Having made their name as cartoonish urban-bohemian pranksters with a strong line in feelgood stompy pop, Nebraskan big-hearts Tilly & The Wall got a few people’s tutus in a twist last year; first with the single ‘Beat Control’ that traded in their twee card for a neon disco edge, and then with their third album O, which took their riotous pop, enrolled it in assertiveness training classes and taught it naughty words. “What a ho, what a bitch, what a slut,” the Tilly girls pout on new single ‘Pot Kettle Black’ (out this week), a modern would-be garage-rock (via a school gym) anthem that delights in its own playground silliness. It’s still good two-dimensional fun, as if straight out of the Natalie Dee college of creative cussing, but also has a slightly menacing side. Employing a 10-person stomp group injects the song with a contagious strop that has us chanting along in the office like born-again cheerleaders. Someone had to pay for this outbreak so we collared Tilly singer Kianna Alarid to account for her part in this mischief. Sort of. Behold, the queen of the exclamation mark.
O has a noticeably harder-edged feel to it compared with the earlier albums. Were the angrier songs like ‘Pot Kettle Black’ coming from a bad place?
Well, I can’t speak for anyone but me but there were definitely a few songs I wrote that came from a place of frustration and pissy/bitchy-ness. But on the flip side, all of those songs have to be taken with a grain of salt because I know how hypocritical I am. And that’s kind of what those songs are about; poking fun at myself while I get some shit off my chest. It’s fun that way!
Where did the stomp group come into things for ‘Pot Kettle Black’?
We’d been talking about using the stomp group for years and finally had the chance to do it. It was a lot of fun and ended up sounding just as we had hoped!
You all seem to have quite different personal tastes and inspirations, so presumably that impacts on what you think works best. Is it ever hard to find a middle ground when there are five opinions to be heard?
There are always times where it’s hard to come to decisions when there are five extremely different opinions to be heard. But we all realise this and know that there are times when we are not going to get our individual ways…it’s just about being flexible and remembering this is a band and them’s the breaks! We don’t ever fist fight though…much. (just kidding!)
What’s the most surprising thing you all have in common?
It may be surprising that we’re all obsessed with food. Nachos, Cheez-Its, McVitie’s, gelato, Battenberg cakes, sushi, Taco Bell…the list is very extensive. Also, we are all really creative people in other ways than just musically. It runs the gamut from photography to painting to reupholstering furniture to sewing and needlepoint! We are all very crafty! Hahaha! We all have creative stuff in our lives besides Tilly.
Is that where the O-framed artwork concept came from?
Yeah, we all came up with it in a brainstorm one night. We really wanted to showcase a lot of different artists with a lot of them being friends of ours. It was just one way of supporting our local art scene and also extending an invitation to get some new artists to show us what they have! It worked out wonderfully and we all love the artwork we got.
I noticed there’s less singing from Derek this time around – why’s that?
Derek has always tried to get away with singing less! Hahaha! He just somehow got his way this time without us noticing until later on! That little sneak!
You must have been pretty pleased with how well ‘Beat Control’ did on the radio over here…
We were totally surprised and so happy about the response we got from that single. It was a really great thing for Moshi Moshi as well, and we were all basically freaking out! It was well received here in the States too but the radio play wasn’t on par with the UK radio stuff.
I read somewhere that you originally planned to do the whole album in the more electronic style of ‘Beat Control’ – is that just a rumour?
That’s totally a rumour! Hahaha!
Tell us about your appearance on ‘Sesame Street’. Are you all big fans of the show?
We are all huge ’Sesame Street’ fans! We all grew up with that show and were more than excited to do it. It was a lot of fun to write our version of the ABCs and then do the shoot in New York City with all those adorable little kids running around!
What about the new ’90210′ remake? How did you end up on the very first episode?
They asked us and we were so excited to say YES! Haha! They were all as nice as could be to us so we really felt welcomed and taken care of. I really don’t know if they can touch the old one since the original Peach Pit was so cool, but it is a great show because of all the drama-rama! Ahhh, teens!
Watching you play live it’s obvious that you guys really love what you’re doing. Your enthusiasm doesn’t seem to have dimmed at all even after three albums…
Yeah totally! Even though touring is honestly, really tiring work, everything is worth it for that 1+ hour we are on stage. Something very magical happens when we’re up there together. If we’d been arguing with each other, or if I’d been preoccupied or whatever, it kind of melts away and we all smile and remember why we are doing this. It’s so wonderful. I want to perform for the rest of my life.
Any funny touring stories to share?
Funniest show was when we started the show and Jamie realised she forgot to put on her tap shoes! Hahahaha! That was pretty amazing! She ran across the whole stage and leapt off. We were like, “…Bye? Where did she GO!??” So funny!
Does Tilly & The Wall have any surprising fanbases? Big in Outer Mongolia etc?
Hahaha! We did hear that we were on the Top 20 chart in Qatar! I never saw proof of this but we were kind of into the idea of touring there! It would’ve been awesome!
Alan Pedder and Hugh Armitage
‘Pot Kettle Black’ was released earlier this week with two exclusive new tracks. That Remix Sucks, a new EP of remixes, can be downloaded for free through the Team Love Library (registration required); www.myspace.com/officialtillyandthewall
‘The ABC Song’ [Sesame Street]
Tagged tilly and the wall