Upon graduating from the University last April, I began work as one-fifth of my band, Tally Hall. We had decided a couple of months earlier to treat the band as a full-time job for at least a year. We’d sold out the Blind Pig, been named one of mtvU’s top college bands, had a music video circulated to millions on the Internet and been courted by managers. The signs were there, although it wasn’t an easy decision. Zubin and Ross put their college educations on hold, Rob deferred a full-ride to the University of Michigan Medical School, and Joe and I seemed to have it the easiest; we both had our degrees.
It felt like our first professional move was signing a recording contract with Al McWilliams, a local entrepreneur who saw and heard something that convinced him to start a record label just for Tally Hall. What followed was four months locked in a small recording studio a little outside of Ann Arbor. It was a traditional struggle from the start with Al, as he wanted the album done in a month and we kept on telling him it couldn’t be done, we need more time.
By the beginning of October we’d finished Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum after spending more than triple our initial allowance. This left very little time before the album’s official November release. From the moment we finished recording, it felt like the CD had everything working against it. First, the printer made a mistake and all the blue album art was purple. This mess-up entirely destroyed our color scheme, something we’d worked very hard to create. Next, a record is supposed to arrive on reviewers’ desks three months in advance. We had under a month.And we didn’t have a manager. They don’t teach this in school, and we were doing our best to pretend we belonged.
The next step was the road. Rob pretended to be a booking agent and to his credit, managed to book us a full-fledged three-week tour only a month and a half in advance. We left at the beginning of December and toured the East Coast. We slept in cheap motel rooms and ate frugally. And we learned that touring is an entire challenge in and of itself. Lots of clubs think they’re doing you a favor by letting you play at their venue. Some treat you like scum. Many times we arrived to find ourselves locked out in the freezing cold waiting to unload lots of heavy equipment. There are club owners who “forget to pay” or stiff the band so that they have an extra fifty bucks in their pocket. We’ve had a van break down in Rochester, NY, the death of my keyboard in Cleveland that forced us to shell out $600 for a rental, and a financially disastrous New Jersey ice storm that wound up affecting our draw. As we had rented the venue, this was very costly.
On the press side of things, it’s a similar challenge. Without a publicist, it’s fair to say we’ve been ignored probably 90-percent of the time. To make it more difficult, it seems like we’ve oversaturated the Ann Arbor college market, our own home, causing people to turn against us. The Michigan Daily gave us a confused review and WCBN has played our songs less than Ann Arbor’s 107one, Michigan State’s WKAR and about 100 other college stations across the country.
Overall, we’ve been lucky. We’ve heard stories of bands getting equipment stolen, injuries, and even a touring band whose van hit an ice patch, resulting in death. None of that has happened to us (fingers crossed).
We’ve managed to break even on two tours and even have the luxury of going to any city and having fans show up from the Internet (mostly from the “Banana Man” video). We have the support of Al, who’s been there when the road presents us with problems. And we’re all friends, which makes the entire process much easier.
Things are looking up. The Detroit Free Press has been incredibly supportive, even recommending us for a national television spot. The Boston Herald wrote a praising review after we opened for OK Go. College radio has responded very well. We’re packing venues in Ann Arbor, NYC and our fanbase in many markets is quickly growing. We’ve finally received the managerial offer we’ve wanted all along. And we’re almost done signing with a highly regarded booking agent. We might be writing a TV show theme song. We’re all really excited about the future of the band and our music.
It’s not exactly what I thought I’d be doing when I graduated college, but Tally Hall is on the verge of becoming a financially and artistically successful reality.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the band or our adventures, visit our website, www.tallyhall.com.