Who is Talking Towels?
That was a question our former bassist Peter was asked when he and I were postering downtown New Haven, CT some time in probably 2005, regarding an early logo design. At the time, we were still answering that to ourselves. It was only after years of dragging roadcases through slummy rock venues around the country that we were able to step back and see what made us "Talking to Walls."
"Don't let the radio cut out tonight"
That was the line that started to pull it all together. For reasons given and discussed elsewhere over the years, I wrote a song that would start off "Naked." That record was met with very admirable reviews, was our first music video, and was the culmination of a few years of figuring things out. I had spent a few years playing solo, trying to cobble other musicians together but it never really gelled, and not everyone wants to commit to a tour. So it was up to me, with an acoustic guitar and a recent heartbreak, to play as hard and as loud as I could as i found myself touring on the same bills as the types of full-on rock bands that I wanted to be in. Ultimately, I got a call from Krupa in the summer of 2004. He and I graduated from the same college, and I had passing knowledge of his band in school. The conversation went something like this:
A few weeks later, we met Peter, via a recommendation of Steve Rodgers from New Haven's Mighty Purple (if you went to any club in the Northeast in the mid '90s to early '00s you saw their stickers on walls and in the bathrooms). We played some shows and learned to write better songs. I was playing all of the guitars at that point, which was a bad idea, but hell, we were a trio now, and we genuinely liked each other! I killed several transmissions (but never stranded!), packing us in like sardines into my Saturn Vue, hauling all of our gear around the Tri-State area for a year or so. During that time we made "Naked," engineered by guy named Ronnie who's daughter was my vocal coach, built a rehearsal studio in the house I'd just bought, and bought a van. We found a guitarist named Mike, who wasn't the perfect fit for us, but finally took lead guitar out of my hands and showed some of our potential as we hit the road in earnest to support our record which was getting a lot of local press in a few states. (And we'd finally shaken the constant "sounds like the Cure" writeups.)
We started to learn the art of auto mechanics, as our big blue van, Ricardo Montelvan (named backstage after Ryan Montbleau, when we played a show with him and some of us couldn't remember his name) started to show us what happened when you bought the cheapest van you could afford. Whenever we were upset and stuck on the side of the road, we'd yell "KHAAAAN!" - we were learning that we were all pretty well-read sci fi geeks, and expect you to get that joke.
"No more rewind"
When Mike flaked we knew we had to replace him, and that we could only go up, the way things were going. After what probably felt like forever but wasn't really, we met Nat. If you've never auditioned guitar players, let me spare you the trouble and the purple prose - it stinks. Lots of guys can't play. However, Nat really could, and immediately he was becoming one of my closest friends. The world was complete, and we started writing in earnest for the "sophomore record..."
"New England can be mighty cruel"
So can fate. Soon after Nat joined, Peter dropped the bomb - he was going back to school, getting engaged, and couldn't really devote the time that was clearly going to be needed for the band. So, he would record all the bass parts we already had, leaving Nat to play the rest of the songs while we found someone a replacement.
"I remember pitching in, to see you through the thick and thin"
The record was already done, after MONTHS of solid work with Greg Giorgio producing and showing us how to write on a higher level. This was a real, fully-professional record. We all bought new gear, new instruments (should have bought a new van while we were at it...), and made an amazing record that would eventually be called "We Were Not So Tall." We played a single show with a nice guy we thought was replacing Pete, and found that we totally sucked and weren't as good live as our new record we were about to release. Or maybe it was the almost year of not having played live. Regardless, this bassist was also going back to school and had to drop out, and we had a show in Boston in a few weeks we suddenly dreaded. That led us to my high school friend Jeff filling in.
A funny thing happened. Jeff was a great singer, a really tight player, we bought ourselves in-ear monitors so we could ACTUALLY HEAR on stage for the first time ever, and we were about to support our stop-gap release "The Megan EP" (some tracks and extra songs from "WWNST" while we waited for the right timing to release the record). That Boston show was the best show we ever played up to that point, and the plethora of video proved to us it wasn't just an excited memory. We're figuring it out! Alright, here we go!
"We are all not leaving yet, the ship has run aground"
Jeff's motorcycle accident left him with a very long recouperation and permanent injuries. Nat and I struck out on a summer duo tour - we couldn't stop the band now after the exciting couple of months that Jeff was with us. The rehearsals for that tour ended up being "A Long Stilt Walk" (which was named for us by Peter, an anagram of Talking to Walls). Worse tragedy also struck the band of my old music scene friend Matt/M4/later-to-be-dubbed-Mikles, and he was suddenly free to help us out with the shows we had lined up.
"Makes you rise, rise, rise again"
Everything happens for a reason, and we found the four of us to truly, finally know what it was like to have a band with people that were to become family. Our "Song for Megan" began a part-time focus on Irish punk rock, letting us really revel in that identity annually for the month of March. We also realized that we were drifting towards being a more dramatic live show. First it was just the St. Patrick's Day shows where we would add other musicians and backing dancers, but it started to leak out to the rest of the year.
The record was released, went to radio and charted, thanks to college stations across the US and Canada.
"Everyone's accounted for, so pass another round!"
We confidently hit the road in earnest, while Ricardo continued to break down in earnest. Laura, who saw many of those same Mighty Purple stickers that I did, became our tour manager, freeing me up from some of the office duties that were starting to smother me and suck the fun out of it all. We were constantly playing everywhere - 50-60 dates the summer of 2010 alone, up to 5 shows in 24 hours at one point - and when we were home, if one of us was invited to a party, you could count on all of us showing up.
"Got the machinery to set me free"
But the end of that album cycle hit pretty hard. I know that I for one was a little burnt out. Especially financially. Plus Ricardo/Khan was just bleeding money along with brake fluid. I started to lose my mind a bit, the begining of a long hard road for me. But we still had the four of us. An attempt at a live album and DVD was recorded/shot. We held a beard race to raise a lot of money for charity. Then, Nat had the brilliant idea of taking our collective interests in books, movies and sci fi and forge a new era of the band, and write a more musically challenging album around those themes. Embrace our personalities. It was fresh. It was exciting. Other than our annual committment to our growing Irish punk side (including releasing "Black Hearts Parade"), we started focusing on this new album concept and demoing a lot of songs.
At one of our Black Hearts Parade Tour stops, Nat met a girl, and we now fast forward a few months to the point where he announced that he would be moving to Nashville with her. But - we had an album that was mostly written! The two weeks prior to his moving saw us recording a complex new album as fast as humanly possible in a recording studio that had grown out of our rehearsal space, while planning a final slew of farewell shows. I believe it was referred to as a Viking Funeral, since Nat never really got rid of the redish beard he grew in the race. We literally finished the last show - the fourth scheduled for that last day, but we only made it to two because Khan died for good and left us with a rental - and dropped Nat off at the moving truck.
"We were strange and alone, and we were magicians"
It was a sad, crazy, insane time, and some of those songs became regulars in our live show. But, as of yet, none of those recordings have been completed or released. It was challenging material, painful to continue working on at the time, and we didn't have a guitarist to play these songs live. I was spiraling further down a mental rabbit hole, and started writing an entirely new set of songs. I think we even had a producer. I was hurting over a number of things, and music, as in the beginning, was my way of dealing with the world. But I eventually shelved that set of songs - it was me digging a tunnel to nowhere, while all of the bills from WWNST were mounting up.
"Our dreams'll never run into the ground"
The city of Bridgeport has been very good to us. We went from being not that great (like most bands) to actually having our act together. As I've said in the past, the city gave us a second chance. We owned up to being a Black Rock-based band. And every year, we'd pull crazier and crazier stunts live - for the Black Hearts Parade Irish shows or otherwise. Lots of people helped us get away with very ambitious plans. So I wrote another Irish punker about Bridgeport. Which ended up winning an Arts Grant from the Mayor! We were floored. We could use the money to upgrade our studio and the momentum to record and make a video for this new song, "There's Gonna Be a Party (in Black Rock Tonight!)." I started climbing out of the existential-level of depression I was in and got my life put together. Mikles got engaged (eventually, I would follow suit). A new charity single "Run" raised much more money than we ever thought we'd pull off. Granted, we were taking a while to finish this new Irish release, but I kept writing. Which spawned what would be two b-sides. And then made it an EP. Then we hooked up with local music wiz John Pioli to take over on lead guitar in between playing with his 1,000 other bands. Life was looking up, and the new record sounded great.
"Jackie, your momma said you'd better be home tonight"
Krupa moved in with me. Which was about as awesome as you can imagine, what with all of the hanging out and the studio downstairs. Downside - there was a bad tenant living with me that was being evicted. Seemingly a minor detail to this story about a band, it dragged us both into court, around the time I was casting out the last of my other demons. It sucked the life out of us - our home and studio were no longer a safe haven. (It was so bad we turned his emails and voicemails into a drinking game!) We got through the annual March run (we finally had a steady bagpiper in Yoann for two years) and kicked the tenant out in time for me to go on the road to tour manage and mix for a well-known Swedish prog band's North American tour. Fabulous guys, went to the wall for them, but their management set me up to fail and the tour left the singer and myself extremely sick.
"I was so obsessed, taking with it all the fun"
The above quote is from a song that, as of writing, is about to come out. I named the band "Talking to Walls" and made an early sticker that said "Music is therapy." But after all of these years, I was starting to wonder if music was the problem. Was the next show just the "hair of the dog?" That North American tour was supposed to be the start of my getting more of my life together, and it only made things worse.
But luckily, I've learned some perspective over the past year or so. A few things have gone very wrong, but some things have gone very right. After taking the summer off from life in general, and licking my wounds from the tour management stint, I'm feeling excited to be in the studio. I have been writing a lot. I may still be seeing the shadow of getting sick six months ago, but, whatever happens now, I'm just thankful to be a part of something amazing. We've done some awesome stuff in our career so far - got to check off items on our musical bucket list.
So who is Talking to Walls? It's whatever we want it to be. It's however you see it. That prog-influenced geek record might still be sitting on the shelf, in favor of what was supposed to be a "quick" punk-style release. But we are the product of a lyrical & hyperactive singer with a flair for the dramatic, a loud but rock-solid drummer who truly propells the band forward, a multi-instrumentalist who has a habit of picking up objects and toys and making them musical... you see where I'm going with this? We make albums as snapshots of a moment in time. There will always be more that we want to do than we can actually get to. We're a group of friends who assembled at former member's wedding to celebrate his joy, who dropped everything to move one of us out of a slum apartment, who made sure another had a place to live, and who had my back even when I was making bad decisions and everything fell in like a house of cards.
We have a new chapter of our story. It will be called "Lost in the Sound." When you hear it, I hope it makes you feel as rejuvinated as we felt making it.
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