Plight of the living kids
The hyperactive Tilly and the Wall is coming to the Bean Scene with Pedro the Lion
When the temperature tops the century mark, as it has lately, it’s hard to tell which weighs more, the thick still air or the sluggish hours dragging the day to night. If it’s possible, Tilly and the Wall is a band that reminds us to shake off the hot days and attend to living. And, in the middle of summer, Tilly and the Wall come to Chico with Pedro the Lion at The Bean Scene Aug. 9.
Tilly and the Wall began two and a half years ago in Omaha, Neb. With the demise of their then-current bands, Jamie Williams (percussion, vocals) and Kianna Alarid (percussion, vocals) joined with Neely Jenkins (percussion, vocals) and began writing songs. Atlanta transplants Derek Presnall (guitars, vocals), and Nick White (keyboards) soon joined, completing the quintet.
Omaha, you may remember, is the city the nation’s rock journalists (including SPIN magazine) recently and collectively crowned our country’s current epicenter of musical genius. Member Kianna Alarid speaks of the Omaha scene with affection: “It’s very tight knit. We could do anything, and our friends would have our backs.” The friends she speaks of include members of bands Cursive, Criteria, The Faint and the critically lauded Bright Eyes.
It was friend Conor Oberst, the songwriter and creative force behind Bright Eyes, who, after witnessing Tilly and the Wall live, let the band know that it was onto something special and promptly snatched it up as the flagship band for his new record label Team-Love, which led to the band’s debut Wild Like Children, released barely a month ago.
Despite Tilly’s occasionally being slapped with the “twee” tag (normally reserved for bands reveling in sugar-sweet hooks and childlike tales), the band is about as twee as San Diego noise-rockers Drive Like Jehu were punk or The White Stripes are a blues band. Meaning it’s a bit more complex than pointing to probable influences. The band favors sweet melodies complemented by boy/girl harmonies, not too unlike a hyperactive Belle and Sebastian, racing through the smoke and flames of campfire sing-a-longs—with lots of swearing…
Wild Like Children‘s “Nights of the Living Dead” makes liberal and cathartic use of everyone’s favorite four-letter word. When the band urgently, repeatedly shouts “I wanna fuck it up!,” it’s the same blast of anarchy that The Ramones plied in the film Rock and Roll High School to banish complacency by all means necessary.
With songwriting contributions from all the band’s members, particular themes reoccur, such as finding comfort in one’s own skin and seizing the moment. Tilly and the Wall successfully and artfully harnesses the immediacy found in youth, often lost on an individual’s solemn road to “maturity.”
Why is it that some forget about really living when crossing that imaginary line into adulthood? “We think about that all the time,” says Alarid, “People forget they can still do things.” Which may explain the rationale in naming an album Wild Like Children.
While touring on the East Coast with Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley, a show at Vassar College began with the audience immobile, rooted to the ground. As the set wore on, the crowd caught onto the band’s infectious sway, with the entirety of Tilly and the Wall genuinely unable to stop smiling.
“It’s amazing,” says Alarid, when “you can tell when people are letting go of what they think they should like.” Which reportedly is a common incidence when the band performs.
“People started dancing! Fuck yeah! These kids are cool!" remembers Alarid of the Vassar show, her enthusiasm briefly slowed by memories of the kids’ response causing the band to get a little choked up. To which she wisely remarks, "If we do what we love and you can tell we are loving it—it’s hard to ignore."