From the streets of Boston to the stage of Glastonbury, Tall Heights have indeed conquered some impressive peaks together. No surprise there, because their songs from debut album ‘Man of Stone’ and new 2016 release ‘Neptune’ are a joy to listen to, a sweet simplicity of soft harmonies, strings and guitars. GIGsoup have had the utter pleasure this week to chat to Tim Harrington and Paul Wright of Tall Heights ahead of their performance at Glastonbury. And if you don’t get the chance to catch them there, they’ll be playing at London’s Paper Dress Vintage on 27 June
What was the moment you both realised you could go further as musicians together?
We used to street perform together in Boston. It was all about trying to pay our bills and also figure out how to communicate our songs to passers-by. Eventually people began to stop and listen to our originals, not just our shitty cover tunes. I think that’s where we both found self-worth as songwriters, talking to tourists in Faneuil Hall who seemed to believe in us.
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You’ve said before you’ve found it helpful before to define yourselves as “two vocalists, guitar and cello”. How would you two personally describe yourselves now?
We’re a party of 3 on most night, and 4 on this tour. Tim and I still perform the same roll, there’s just a lot more gear now, and a tiny keyboard.
Tell us more about how you started with your minimalist set-up – did you start with the melody, the guitar lines, or just an idea you wanted to impart through the song?
We were trying to create songs that really popped without the very helpful tools of percussion and instrumental changes. It was a challenge, and I think it made us better at the building blocks of song-writing. If the melody/chord structure aren’t compelling, we could add all the layers we want and it would still be a bad song.
I love how you two started on your first album by writing songs separately and giving each other feedback before drawing the song together. Then on Neptune, I understand one of you would loop an instrumental part and let the other write lyrics over the top. Can you tell our readers more about this process and how coming up with concepts in this independent process has helped your creativity?
It was less about that particular song-writing strategy and more about keeping the process fresh. We’ve been writing songs together for a long, long time, and it’s easy to find our way to the well-worn path. But yes, songs like “Infrared” and “River Wider” came out of instrumental loops created by one of us with lyrics written over top by the other. I think the idea came out of listening to that Talking Heads song “This Must Be the Place” and wondering if we could write a song with a singular chord structure that loops over and over again but doesn’t get boring.
What do you focus on in your lyrics and is there any single song from Neptune you can pinpoint as your favourite lyrically?
Some of them are about our own experiences (Horse to Water), some are a bit more imagined but start with our own emotions (No Man Alive), and others are about political/global issues we care about (Growing, Spirit Cold). I think “Cross My Mind” means a lot to both of us lyrically. I don’t necessarily have the sense that it means as much to fans… but to us, the words are perfect for the emotion we were chasing.
You’ve got plenty of festival dates on the way, including a set at Glastonbury on 25 June! It seems like your presence has grown a lot here in the UK over the past year. How does it feel coming back to the UK since your first live dates here, back in February 2016?