Erik Hall is a musical workhorse.
For most of his adult life, Hall has performed and toured under the moniker In Tall Buildings and also with groups such as NOMO, Wild Belle and His Name Is Alive. He’s produced and recorded albums for Lean Year, Bambi Kino Duo and Justin Walter, while working on his own record, recording each instrument himself. In addition, he just moved into a new home with his wife, leaving Illinois for Michigan.
But Hall sounds calm on the phone despite his hectic schedule. His attitude is that of an artist who fully immerses himself into his music. He sounds content with the results.
His third album, Akinetic, was released March 2 and was co-produced by Brian Deck, whose resume boasts big name acts such as Modest Mouse and Iron & Wine. The album is thick with layers of pop and alternative-rock as Hall carries the listener across 10 tracks ridden with commentary on technology's affect on personal communication, as well as lamentations of loss, vices and more.
Hall will kick off his tour in support of the album in Milwaukee March 23 at the Colectivo Back Room. It will be his first time taking a new band on the road and his first Milwaukee performance as In Tall Buildings.
WiG: What did you learn from writing a follow-up to your debut album that you were able to carry over to your third album?
It was easier to make this record. I think by the time I started making this album and writing the songs that ended up on this album, I had already kind of put myself through the paces of writing and recording my own music and deciding what I wanted a whole album to sound like and to represent. By the time I made Akinetic, I was ... kind of just more open to trying something new, which is one of the big reasons (for) my decision to work with Brian Deck as a producer.
What was it like working with him?
He and I have a lot of mutual friends in Chicago, but we hadn’t actually crossed paths until this record. It was the first time I had worked with someone else on an In Tall Buildings album in that capacity. It was a step for me in this direction of kind of relinquishing a lot of the control. It was fantastic; it was a huge relief. I think I’m fortunate that Brian and I have a lot of the same impulses in the studio. He even helped not only record and engineer the record but helped me figure out some of the arrangements of the songs, some of the sounds and colors to make the picture complete. It was a huge privilege for me to work with him.
What was the most important thing you took away from working with Brian Deck?
It was this lesson of not upholding every single decision so closely and so tightly and learning how to make a decision and move forward. Literally, with Brian, it was a matter of having someone else there to ask me a question that needed an answer — having those deadlines and being accountable to him. I’m someone who in the past never had anyone else in the room and never had a deadline.
You recorded this album in your home studio. How does this affect your creative process as opposed to recording in someone else’s studio?
My wife and I moved from the city to this house (in Michigan) that’s surrounded by 7 acres of land. For the first time I don’t have neighbors behind another wall. I don’t even share property. I’ve always just had that awareness of someone else being within earshot of what I’m doing. For the first time ever, I’m free of that. Working by yourself at home, you’re free to do anything you want and kind of filter yourself. On another level, not even having neighbors above or below me is huge and I’m excited for what that might allow me to do.
Can you describe some of the themes that are prevalent in Akinetic?
I’ve been finding it impossible to avoid writing about kind of what I see as the state of people’s general awareness of each other and of themselves. Akinetic is a word that can kind of describe a machine that no longer functions, which is a metaphor for ourselves, whether it’s our physical motion or our emotional and intellectual ability to progress. I think when I was writing the lyrics for the record I really tended to obliquely describe what I’ve been observing. Unfortunately, it’s not very optimistic.
Do you have a favorite song from the new album?
I’m excited about “Days In Clover.” It’s the oldest song on the record, the one I’ve been kicking around for the most number of years. I always wanted there to be this higher vocal line that I knew I myself couldn’t really sing in a way that was going to sound good. I asked my friend Heather Woods Broderick to sing on it. She was happy to record on it. It’s the first time I’ve had someone else singing on one of my records.
What can fans expect March 23 at the Backroom?
I have a new band put together for this tour specifically. In the past I’ve made my best attempt to sum up my music with very few musicians or even by myself, but this time around I’ve got four people in the band including myself. So I’m very happy to be feeling out the music to a good degree and trying to do all the layers on the recording justice.