The Need To Know About In Tall Buildings

Erik Hall, known to music fans as In Tall Buildings, is getting ready to tour. His sophomore release Driver came out in February to positive reviews from sites including Stereogum and the Consequence of Sound.

Beginning July 13th, Hall will be hitting the road for shows with pop legend Matthew Sweet and pop sweetheart Natalie Prass. ATYPICALSOUNDS was privileged to speak with Hall during his last few days of quiet time.

in tall buildings band

On July 13th, you’re playing a show with Matthew Sweet in Chicago’s Millennium Park. Is there anything you’re dying to ask, or anything you’d like to learn, from someone who’s been in the music industry as long as he has?

EH: It’s always fun to be on a bill with someone who’s been doing it a long time. I remember having a pretty cool 5th grade science teacher who liked to talk about music with my friends and me, and among a list of artists she recommended at the time were Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, and Matthew Sweet. It’s safe to say some semblance of that list made its way into my musical awareness growing up. We’ll also be sharing a bill with Veruca Salt this summer!

You and Natalie Prass will also be performing together for a series of shows. Will you be traveling together? How do you get comfortable touring in close quarters to someone you may not know so well?

EH: I’ll be driving my own car for those shows, but I’m sure we’ll share some green rooms! It’s fun to meet another band on the first night of a run of shows together and then get to know them bit by bit as you cross paths on stage, in between sound checks, over post-show hangouts, etc. I’m friends with Natalie’s bass player, so I’m looking forward to hanging with him and getting to know the rest of the bunch.

How do you keep yourself entertained while on tour? What is the least glamorous thing about being a touring musician?

EH: I do a lot of crosswords, and, whenever possible, I go for a walk. Also, tour is the only time that I ever watch television, and it’s great to catch a bit of Conan or Colbert in the hotel room.

I’d say the least glamorous part of touring is the food I inevitably sometimes eat. I eat extremely well at home. My wife is a chef, and I’m generally interested in good food. On the road, that entire set of values go right out the window. Standards and inhibitions are lowered, and convenience takes over. That long standing idea of packing a cooler and keeping it stocked with healthy, economical staples has somehow never once been carried out. Maybe this time around…

What keeps you based in Chicago, versus places like Los Angeles or New York? Do you think your location has affected your opportunities as a musician?

EH: Thus far Chicago has allowed me every opportunity I could ask for as a musician, and I don’t imagine that stopping to be the case. Sure, there are paths I could pursue in New York or LA, but I’ve simply never had the desire to live in either of those cities.

As someone from Chicago, what are your feelings towards New York-style pizza? Do you feel strongly one way or the other, or do you believe there’s a time and place for each?

EH: I have never been opposed to any type of pizza ever, and I’ve never felt the need to debate the matter. Quite simply: Pizza rules.

rockwood music hall

photo by Neat Beet, Mercury Lounge 4/15

Your latest album Driver took 4 years to complete. Is it more difficult to stay focused on your solo projects, versus working with a band? Is there a sense of urgency with either?

EH: In a band it’s easier to get decisions made. When working all by yourself, it’s easy to sit with a song for a long time and consider options forever. I actually love the balance of shifting between the two, because it allows me to continually come back to the situation with fresh ears. In that way, having involvement in other bands actually keeps me moving forward with In Tall Buildings.

Was there any time during those 4 years where you wanted to scrap everything you had already completed for the album and start over again?

EH: No, I never felt that way. It was always positive, and I always knew that I liked what I had. It just took me a while to push those songs towards the finish line.

Driver is interesting in that it seems to straddle electronic and folk influences. Does that seem accurate to you? Which artists would you say most influence your sound?

EH: Sure, that’s accurate! Ideas come from all over, and though there could never be a comprehensive list I’m happy with, I can say that Driver was partially informed by Califone, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, Low, Thom Yorke, Gillian Welch, Arthur Russell, and Deerhoof.

Do you have a preference for a more sedate sound versus a loud or aggressive one? Is there something that draws you to one aesthetic over another?

EH: For me, both are required. Though, I think “sedate” is a good word to describe the underlying tone of a lot of my songs.

Any thoughts on your next album?

EH: It’s well underway. Excited to get another one out there, will keep you posted.