sex as a foreign language

awkward aural adventures

Tilly And The Wall – Derek Pressnall interview

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This article originally appears on Gigwise

Tilly and The Wall are members of that unique musical breeding ground Omaha Nebraska that spearheaded by the patriarchal Conor Oberst has produced some of the most engaging and raw music to come out of America in the last decade. The first signings to Obersts Team Love label Tilly and The Wall have spent their last two albums building up a folk dance legacy that has seen thousands of ecstatic kids screaming ‘I Want to fuck it up’ across the globe whilst getting down to the tap dance groove. Returning with new album ‘O’, following on from the one off single ‘Beat Control’ Tilly and The Wall are bringing their most complete work to the world  ‘Team Love are so artist friendly, they really understand what we’re doing as artists, they really believe in what we’re doing as artists and that’s the great thing for us. No matter what, they are there for us to try and make any idea we have, anything we want to do they try and make it happen for us, so it’s perfect and it feels like family…and it is family.’


Family is exactly what it feels like squeezed into London’s ULU venue as Tilly and The Wall take to the stage. They are clearly excited to be on the road and it shows. ‘We’ve had a lot of fun. We’ve been out on the road for two weeks and all the shows have been really good, we’ve been getting really good reactions to the songs and the records out. It’s been a good trip,’ enthuses Pressnall looking back as the band prepare for their final few Irish dates on this tour. It’s almost two years since I caught Tilly and The Wall live and watching them fill ULU and listening to ‘O’ the biggest difference between now and then is just the sheer expansiveness of the sound. Whereas once they sounded like gleeful pied pipers leading an army of lost souls round the campfires of the world, now they have a muscular power behind them that you might not expect from the acousto-folkdance they ply. ‘Well we approached the record in the same way that we had done the last time. We all just got together, sat down for about 3 months and just wrote it, so writing we didn’t approach any different with this record but the recording we did because we recorded with Mike Mogis in Omaha and he had a lot of ideas. He is like a musical genius so production wise and sonically it has a different vibe to it,’ notes Pressnall. ‘Some of the songs were ready to go, totally written when we went into the studio and some were actually written in the studio. Kind of like things are built and taken away in the studio so it’s different for each song. ‘Beat Control’ was, well they were all recorded at the same time, in the States we just released it as a one off single so we wrote the song and it was just like a simple pop song, a dance song. It’s a departure in sound for us in terms that it’s totally straight forward, something you don’t really have to think about. Then they put it on the album for the UK and Europe, but in the States it just made sense as something separate.’

‘Beat Control’, thankfully included on the album this side of the pond, is indicative of the bands core sense of fun. It’s a celebration of music that I would put on such a themed mixtape right next to Pretty Girls Make Graves ‘Speakers Push The Air’ which is a massive compliment. They are not imbued with the faux-seriousness that weighs down some of their peers, perhaps as a result that the band is a happy democracy. ‘As far as influences go on the record it’s hard to say as all 5 people in the band write songs , everyone brings their songs to the table and then they get manipulated and worked on by everyone else so the inspirations are coming from 5 different directions. I think it’s more exciting and more interesting that way, because you write your song, you bring it and you have to explain it to everyone and explain yourself, ‘this is the kind of song I really want it to be or it is’, and then everyone else has their take on it, so it’s really exciting to watch something that you’ve created kind of get manipulated and filtered through other peoples minds. I think it makes it more interesting, keeps us all on our toes and it keeps things from sounding too much the same, which it might if one person wrote everything. It’s good fun and it’s a good creative process, it’s a very positive process.’

The need to mix things up and keep them fresh is something Tilly and The Wall have extended into their video production, creating a constant ouvre that makes you want to sell your friends to be in the band or just hang out with them. ‘In the past we’ve got really involved,’ states Pressnall getting excited about the bands videos, ‘like the ‘Bad Education’ video was just our friend Nik Fackler directed it and it was co-directed by me, so we basically took two months out to really work on that video. Then with ‘Beat Control’ we just wanted to have a dance vibe so we got Cody, who’s in SSION, to do it and he just said ok I want to film yourselves dancing in front of a green screen and then I’ll manipulate it from there.  So that was half and half, you know, just us dancing and then him basically putting the treatment together. For the  ‘Aligator Skin’ video there’s these kids from Kansas City have this fake public access show called ‘Whoop Dee Doo’ so they came up to Omaha to do one of their fake public access shows and were like ‘you should be part of it’ and we said ‘yes!’ So that was a little bit of a weird experience as it was just a load of people going crazy and it was at a local art space called the Bemis Center  for Contemporary Arts, so it was just random people from our town and people who from the city just dancing around and having fun to the song.’




Tilly and The Wall have also been making the jump from videos to TV of late with appearances in new franchise extension 90210 and far more excitingly recording the ABC song for Sesame Street! ‘Well, one of the producers was fan of our band and just asked if we wanted to do it and we said, ‘yes please!’ I think it actually only came on a couple of days ago so we haven’t actually seen it yet.’ Says Pressnall when talking about sound tracking Big Bird and Co. There was a time when a band like Tilly And The Wall would have been derided  for appearing on a show like 90210 but with bands like Death Cab For Cutie and a raft of others using shows like the OC to break down the stigma it’s now more of a positive than an affront to the DIY community. ‘Oh No we get a say in everything we do, so, there’s a guy who does a show,  a radio show in LA called ‘Morning Becomes Eclectic’ and he’s a big fan of our band and he’s a good friend of the producers and then a record of ours ended up on the show you know…and the producers of 90210 were like maybe we should try and get them and we just happened to be out in LA the day they were shooting and stuff and it all worked out good,’ notes Pressnall.

So what of the future? Well it seems that there may be a little respite for Tilly… to get festive in but that doesn’t mean there’s any time off for Pressnall. ‘We’re going to take a break I think. I have another band called ‘Flowers  Forever’ so I’ll probably personally work on that and I’m going to write some songs for the new record for that but as far as Tilly goes I think we’re going to take it easy for a couple of months  and work on new songs and come back out in the new year.’ News that will no doubt have fans of the band screaming, ‘I feel so alive…’ from the rafters.  


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