Neely Tanner (nee Jenkins) answers questions about Tilly And The Wall tours & song lyrics, recording with Rilo Kiley, and the connection between music & yoga.
After The Show: Playing bass, teaching yoga, and focusing on the rhythmic flow of the breath seem similar in a lot of ways. What are the connections for you between music and movement?
Neely: I find them as a way to escape the loudness of the world. It is time for focus, concentration, and calm. The “being here” moments are so important.
You’ve played so many shows and festivals (like Coachella and Iceland’s Airwaves festival) with Tilly And The Wall. Do you have a favorite tour that you look back on and smile?
We did a European tour with the band CSS. We shared a bus and traveled around Europe and the UK with them and their crew. We had originally met them in an artist tent briefly in Scotland previously, but the connection was quick and amazing. Next, CSS and Tilly ended up in the line up and playing The Leffingeleuren Festival in Belgium in 2006…
They asked if we had any Tilly T-shirts they could have. We gave them all a shirt. We ran off to lunch, then came back to watch their set. When they walked onto stage, they were all wearing our shirts! It was adorable and I was so moved. I think we all were. We stayed in the same hotel that night and ate french fries. We fell in love. They asked us to open for them on that 2007 European tour with them, starting in Lisbon and going for a couple of weeks, traveling, sight seeing, being young and crazy all with the music behind our backs. There were eight girls amongst our two bands. I don’t think I have ever laughed so hard in my life. What a fun band to dance the night away to, and then slumber party with after the show. It was a truly magical time.
Anything you want to share about what inspired “Pictures Of Houses”? The ending line “it will be beautiful to watch them [the ships sailing away] leave” makes the song so complex – it seems to suggest that there’s a hope in letting go of nostalgic sadness.
That is a song that Jamie wrote. So I guess I will be speaking for her here, but yes. I think it is about letting go of the things that you don’t need. Leaving you still, and peaceful again. It’s funny because I use this same sort of imagery, letting go of what is holding you back, in my yoga classes. It is truly the only way to move ahead. I don’t think I knew the importance of this as I sang this song so long ago, but it is one of the best life lessons.
I read that each of the 5 Tilly members would write alone and then bring an idea to the group where everyone would put their print on it. What Tilly songs that you initially brought to the table are you most proud of?
That is true. Hmmm… not sure of the one I am most “proud” of… but I enjoyed writing and performing “Dust Me Off.” My boyfriend, now husband, and I worked on it together one afternoon. I brought it to Tilly and the song was born. I have always loved pop music. Even the most simple of pop songs, which I think this one is.
Your music has been featured on TV shows like 90210 and Sesame Street, movies like Whip It, and commercials for Vicks Nyquil and T-Mobile. What’s your view on licensing your music?
Licensing music helps a band to live. I think everyone knows and understands that it is hard to survive as an indie band monetarily when you are not out on the road. It is also fun to receive texts and messages from friends and family from all over saying, “I just heard you guys on T.V!”
I think “All Kinds Of Guns” was the best song of 2012. Musically it’s catchy, and lyrically, it’s a brilliant play on words about how having integrity/convictions is as powerful as having an arsenal of weapons. Is that what you guys intended it to be about?
Aw, thanks! Kianna wrote this song. I love it so much, too. I will be speaking for her but I do feel it’s about being in love and how great it is to have someone stand by your side with strong convictions and how powerful that can be. But I think my fav song off of Heavy Mood is “Thicker Than Thieves.” It is one of my favorites to perform, too.
So you contributed backing vocals to “The Absence Of God” by Rilo Kiley for More Adventurous! What do you remember about that experience?
We were in the Presto studio, in Lincoln. I remember being so stoked to be asked to sing with a band that I loved so much and laughing a lot. Everyone in Rilo is rad and hilarious. It is always fun to get to hear a new song in process. You are getting a sneak peak into a little world that you just know will be big. It is always so fun get to hear the behind the scenes of a record in the making.
“Pictures Of Houses” (“I still believe in purity”), “Love Song” (“Oh it’s strange how the world becomes pure”), and “The Freest Man” (“pure of soul”) all reference the concept of purity. Is that something you were aware of while writing? Is there any connection between those three songs?
All three of those songs were written by different people. I don’t think the idea was to have the songs match in purity. I contribute it to us being good friends on a wild adventure. And when you spend so much time together, practicing, touring, creating, and hanging out on the side, you find these true similarities amongst your loved ones. Then a Tilly song is made.
“All Boy Band” by Park Ave. is such an amazing song with meta references to being in a band and loving music. It was so long ago, but what does that record mean to you?
Conor wrote the lyrics to that song. I think it speaks to what he was feeling and going through being in an all boy band and touring, but performed by us. Most bands in Omaha at that time were all dude city. Park Ave. was different having three girls in the band. We had NO IDEA what we were doing and looking back, that was the best part. The whole idea behind us even getting together was to learn something we didn’t know before. Conor wanted to learn the drums, Clark wanted to learn how to play guitar. Jamie said, I can tap dance. Jen agreed to play keyboards. And when Conor asked me to play bass, I was like, “Um, I don’t know how.” He said that was the point. I said ok.
We practiced in Clark’s parent’s basement in Omaha (as he was still in high school) and Todd, his older brother, was usually around. Todd had to tune all of our instruments for a while until we learned how to on our own. Jenn, Jamie and I were in college in Lincoln at the time. We would often laugh at the fact that we would go pick up the boys from high school to practice. Practice involved writing, all of us taking naps in one bed, playing music, or going to the mall. We were very serious.
I definitely hear the joy/happy energy/exuberance in Tilly And The Wall’s music. What things do you do on a daily or weekly basis to cultivate gratitude and joy in your life?
I meditate, exercise, spend time with good friends, and do yoga. It’s like my church. Moving here to Los Angeles really brought a lot more loudness into my life. I feel like it is so important to find those healthy ways to escape the chaos.
Thanks for sharing Neely! Check out Tilly And The Wall on Facebook.