Judah & the Lion – Going to Mars Tour
Colony House, Tall Heights
Thu · March 1, 2018
Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm
$25.00 - $80.00
This event is 18 and over
Check-in for VIP M&G ticket holders starts 90 minutes prior to doors and will start 1 hour prior to doors.
Check-in for VIP Early Entry starts 30 minutes prior to doors and will be given entry to the venue 15 minutes prior to doors.
Any VIP questions or issues, please email firstname.lastname@example.org://www.georgiatheatre.com/event/1567135/
"Up to this point, the band's message has mostly been: 'Live your best life! Pursue your dreams! Follow your heart!'" says Judah, "We had to start this record with broken-ness, with this cry that says, 'I don't want to hide this from anyone anymore. I'm going through something. I need help.'"
The first songs released from Pep Talks also open the album and they drop us right into Judah's struggle. Epic overture "Pep Talk" is a wordless swell of anxiety, woe, resolve and musical might that feeds right into "Quarter-Life Crisis." There, over a piano-pounding track that'd make Arcade Fire shout along, Judah admits to feeling alone and powerless, in need of support. With the next track "Why Did You Run?"—a Zedd-evoking trip into organic-goes-digital EDM—we start to see why he feels that way as the people he used to rely on end up in jail or absentee, leaving behind "a lost kid looking for a home he once knew." And on "i'm ok." he spells it out: his aunt has died (of an overdose), his parents are splitting up for good, and he's on the road, unable to face it all. The song goes through a transformation both aural and lyrical, from upbeat rock to moody rap as Judah first brushes off his friends' concerns, then admits, "I'm not okay, come get my pain."
"In the middle of all of this it was very hard for me to admit to myself I wasn't doing good," says Judah. "I'd get texts from people checking in. I'd always say, 'I'm okay,' but inside I was almost annoyed, which is an awful response, like, 'Just stop asking. I don't want to think about it.' That forced me to go, 'No, this is exactly why I do need to think about it: I need to process things.'"
Many of Pep Talks' songs were written on the bus after the band's high energy shows, emotions and scenes flooding Judah's head as he struggled to sleep. Empathy courses through yearning Kacey Musgraves duet "Pictures" as he writes from the point of view of his mom packing up the family home. Entropy reigns in the relentless, synth-and-banjo-driven "Over My Head" where he tries in vain to push the pain away: "Hydrate, caffeinate, medicate, repeat." Acoustic tearjerker "Queen Songs" is steeped in nostalgia, Judah recalling childhood memories of his mother back before her drinking got too bad to ignore, while its surging coda "human." (which incorporates a poem by Judah and his sister) attempts to find common ground in the present. And then there's the snarling, trap-addled, bass-dropping "Don't Mess with My Mama," inspired by an actual fistfight between Judah and his dad over the latter's affairs in the middle of all the Akers family strife.
"We wanted a song that matched the level of intensity I was feeling at the time, being so angry at someone you love so much," says Judah. "For the last chorus, we all took our shirts off, got our headphones on, turned it up way too loud and started screaming nonsense into the mic."
Judah & the Lion has been a family unto itself since forming at Nashville's Belmont University in 2011. Judah was from nearby Cookeville, an aspiring baseball player with a secret love for folk guitar. Brian came from Chicagoland and was mostly obsessed with piano. Nate, a Coloradan, was a son of symphony players but preferred metal. Their differences were their strength as they shaped their sound over a bluegrass-heavy debut, Kids These Days, and its mold-breaking follow-up Folk Hop n' Roll, both produced by Dave Cobb (Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell) and made in under two weeks. For Pep Talks, they took three months, coproduced as a band alongside two friends (Brian's college roomie Drew Long and local artist Daniel James), and kept the guest list tight: drummer Darren King (ex Mutemath), a hero to the guys; Kacey, whose transcendent Golden Hour was a powerful influence; and genre-flouting tour buddy, Jon Bellion.
"We've never had an environment that was so relaxed—where everybody could speak so freely and be themselves and have fun," says Brian. Nate adds, "Judah's openness was inspiring, and I feel so much more ownership with this project because we all decided to believe in ourselves."
In fact, the swaggering, bouncy Bellion feature, "Passion Fashion" testifies to that sentiment as Judah sings "I got ambition, yeah I'm on a mission ... there's no stopping me now, Imma do me." If that lyric seems out of step with what you know of Pep Talks so far, that's because we skipped ahead a few songs. Just past the LP's halfway mark, Judah starts healing. "7000x" is a humble fight song whose moody groove nods to those other underdogs (and friends) Twenty One Pilots. The dubwise "JOYBOY" beams its powerful mantra. "Goofballerz" is pure release, a self-aware ditty that captures the humor and ease of the band's gigs, while "Dance with Ya" shows our host at home with his wife, seeking tranquility. The philosophy that Judah slowly forged by the fire of his trials is laid out on the battered but bliss-beaming "Alright (Frick It!)": "No matter how bad all this gets, I can't stop this voice in my head / This voice in my head says, We’re gonna be alright!"
"That chorus really started as a motto between me and my siblings—a message of camaraderie and triumph to carry us through," says Judah. The extended ring finger in the album art signifies this too—it's an old Akers family sign meaning, roughly, "frick it." "With these songs, we want to establish a culture of no matter what you're going through—depression, family stuff, hard times, whatever—there's always reason to move forward. At the end of the day, we're in this together."
It's a thing you can actually feel as you work your way through Pep Talks. The group got closer and better as Nate and Brian encouraged Judah to share his truth, and the intentionality of his recovery was in turn reflected by the music. Similarly, once they got to the other side, the Akers too were in a better place: stronger, realer and more honest about who they are, where they've been and what's next. Because the point of sharing all this hard truth isn't to shame anyone; It's the opposite really, the idea that being broken and admitting it is unifying—fallibility is our most common trait and if we sing about it from a stage, others will sing along. To that end, if "Quarter- Life Crisis" was a cry for help, album closer "Family / Best Is Yet to Come" is an answer. Judah's mom speaks first, leaving him a teary voicemail after her first listen through Pep Talks. And soon we hear his reply before the song builds to its staggering crescendo: "You're not alone in this."
"Colony House, a humble apartment complex on 11th Ave. in downtown Franklin, Tennessee, has at some point in each of our lives been our home. Now it is our namesake as we take Franklin, TN with us and travel around the world playing music for those who will listen!"
They’ve reached their biggest junction so far — Neptune, out now, is Tall Heights’ first album for Sony Music Masterworks, and the latest step in the ongoing evolution of their sound and style.
Harrington and Wright formed Tall Heights in 2010, keeping their songs stripped down to their essential elements, in part, to make it simpler to perform on the streets of Boston.
Neptune is a far lusher construct: along with pristine and emotive vocal harmonies, there’s subtly chugging electric guitar and a spare descending bassline on “Iron in the Fire,” ethereal synthesizers and a spacious drum part on “Spirit Cold,” a brittle splash of percussion to open “Backwards and Forwards” and feedback created by two cellphones on “Cross My Mind.”
“It was helpful and I think comforting to define ourselves as two vocalists, guitar and cello,” Wright says. “There was a beauty and a simplicity, and stepping outside of that box is pretty scary, because you’re forced to redefine yourself and do some sonic soul-searching. I think this record reflects the results of that scary step.”
The band’s broadening sound came from the musicians’ conscious effort to push themselves, and each other, to create in new ways. By relying on a few core elements at the start, the duo learned to make the most of their minimalist set-up. “It taught us to be lean and mean and effective with just two voices and two instruments,” Harrington says. “It made us consider vocal tone and the way voices can mesh and interact.”
As those lessons took root, the pair essentially gave themselves permission to push their musical boundaries outward over three separate recording sessions at Color Study studio in tiny Goshen, Vermont, that yielded songs for their 2015 EP Holding On, Holding Out, and for Neptune. Not only did Harrington and Wright expand their sonic palette throughout the process, they also altered their approach to writing. The musicians tend to develop ideas separately, before one brings a new song to the other for further development. It’s a reflection of their early days sharing musical ideas, when Wright was living overseas and Harrington was finishing up college.
“We would send each other terrible sound-recorder voice memo files and we’d write these nice emails to each other about each other’s songs, so creating concepts independently is something we’ve always done,” says Wright, who has been friends with Harrington since they were kids growing up in the central Massachusetts town of Sturbridge.
They changed the formula on Neptune. Four songs on the album — “River Wider,” “Infrared,” “Cross My Mind” and “Growing” — are the result of one musician looping a simple instrumental part and letting the other write lyrics for it. With the last recording session looming, the duo worked faster than usual on those songs, particularly the somber, atmospheric “Cross My Mind.” “We were under the gun, he was downstairs making one thing, I was upstairs making another thing, we put them together and then we workshopped it in the car on the drive up to the studio,” says Harrington, whose Boston apartment is literally upstairs from Wright’s.
Their ever-closer collaboration, and the time they gave themselves in the studio to develop it, is indicative of the band’s developing approach to making music. “I can hear the evolution happening,” Harrington says. “I feel like we’re walking across a bridge from one place to another, and maybe I’ll always feel that way, but I’m really happy with how we’re moving.”
“Intimate and arresting” – NPR
“Tall Heights employ a collection of acoustic guitar, cello, and electronic drums, reminiscent of contemporary indie folk giants like Justin Vernon and Fleet Foxes.” – XPN
“In addition to finger-picked guitar, swelling cello and tight, prismatic vocal harmonies, ‘Spirit Cold’ boasts a bold, airy drum part that propels the song through the peaks and troughs of the arrangement.” – Wall Street Journal
“It’s a contemporary sound that is not without its ageless qualities.” – Chicago Sun Times
“Certifiably unclassifiable” – Boston Herald
“There have been many bands in recent years that have employed beautiful close harmonies, but when you add the strings and the great songwriting, Tall Heights is a notch above the pack.” – WBEZ
“Call it simply gorgeous.” – WFUV
215 N. Lumpkin St
Athens, GA, 30601