can do both of those things. That has nothing to do with this band, but that’s who my musical hero is
Cian: And similarly I would say Nilsson
Stephen: and Orange Juice! They’re sick
Dane: Just orange juice the drink? It’s pretty good with breakfast haha
Dane: What inspires you as musicians and songwriters?
Sarah: Just everything
Dylan: Once you get a voice memo of a band practice. It never even feels good when you do it, but then when you listen to it back on the drive home from practice you’re like ‘oh shit’!
Stephen: Yeah, yeah
Dylan: and that excitement is like a drug and that’s definitely like..
Sarah: You can’t stop listening to it, you can’t stop playing it. You’re totally right
Dylan: You try to think, okay where are we going to take this voice memo to an actual recording or an actual performance. You know, shaping it from there is just addicting.
Dane: I spoke to Stephen briefly earlier about this, but do you have plans to tour later, perhaps outside the US and Canada?
Sarah: Yeah, in March we are doing a tour in the U.S. going down to South By (SXSW Festival), we’re doing Savannah Stopover on the way and then New Colossus in New York which is a new festival. There’s a lot of Canadians, there’s like 130 Canadian bands?
Stephen: I think it’s 133 total, but it’s a lot
Sarah: I think it’s like 30 Canadian bands, I feel like that was the number. Anyways it’s a new festival.
Dylan: It seems like a lot, it’s going to be a lot of fun
Sarah: and after that in May we’re going to the UK for the first time
Stephen: We’re also going to L.A. though after South-By right?
Sarah: Yeah, that’s in the US but for the UK we’re going to Focus Wales
Dane: Is that another festival?
Dylan: Yeah, it’s a festival in Wales and we’re going to try and work some other stuff around that and just try to play as much as we possibly can.
Dane: Nice, that sounds like a lot of fun
Sarah: Hopefully we’ll find Johnny Marr
Dylan: We’re going to find all our heroes.We’ll collect them like Pokemon!
Stephen: We’ll take them home with us!
Dane: So the final question, is there an artist or album that changed your life?
Dylan: I think “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now”, that song changed my life. I listened to that song probably like five times a day for a year straight and then it went down to four for the next year, but that song definitely changed my life. I kinda want ever song I make to sound like that song
Sarah: I’d say The Sundays. The first time I heard them I loved how simple and beautiful the music was, but you could hear it was complex at the same time so I love that. Ever since I heard them I was like, I want to do that. Somethings along those lines.
Stephen: There’s a couple. Not really a song, but the first time I heard Orange Juice, the band, that was when I started playing bass differently in this band. The way they play melodies passing under the guitar is very interesting. It’s very much like playing lines, but it doesn’t interrupt the vocals and it accents the guitar and I used that a lot after my girlfriend showed me them. I try to write in a similar way for this band for sure
Dylan: Lead bass!
Stephen: Lead bass but without stepping on anyone’s toes
Dane: That’s it, find that sweet spot
Cian: I guess the most relevant for me is Heaven or Vegas by Cocteau Twins, specifically “Cherry-Coloured Funk“. My friend put it on for me late one night really late and I just realized it was the greatest song to put on…at night….really late. Haha And then I showed it to
Dylan, so I that’s the most relevant
Stephen: And I think I showed you Orange Juice too? Weird
Dylan: It’s all coming together
Dane: Well thank you for taking time to answer some questions and best of luck on the rest of your trip down south.
(Tallies show pictures courtesy of Dane Di Pierro)