Monday, April 5, 2010

As Tall As Lions Prey On Chicago

After 12 years of touring in support of other bands, soul-indie rockers As Tall As Lions embark on their first headlining tour next week—and they’re kicking it off in Chicago tomorrow night (4/6/10) at The Bottom Lounge.

“We have played Chicago probably eight times or so, and we love coming back,” singer/guitarist Dan Nigro told RedEye. “The venues are great, and the crowds get bigger every time.”

The New York band has toured relentlessly, opening for such acts as Cage The Elephant, Mute Math and Minus the Bear. Now, with a more mature sound, they will visit 23 cities in support of their latest album, “You Can’t Take It With You,” which was released last fall on Triple Crown Records.

Nigro talked more about the new album, what he loves about Chicago and the band’s upcoming debut appearance at the Coachella Music & Arts Festival.

“You Can’t Take It With You” has been described as a “Tour de France” of soundscapes. Was there a plan to make a larger sounding album?

“To be honest, I think the record came out the way it did because of a lack of focus. With the first record we had the plan of making ten groove heavy pop songs, but with “You Can’t Take It With You” we weren’t sure where we wanted to push ourselves so it was more about experimenting which lead to adding more texture and layers and making things more ethereal and spacey. I wouldn’t say it was a conscience effort of “okay we’re going to make it sound like this” because when it came out we were like “oh, it’s done…cool. I wasn’t expecting this, but I like it.”

There is a lot of heavy subject matter throughout the new album, what inspired the band to write such an in depth collection of songs?

“I think it was more about just experiencing certain things…I think we were all feeling a certain amount of pressure coming out of touring off the first record. We were all very young when we started recording, so when we came home after two years of touring we had experienced a couple of heavy things and reality kind of set in that we are growing up a little bit—anxiety attacks of “what are you doing with your life”, and it became a little bit more real. The first album had more of an innocent perspective on life.”

You guys are about to start your first headlining tour…what does this mean for the band?

“It’s a really exciting moment for us because when we opened for other bands we were kind of restricting ourselves. You start out saying “well screw the audience we are going to play whatever we want to play” and then a few days in to the tour we always end up switching it up because the audience isn’t picking up on certain songs. You may start out playing some of your fans songs, but 85% of the audience who doesn’t know you are looking at you like “why are you playing a six minute ballad right now?”

So there’s more freedom when you headline a tour?

“Exactly! The people coming to the show know your music and you’re able to get away with much more and feel much more confident in playing songs that you wouldn’t feel as confident playing as an opener.”

The tour kicks off in Chicago, what makes your live show great?

It’s all about the chemistry that’s formed on stage and I think the fans can say that the music is much better in concert than it is on CD. We’re proud of what’s on the CD, but when someone tells you it’s ten times better live, that means a lot more to us.”

What’s your favorite part about Chicago?

I love the Wicker Park area. I always find myself hanging out around there and checking out all the clothing shops and finding a nice little place to get lunch. Definitely one of my favorite hang out spots.

So what’s the craziest thing to happen to the band?

“You know people have asked that question every once in a while and I say literally there’s something crazy that happens to us everyday in our lives. Being on the road is an alternate universe and you cant explain the things that happen—you have to go on tour with the band for a few days just to see how much its not a reality.

In addition to Chicago, another big stop for the band is the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival. Are you guys pumped?

“Yeah for sure…we have done smaller fests, but nothing on such a grand scale. I mean, I went to Coachella six years ago when I first got to L.A. I got to see Radiohead and The Flaming Lips; so to actually be a part of it is surreal.

Any bands that you want to check out while you’re there?

“Yeah… Gorillaz are one of my favorite bands so the fact that I will finally get to see them is really amazing!”

So do you expect it to be completely insane?

“Yeah I guess [Laughs]…the thing about festivals is that by the end of the day you’re exhausted so its not the most amazing thing in the world, but at least we have a place to sleep so that’s a good thing [Laughs].

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