Analogue Music | Tall Heights

Tall Heights

By Matt Conner

Tim Harrington soaks it in like a sponge.

If you've caught Tall Heights on tour anytime this past year, either headlining their own dates or as support for Ben Folds, Judah & The Lion or Cake, you've been a part of the reward for Harrington and his bandmate Paul Wright. Eight years after getting started as buskers on the streets of Boston, Tall Heights is finally breaking through and Harrington is thankful for it all—the journey and the destination. From the stage of the band's recent headlining dates, he says he's "a sponge for that love."

Harrington says having the duo's mettle tested by the industry over the last several years has yielded fruit worthy of the growing pains. While it's natural to long for a quicker path to success, to hope for the single hit that catapults an artist or band to stardom, Harrington says the long road taken has prepared them for anything the industry can throw at them. They're a proven band and now the platform is following suit.

As the band winds down their own headlining tour and finally finds space to breathe after a busy year recording and touring, we sat down with Harrington to hear about the long path to this point and why he wouldn't change a thing.

Analogue: We're nearing the end of the year. How are you going to remember 2018?

Tim Harrington: For me, 2018 has been fucking crazy. [Laughs] It's been absolutely bonkers. It started right away in January. We started the year by finishing the album in the studio that would eventually come out this fall. During the last week of January we hit the road with Judah and the Lion and now he were are. One tour went straight into the next tour which went straight into the next tour. That all culminated in putting out the record and driving around the country on our own headlining tour.

On the one hand, it's been the best year of my life because I've done so much of what I love. On the other hand, it's been the fastest year of my life, because we've been so busy. There's no time to come up for air. We're trying to be good little Buddhists about every minute of the day and soak it in and love every minute, but there is a certain magnetism to just staying sane and healthy and alive. I think hindsight will be beautiful for 2018, because hopefully at some point, we'll come up for air and see what we accomplished and what we did. I think we'll be smiling in an incredible way.

Analogue: You've been at this a lot longer than I realized when I first really started hearing about the band and then hearing your music myself. Do you hear that a lot?

Tim: I remember probably around eight or ten years ago, someone told me that it takes 10 years to make an overnight success. I think that's just so true. It's not just that word-of-mouth is a slow thing. It's not just that you have to try again and again to find your place in success. But I also think there's a beautiful amount of apprenticing that the world makes you do for the thing you're asking for. I think we've put in those hours at this shit that we can really see it paying off.

Credit: Jimmy Fontaine
Credit: Jimmy Fontaine

We started off as street performers. We were doing hundreds of hours of performing every summer in Boston when we first started. We'd be out there in the sweltering heat in the sun and when it would rain, we'd tear down all of our shit and get under cover. We were out there doing the blood, sweat and tears thing. It was boots on the ground from the very beginning learning to how make the magic of the live performance happen. You can't really fake that.

We learned so much in that process. There were turning points and a-ha moments that were so plentiful out there on the streets of Boston—everything from learning how to live with the daily pressures of making a living as a career musician and the nuance of stopping somebody in their tracks with something as small as a vocal harmony or finger-picked guitar part. Out there we learned there's so much power in clarity of vision. There's so much magnetism in somebody who is doing something with 100 percent honesty and conviction and sincerity. We learned how to be performers out there.

We also learned what works and what doesn't work for us. So much of that lives on in our vision today, which is that two voices can combine to create one voice. Two songwriters and perspectives can come together and create something that is singular. We can trace through the lineage of our music and see that as long as we continue to commit ourselves to one voice out of two, it doesn't what we do on a production level. We can have a rock band or do an acoustic indie thing or a disco thing—we've done all of those things—but somehow it still sounds like Tall Heights. So we discovered that we've got something kind of unique.

Analogue: That sounds romantic as a proving ground, but I'm assuming during that time you were hoping for an easier path forward.

Tim: Oh, yeah! You always want the shortcut. Since we first started in 2010 as street performers and then being on the road putting out albums and touring around hundreds of shows per year, I always feel like we're six months away from something big. But the reality is that it's much better for you to take the longer road. I've already said this, but you cannot fake the thoroughbred touring act. You can't pretend to have strength in your voice when you don't have it. You can't pretend to deal with adversity on stage when you don't know how.

So we're doing our first headlining touring right now for the first time in years after playing with Judah and the Lion or Ben Folds or so many others, but all of that preparation is paying off. We're so ready for this. We can put on a great show for anybody who shows up. That makes for a very rewarding experience out on the road.

Analogue: What's been most rewarding for you in the last few months?

Tim: The big highlight for me has been all of the people singing along on a nightly basis. It's been so long since we've played our own headlining shows, so we're just showering in that apprecation. We've really deprived ourselves of any understanding of how the music is connecting with people because we've been playing in front of other people's crowds for so long, so every night I'm just a sponge for that love. Looking out and seeing people sing along with the songs has been so cool—the old songs and the new songs. People are just really engrossed not only in the rhythms and the hooks but in the nitty-gritty of the lyrics. I appreciate that so much because we care about those lyrics.

There are a lot of individual highlights in all of that, too. Getting on top of the big tall sub at a sold out venue in Seattle and jumping off mid-song. Those kinds of moments are probably chemically like a drug. It's all so fun. There's so much energy. Those are all highlights. But the main highlight is seeing the fans come out of the woodwork and baring their souls with us.

Analogue: I love that sold out scene you describe in Seattle, because it occurs to me that it's three time zones away from your home. That's gotta feel good.

Tim: Yeah, it's hard to describe what that feels like. It's great.

Analogue: What's the vision for 2019?

Tim: We're very predictable. [Laughs] We love to write songs and we love to record them in a way that makes us really turned on. We love the process of making albums. It's such a beautiful and important piece of what we do. We also love to go out and share those songs with people. To a degree, that's what I want to be doing for the rest of my life—not just 2019. It's all about the song.