While the second half of 2019 may only just be upon us, those end of year lists are already beginning to take shape. One record sure to be in the upper echelons of many “Best Of’s” would be Tallies’ self-titled debut. Released in January through highly respected American imprint Kanine Records, Tallies has already picked up widespread acclaim across numerous publications, while their live shows also highlighted the band as one of this year’s undisputed success stories.
Hailing from Toronto; a city renowned for its multiculturalism and technological innovation but not so much for its music scene; Tallies are spearheading a new wave of bands from the Canadian province. The four-piece – Sarah Cogan (vocals & guitar), Dylan Frankland (guitar), Stephen Pitman (bass) and Cian O’Neill (drums) – formed out of the ashes of previous band, Thrifty Kids.
Guitarist Frankland takes up the story. “We were in a different band before, and the songs we wrote then were more of a throwback to the fifties and sixties. We were heavily influenced by The Beatles, The Beach Boys and doo wop music at the time, then we started working on these new songs and once we had enough of those we decided to change our name. After we’d changed our name everything just seemed to fall into place. The biggest thing was changing our name, as crazy as that sounds!”
Not that everything can be attributed to simply changing their moniker. “Cian and Stephen joined soon after we became Tallies so it was technically a new band,” adds Cogan. “If you’re going to change your name only do it once! That’s my only golden rule.”
“We started a new band out of an old band so it was more than just a name change with us,” insists a resolute Frankland. “People at home might think it was just a name change but to us it wasn’t.”
Nevertheless, it was at the point where the four members combined that the songs which became ‘Tallies’ first started to take shape. “We wrote half the album before we became Tallies,” interjects Cogan. It was during this productive period Tallies started to attract attention from potential record labels. “We didn’t expect to be signed as quickly as we were and then to have more than one label,” Cogan continues. “That was the first thing that really blew our minds.”
Musically reminiscent of bands like The Sundays, The Smiths, The Cure and Cocteau Twins, Tallies have been warmly embraced by both the indiepop and shoegaze scenes, and in May played their first UK show for revered independent label and club night Sonic Cathedral. Sharing a bill with up and coming Cardiff outfit Perfect Body along with a DJ set from Ride legend Andy Bell, a mutual admiration society was immediately born between all parties. Something guitarist Frankland wildly enthuses about to FMS.
“It was great. Nat’s (Cramp, Sonic Cathedral) a lovely guy and getting to chat to Andy Bell was awesome. It was quite surreal, getting off the plane, going to our first show and then Andy’s just sat in the corner. He was so nice. I’d have loved to hear some bullshit about Oasis but I was honestly more interested in what he had to say about Ride. He played their new single and its awesome.”
Fellow guitarist and songwriter Cogan is quick to lavish praise on several bands they’ve played with during their first European jaunt.
“Perfect Body were incredible when we played with them in London. Be Forest in Italy as well. I’m not saying there’s a higher standard in Europe compared to Canada but every band we’ve played with so far has been so good, and that’s quite refreshing.”
Nevertheless, they’re a little uneasy with the shoegaze comparisons despite the glowing references.
“We are primarily a pop band,” insists Frankland.
“I don’t hear the shoegaze comparisons either,” adds Cogan matter-of-factly.
More to the point, they’re just one of many exciting new acts about to break from Toronto right now, even if by their own admission Tallies’ sound does seem more at home with UK audiences rather than Canadian ones. Indeed, they’ve barely played in their native city over the past twelve months, which according to Dylan Frankland is more a reflection of “fitting in” than anything else.
“The scene’s very wide open, so we have a harder time finding a place to fit right away. We’ve only really played in Toronto for our record release. Before that it was last September when we played there with Hatchie, so we haven’t been doing very much in Canada.”
“I wouldn’t say it’s a scene as such because although we all know each other, we all play very different kinds of music,” declares bass player Pitman.
However, Sarah Cogan views it differently. “There definitely is one. There’s a group of people that all know each other and most of them are in bands.”
It’s when we get onto discussing what Toronto has to offer musically that the names start flowing and an excited listen through each act’s respective Bandcamp and Soundcloud pages tells its own story. Prior to this conversation, the names Gloin, Luge, Sahara, Komodo and Warmer meant very little but since meeting Tallies, they’ve all become regular fixtures on the office playlist.
While the UK has undoubtedly provided a major source of inspiration to Tallies – “When I was in New York for the first time I immediately thought about moving there, and now I’ve been to the UK I’m thinking about moving here,” reveals Frankland excitedly – the opportunities for musicians and bands in Canada far outweighs those over here. Particularly when it comes to support from the government, especially when it comes to funding.
“We knew all about that before we went on tour and budgeted for hardly anyone turning up to our shows, so we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of people who’ve come to see us so far,” admits Frankland. “The plane tickets alone cost a lot of money and it’s not really practical to bring the amps across so we’re definitely very fortunate to have government funding in Canada. I don’t think you would know any music from Canada without government funding making it possible. There’s a reason why it’s there. It’s pretty hard to get out of Canada.”
“We really couldn’t do this without them,” adds Cogan appreciatively. “It’s a really complicated process but once you get over that hurdle it’s totally worth it. When it’s your first time going anywhere you have no idea what to expect.”
Not that Tallies are under any illusion that the hard work begins here. One of the most difficult aspects of being in a band – particularly in the current climate – is the need to be an all-rounder, which is something Tallies are only too aware of.
“There are lots of bases to cover,” admits Cogan.
“It’s a business when it comes down to it,” adds Frankland. “You’re selling the product you’ve made but there’s also a fine line in how you approach it. It has to be real and authentic otherwise people will see straight through what you’re doing, so you’ve got to stay true to yourself. That is the key.”
When it comes to running Tallies’ social media, all of the band take it in turns. Although that’s not necessarily something they’re particularly fond of, as Sarah Cogan explains.
“I don’t like it when it feels you have to post about something on social media. It’s really hard to do it in a way that doesn’t look as if you’re forcefully doing something, so we try and keep it to a minimum and more on a personal level, which I prefer.”
Still, when all’s said and done it’s the songs that make or break a band, and in Tallies case they have an armory of them in abundance. While lead single and current live set opener ‘Beat The Heart’ announced their arrival in jangly guitar infused style, the more personal likes of ‘Trouble’ and ‘Mother’ dig deep into the band’s psyche, particularly that of lyricist Cogan, who describes the songwriting process in simplistic terms.
“The melodies are written first, and then I improvise over the top of them initially. After that we usually jam them in rehearsals and the words come gradually. There are meanings to them and a lot of the songs are quite personal to me.”
Which brings us on to the future. Although ‘Tallies’ has only been in the shops for six months, anticipation levels are already at bursting point for the follow-up, something both Cogan and Frankland are already planning.
“We’ve already started writing so we’re going to do some recording soon,” divulges Cogan causing our excitement levels to reach fever pitch. “We’re always writing to be honest. It’s easy to get inspired when you’re on the road, even over here in the UK with some of the architecture and surroundings.”
With the band set to return to Europe and the UK in September, it’s going to be a busy few months ahead which might even see some of those new songs appear in the live set by that point.
“I hope so!” admits Cogan, almost breathing a sigh of relief at the end.
“I don’t know, I hate it when you go and see a band and they play a bunch of new songs when you’ve only just started listening to their record,” counteracts Frankland. “So, we definitely want to play this record first. We’ll probably start sneaking a few in later on this year, just to see how they feel when we play them live but the focus is still on this album for now.”
As well as returning to many of the places that took them to heart on their May excursion, Tallies will also be taking in a number of towns and cities they missed first time round.
“I think we’re going to hit Manchester this time,” declares Cogan enthusiastically. “Cardiff too, and we’re playing a lot more shows in mainland Europe as well.”
They’ve also had some memorable experiences on the festival circuit so far this year, particularly at showcase events like The Great Escape and Focus Wales. So it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise they’re already confirmed for Hamburg’s Reeperbahn Festival at the back end of September, as well as a couple in Canada too.
“Tour as much as you can,” says Cogan emphatically. “Even if it’s not the most successful tour it still looks like you’re busy.”
“Joy Division met each other at a Sex Pistols show after all!” exclaims an exuberant Frankland, and who are we to argue?
Tallies’ self-titled debut album is out now.
UK Tour Dates
09 – The Hug & Pint, Glasgow
10 – Oporto, Leeds
11 – Gullivers, Manchester
12 – The Moon, Cardiff
13 – Picture House Social, Sheffield
14 – The Hope & Ruin, Brighton
Photo: Alex Gray