‘In Tall Buildings’ born in small apartment

By HermineBloom

With international tours under his belt, Erik Hall, former member of indie-pop bands Saturday Looks Good to Me and His Name Is Alive, decided to record a solo album in his cramped city apartment closet—all while still performing with the saxophone-infused, Michigan-based

band NOMO.

A focused Hall, performing under the moniker In Tall Buildings, released his self-titled album May 25 after years of crafting the perfect material. The Chronicle recently talked to Hall about making the shift to be a solo artist, what went into his first release and how the singular recording experience lent itself to the nature of his sweet crooning about past relationships.

The Chronicle: What are all the instruments you play, and how does that translate to your live show?

Erik Hall: I play guitar, drums, piano and I sing. Unofficially, there’s a host of other instruments in my closet at home—banjo, harmonica, pedal steel guitar and all sorts of weird, wacky percussion and cool synthesizers and what not. For “In Tall Buildings,” I played pretty much everything except for the couple of songs that featured Elliot Bergman, who’s in NOMO with me, who plays clarinet on the album. Other than that, I played all the instruments. So, in the live show it’s a matter of choosing the most important elements and having them represented so it’s much more stripped down. Quinn Kirchner, who also plays drums in NOMO, plays drums for “In Tall Buildings. “I’ve had a few guys play bass. Most recently, Matt Ewerley was playing bass in the band. We just play as a trio, and I use a looping pedal for my guitar so that I can actually get some of those layers going. I pick the most important elements that really communicate what the song is trying to communicate, and do away with all the other stuff for now at least. It’s a different kind of listen at the show. I would really like to get to the point where I can afford to get a bigger band and get the full arrangements going, but for now it’s been going well.

The Chronicle: What’s it like to perform solo after filling different roles in other bands?

EH: In bands like His Name Is Alive I was very much assuming a role that Warren or Fred needed me to assume. That was really fun, I was able to fit right in and that was great. But it wasn’t the most personal experience. In NOMO, I’m part of a much larger picture. I’m part of a whole, and I love that about it. With “In Tall Buildings,” it’s even more personal or fully personal. I can’t really hide behind anything.

The Chronicle: How long had your first release, “In Tall Buildings,” been in the making?

EH: Technically it was a couple of years, but theoretically it was much longer. [Laughs] I’ve been recording my own songs and trying to get an album of material together for probably 10 years. It wasn’t until 2006 or so that I realized I was finally coming up with the songs I was ready to actually complete and present to people. At that point, I finally decided that it was done.

The Chronicle: I read that you recorded this album in a closet in your apartment. How did this kind of singular experience contribute to the album?

EH: It has its pros and its cons. It was great because I could do whatever I wanted. But at the same time, that can be oddly detrimental when you have no limits or deadlines. So it took me a long time, but some of the music is actually compromised because of living in an apartment building. I can’t actually play my drums loudly all the time, and some of the stuff I had to be very meticulous about how and when and where it was recorded. But sometimes when you have these limitations it opens up a lot of possibilities, and it helps you think through certain things. I’d like to eventually have a band and go into a studio and play songs as a band, but right now I’m not super anxious to do it that way.

In Tall Buildings is playing at Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse Ave., on Oct. 8 at 9:30 p.m. To hear In Tall Buildings, visit www.MySpace.com/InTallBuildings.