“Heavy Mood” is an all-encompassing title for the four-year period since Tilly & The Wall‘s last album, “O.” After the Omaha indie-poppers experience their biggest success to date from 2008 to 2009 — playing record crowds with a headlining tour, scoring major synchs with single “Pot Kettle Black” (the films “Whip It!” and “Observe And Report” as well as the pilot episode of the CW’s “90210”) and even an appearance on “Sesame Street” — the band took a break to start families, pursue side projects and, in the case of lead singer Kianna Alarid, some serious soul searching.
“I had worked myself into a really dark period,” Alarid tells Billboard of the years between “O” and writing “Heavy Mood,” which was released Tuesday on Conor Oberst’s Team Love Records. “I had started to try a couple things that didn’t really work out and realized I like to collaborate no matter what. I had this confusing but ultimately beautiful trip in 2010 when I was just writing again and thought, ‘I think these are Tilly songs. I don’t think these go with the other things I’m working on.’ So I called [co-vocalist] Derek [Presnall] and said, ‘I think I have some Tilly jams’ and he was like, ‘I think it’s time.'”
The resulting musical reunion is a 10-track collection helmed by producer Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, Rilo Kiley, The Faint) that adds layers to the dance-punk direction of “O” on the stomping “Love Riot” and the party-starting title track, with nods to their tap dance-driven roots on “Static Expressions” (“We cannot stay this way forever”) with passionate anthems to friends and relationships (“All Kinds of Guns,” “Thicker Than Thieves”) and a pair of anthemic calls to arms for the next generation (“Youth,” “Defenders.”)
“A lot of times for me it comes out with a lot of fist pumping and ‘we won’t do what you tell us to do, we know that’s the way to change the world,’ not just, ‘here’s a song about my friend or my husband,'” Alarid says of the songwriting process. The band also had to experiment with different percussive sounds, as tap dancer Jamie Pressnall was raising a new baby during the recording of “Heavy Mood.” “We had to sample most of her tap dancing – it was just funny how the timing worked out,” Alarid says. “There’s all kinds of tapping and all kinds of other elements of stomping and hand-clapping there. We wanted organic percussion.”
Tilly & The Wall hit the road this week for a headlining fall tour that kicks off Oct. 5 in Des Moines, Iowa, and wraps Nov. 21 in their hometown of Omaha — with a different dynamic this time out, now that several members have young children.
“I think it’s gonna be awesome, for our families,” Alarid says. “Logistically, I didn’t know what was going to be like – I’m learning a lot of techniques for getting a baby to be happy. But our booking agent forwarded us a web site of tour nannies, and they know what’s up – they’re all educated and credentialed. It’s a weird sliver of touring now.”