Eight Questions for Tall Heights

Tim Harrington on guitar + Paul Wright on cello = pretty music. (Image courtesy of Tall Heights.)

Ever since catching a live performance of the Boston-based duo Tall Heights at Cafe 939 in February, my ears have been in a enthusiastic, aural tizzy. Formed in 2010 when Tim Harrington and Paul Wright started busking in Faneuil Hall, the guitar and cello player have since released an EP, 2011’s Rafters, performed with David Wilcox and Ryan Montbleau, and played Austin’s South by Southwest. They’ll be recording a live video for NPR in Boston this week, are already hatching plans to record another album this summer, and will be playing a sold out show at Club Passim on Friday night. Harrington and Wright were nice enough to take a few minutes to talk about new music, why playing big venues isn’t on the roster, and Robot Cellos.

How was South by Southwest? What did people think of you guys?
Tim Harrington: It was crazy — a lot to handle and take in. We played three shows and did some street performing, then toured for 10 days on the way back. Reactions were great. People are very open-minded and into music down in Austin.

Was it overwhelming?
TH: Yes. Everybody is a bit overwhelmed that week. Which sometimes makes people a little bit washed out. They’ll give you that look … you just know there’s no reaching them. They just need time to thaw. But it was fun and a huge success. It was kind of everything that we expected in good ways and bad ways.

If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be?
TH: Right now I’d love to do something with Anais Mitchell. She’s a gorgeous songwriter and has such a good handle on song structure and just building fantastic pieces of music. She also has a knack for writing from a subject or concept.
Paul Wright: I’d love to hang out with Laura Marling and have us do some cello and harmonies with her.

You’ve played Cafe 939 and Club Passim — are there any other local venues you’re dying to play?
TH: No! We are such huge advocates of small rooms that really the bigger places in Boston are almost less desirable than rooms like Passim and Lizard Lounge. For the release of Rafters we did it at Johnny D’s which is a 300-person capacity room. The fans really enjoyed it but for us personally it felt a little chaotic. So I think we’re gonna do it a little differently for the next release. But that said, we would happily play the Paradise.

How do people respond to your music?
TH: Something people really respond to is the simplicity and how that juxtaposes with the amount of sound. It’s totally what we’re going for. We’re a duo and we like to make that very obvious but we also love to surprise people with how much sound, fullness, and energy we can harness.
PW: I think the predominant comment is about our vocal blend. Everybody says, ‘You guys must be brothers, how long have you been singing together?’ People are blown away by how we make our voices sound like one.

Who are your musical influences?
TH: Bon Iver, Laura Marling, Tallest Man on Earth, Blind Pilot, the Avett Brothers, Regina Spektor, Mumford & Sons, Fleet Foxes, Glen Hansard.

What are you listening to now that you love?
TH: It’s a 2011 record, but St. Vincent’s Strange Mercy is a cool listen.
PW: I just downloaded James Vincent McMorrow’s new record and I’m digging that.

Okay, now for a really serious question: In a showdown between a Robot Cello and a Prehistoric Guitarasaurus Rex, who would win?
TH: Obviously I’m rooting for the Guitarasaurus Rex, but I know what a Robot Cello has hidden inside its body, which is a long metal spear with a very sharp point. It could easily pierce a human being, nevermind a Guitarasaurus Rex. I gotta say I think the Robot Cello would win, especially given the fact that it’s made of metal. But that spear is the real X-factor.

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