With a unique song writing style that has enabled them to sit comfortably between the indie rock community and the mainstream, As Tall As Lions have proven that you can write intelligent music without venturing into the realm of the pretentious or self indulgent.
I was lucky enough to catch up with ATAL front man Daniel as he prepares for their pending Australian tour…
Interview with Daniel Nigro (Vocalist/Guitarist)
As Tall As Lions
Thanks so much for your time
Oh, no problem. What’s going
Just working, the usual grind,
ha ha, you know how it is. How are you?
Ah yes. I’m having a good day!
As Tall As Lions are probably considered a new group to a lot of Australian music fans,
so could give us a bit of background on the band?
Certainly! We’ve been around
for five years… just playing around the US and Canada for a little
We out to Australia for Soundwave
last year and now we’re coming back again with an album coming out
in Australia in March.
You’ve been quoted as saying
that the whole “band” thing came about way too easily for AsTall As Lions, as labels came knocking within days
of you posting some demos on the internet. Did ever feel any kind of
backlash from your peers?
In terms of people being jealous?
Yeah, you could say that.
You now what, I would say it were
never too much of an outward of an expression from others, but we definitely
felt it. When we first got signed in 2003 I definitely felt a lot of…
well, when I’d hang out with friends who were also musicians, you
could feel this kind of resentment, you know, this kind of unspoken
“why was it them and not us” type of thing.
You know, we definitely felt it,
that’s such a good question. We had a lot of friends that tried to
sign to a label that we were close with and after those things changed
and some of our friends didn’t call as often… it changed. That’s
life though, it happens.
Back about two years ago… maybe
even a year and a half ago, people that we’d lost touch with came
back around and it was like, you know, they stared calling and hanging
out again, but there was definitely a period where we lost lots of friends.
In saying that,
I imagine that the transition from local to a full time touring band
would have been a difficult one given how quickly you were thrust into
You know what, it was interesting
for us. We weren’t so young but at twenty years old, we were still
in college and I think the whole music industry itself was this crazy,
unpredictable beast that you have to experience to understand it in
I think for us we were so naïve
and we made so many mistakes, but I’m glad we’re in the position
we right now. We’re not a tremendously popular band but we haven’t…
well, we’ve been blessed with the fact that we haven’t been making
mistakes in the limelight.
We’ve made a lot of mistakes
but they’ve been under the radar, and we learnt from them and have
been able to take those and you know… now our record’s coming out
in Australia, so we’ve learned things about releasing a record in
another country which has meant we can more hands on with projects like
Since As Tall As Lion’s inception you’ve played hundreds of shows
and releases 2 albums and 2 EP’s. What
have been some of your personal highlights?
Doing Jimmy Kimmel, just
being on a nationally syndicated show in the US was a trip in itself.
Being on a show that you actually watch on a regular basis and also
we’re from New York. Actually playing in New York City is one of the
easier or the most difficult places to play at the same time. There’s
so much good music, but being a Long Island band, your fans don’t
want to travel to New York City to see you play… they’ve rather
see you at home than making that drive or train ride.
When we finally brought our own
crowds to New York City… we actually headlined the HighLine Ballroom which is this big, up and coming venue where Paul
McCartney played… but to do your own headline show there and have
it at capacity was a surreal experience.
We went from bringing thirty kids
to a show to bringing six hundred people in a matter of ten months.
You guys seem to attract a
rather diverse audience, one that’s more concerned with the quality
of the music rather than focusing on its genre classification. Why do
you think that is?
It’s probably got to do with
the fact that we’ve never been a band with a genre specification.
A lot of bands say I want to be this or that type of band, but we’ve
taken our influences from R and B, soul, rock, pop and Latin music.
Whatever we like we play and that’s been able to keep us on… what’s
the word? More open to interpretation!
A few weeks ago we actually spoke
about what kind of record we wanted to make, and we sat around and said
we should consolidate our thoughts and focus, but that’s not what
our band is. We like making record where every song sounds different,
we’re good at that! So why be something you’re not?
That’s just something that we
do, whether it works out or not is up for debate, but it’s what we’re
most natural with. It is what it is.
Into The Flood was released
in November of last year, have you spent the last few months writing
and preparing for a new full length?
Yeah, we’re trying o get a record
out before the end of 2008, so we’ve spent the last six weeks in our
studio practicing and writing new songs. We probably won’t hit the
studio until late April or early May, but that’s where our heads are
at right now. The band is really focusing on this new record.
We want to “one up” the last
one, so we’re trying to take our time because writing is always an
interesting thing. Some ideas that excite you the most on the first
attempt might be the least exciting ideas two months later, and vice
verse. Someone shows you an idea one day and then a month later you’re
like, “I get that song now”! It might end up being the standout
track on the album.
We’re currently in the process
of sifting through ideas and just deciding which are genuinely good
and which ones we should keep pursuing.
Will the new material continue
to explore the same themes and sounds that were present on the last
Yes and no. There are definitely
some new themes being explored already but we are definitely not the
kind of band that’s out to repeat ourselves. At the same time, we
know our strengths and weaknesses, so were working on making our strengths
better and taking away our weaknesses.
We’ve gone through some interesting
points already, say, we’ll write something and be like, “it feels
like we did that before”, so we need to decide if it’s a goo idea,
but just because we’ve done it before doesn’t mean we can’t do
Deciphering between those feelings
is something that takes time to figure out.
Your live shows have now incorporated
multi-instrumentalist Rob Parr to add to your sound. Will he
be making an appearance on the next album and is there any chance that
he would join the band on a permanent basis?
That’s a good question. It’s
something that we’ve talked to him about and we’ve spoken amongst
ourselves as well. We haven’t figured out if it’s the right move
for any of us. There’s a certain dynamic that you have as a band,
where you have your four core members or write well and get along in
a certain way, so to bring another member in is a huge step for any
It’s something that we have
our reservations about and reasons as to why it may be a good idea,
but it’s not yet determined if it’s the right move.
You’re coming out to Australia
to perform acoustic sets as part of the Soundwave festival. Have spent much time performing the As Tall As Lions songs acoustically?
Not at all actually, ha ha.
It’s a very frequent question
that we’re being asked…
Sorry man, ha ha
Ha ha, no, no, it’s a great
question though. When you answer a question you learn more about yourself.
Something comes from inside and you go “I guess I do really think
It’s interesting for us. We’ve
done radio shows and interviews where you do a song or two that are
acoustic or internet TV services, or one off performances or whatever…
but this is the first time we’re doing a tour this way because of
one reason or another. We didn’t actually have the funding to bring
the whole band this time, which is bad because some members are jealous
that only two of us are going, which makes sense because I’d be pissed
if I wasn’t going!
We’ve been practicing almost
every day, so we’ve devoted time to figure out what we want to do.
We’re probably going to do some covers and do some new takes on some
original songs that we’ve never done before. It makes it exciting
for us and the audience.
We realize that the Soundwave
Festival has a younger teenage crowd, so you know, you have to take
into consideration the attention span at these shows, because we did
it last year and even playing as a full band we lost people during the
set. We’re not emo or metal or hardcore and there’s all these aggressive
bands playing and then we’re playing this dreamy, ambient music. Kids
are like “what the hell”… where’s the distortion and the screaming!?
So we’ll be unplugging our instruments
and trying to figure out a way that’s exciting for the crowd and still
innovative for us.
Given how layered your band’s
sound is, were you ever concerned that a solo performance might not
do the songs justice, or do you see that as an opportunity to create
something fresh for yourself and your fans?
It’s true. We’ve actually
been struggling with a few of the songs to make them sound right. Luckily
in the US the scene is so close knit so we have a lot of friends that
are on tour with us, so we’re going to be utilizing other people.
There will be anything from two to six people on stage at any one time.
We’ll be doing different things in different songs, including a very
interesting version of “Maybe I’m Just Tired” and our single “Love”,
which will be incorporating five people.
We’re not afraid of doing it.
We have about five or six songs that we feel comfortable playing acoustically
and they’re coming across great, so now we’re just finding an extra
three or four songs that will work, so we’re just choosing some covers
and figuring out the best way to do everything and make the next song
even more impressive than the last.
The Soundwave festival has such a diverse line up this year, who
are some artists that you’re looking forward to seeing?
I’ve never seen Incubus
so I’m very interested to see them live. I was a fan of them in high
school so I grew up with them and I’ve always been meaning to see
them live. For some reason, whenever they came around I was always busy
or working so I couldn’t attend their concert, so I’m definitely
interested to see them play.
I’m also interested to see The Offspring. When I was in eighth grade I saw them three or four
times so I’m interested to see if they still have it!
I’m excited because I think
we have a few days off in Melbourne, so we’re going to go and see Broken Social Scene. I think I’m most looking forward to that,
Once the Australian tour has
come to a close, what’s in the works for yourself and the rest of As Tall As Lions?
We’re going to finish the record
and then take a trip to some place away from Long Island and do some
demos and just put ourselves in a creative atmosphere… away from all
the distractions. In April, we’ll hone in on the songs and figure
out the missing pieces and then we’ll record in May.
You would’ve come across
a lot of great un-signed bands on your travels, who are some up and
coming bands that you’d like people to check out.
There’s a band from the US that
I always mention to people. They’re not big here or anywhere but they’re
called The Snake, The Cross, The Crown…
They’re an amazing band.
I don’t understand why they’re
not huge. Everyone I play their record to always loves them. It’s
so sad because they write such beautiful songs but they’ve got no
following. We’re close with them. We’ve toured together a few times
but I think they’re going to take some time off to finish school,
which is a shame because their last record is incredible.
More people need to hear it because
people are missing out.
That’s all we have time for Daniel, is there anything else you’d like to say?
No man, that’s great, thanks!
Take care mate.
Make sure you check out the following
for more info on As Tall As Lions…