Tilly & The Wall Interview

Named after a children’s book, Tilly And The Wall produced an unsung highlight of 2006 in their second album ‘Bottoms Of Barrels‘; a joyous mix of indie, pop, and folk that could soften the hearts of the hardest of cynics.

The Nebraska quintet are notorious for forsaking traditional percussion in favour of the amplified tap-dancing skills of Jamie Williams, and Alex Gosman caught up with her for a quick chat just before the band’s recent show at London’s Electric Ballroom.

How’s the tour going so far?

It’s been a ton of fun! It’s a pretty short tour this time around, but over the last week we’ve been going around the UK, and London is one of our favourite places to play, so we’re very excited to be back!

How on earth do you have the energy to tour so much? I think you’ve been to the UK about five times in the space of a year!

Well, we’re actually taking a break after this – we’ve just cancelled a US tour, and instead we’re going to stay home and work on the next record for about five months. We’ve been touring for almost 16 months straight, so it’ll be good to get home, but we’ve had a great time being able to travel so much on tour!

The last time you hit the UK, you were touring with CSS – how did that go?

Oh, that was amazing – it was so much fun, CSS are all lovely people and we all love their music. We’ve been friends with them for a while, so we had loads of fun together, and the crowds were awesome too. Great memories!

You released ‘Bottoms Of Barrels‘ about this time last year; are you happy with how the fans have received it, and is there anything that you’d have done differently with it, in retrospect?

Well, there’s always things you’d do differently – especially as we’re all perfectionists! But I’m still really happy with it, and we had a lot of fun making it, because it was the first time we’d been able to record in a proper studio. We had access to all this amazing equipment, and we had our friends coming down and hanging out, so it was a great experience.

So how does the songwriting process work with Tilly? Is there one main songwriter, or do you all write?

Yeah, all five of us write songs…but there isn’t really one particular way in which we do it. It depends who’s writing the song – for example, I write mine on guitar, Nick [keyboard player] writes his on the keyboard – and often it isn’t a full song, just a rough idea. Sometimes I write my tap part early on, sometimes it’s the last thing I do. Generally, if someone comes up with an idea, then we’ll all work on it together and see what we can do with it!

Speaking of your tap-dancing talents…do you ever get tired of being known as ‘that band with the tap-dancer’?

Not really, because that is what we are! It did kinda annoy me in the beginning, because it seemed to be the focus of the band; but I soon embraced it, because I love tap-dancing and I feel very lucky to be able to use it in this way. And it does help to get us press, which is always a good thing, and I don’t think it would really matter if we didn’t have the songs to back it up! So if the tap-dancing is like a gateway for people to hear our music, then that’s totally fine with me.

And how about musical influences? It’s hard to pin your sound down to a particular genre

Well, we all grew up with different music, so the songs do kinda reflect that! I grew up listening to a lot of 80s pop – Wham, Hall & Oates, Madonna – and I like indie music too.
Derek [singer/guitarist] is a big fan of songwriters like Bob Dylan, and the Velvet Underground, and Kianna [singer/bassist] really likes punk and metal music – so we all bring together lots of different-sounding ideas!

Cool, well that’s nearly it…but here’s a slightly strange question to finish! There’s two guys and three girls in Tilly And The Wall; have you ever thought about getting a Great Dane, and driving around solving mysteries in your spare time – à la Scooby Doo?

Haha, that’s a great idea! But I don’t think such a huge dog would be too happy in our van! I would like to get a little dog to bring on tour when we actually have a proper, permanent tour bus. Maybe it could wear a little sparkly top hat or something, and become the Tilly mascot!

[‘Bottoms Of Barrels‘ is out now on Moshi Moshi Records. Check for more info.]