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Tullycraft – Photo courtesy of Tullycraft
Tullycraft is known for writing indie pop anthems. Over the years they’ve penned a handful of songs that practically define the twee movement in America. The chorus “Fuck me, I’m Twee!” was the refrain that launched a thousand t-shirts, “The Punks Are Writing Love Songs” introduced bratty punk to hummingbird twee, and “Pop Songs Your New Boyfriend’s Too Stupid to Know About” encapsulated an entire music scene in a single song. And yet despite this, for most, the band exists somewhere near the edges of obscurity (except for the readers of The Big Takeover, right?).
Occasionally they receive a nod, like when their song “Superboy & Supergirl” was featured in the critically acclaimed Netflix series The End of the F***ing World, but these spotlights don’t tend to happen as frequently as one might think.
While the mainstream has largely ignored Tullycraft, their status in the indie pop underground is undeniable. Formed in 1995, they are considered to be one of the genuine pioneers of the American twee pop movement. Touring relentlessly during the last gasp of the truly independent indie-underground, they influenced countless young bands. They were once called “the Johnny Appleseed of Indie Pop – making their way across the country, leaving new bands, promoters, zines, and record labels to sprout up in their wake.” In recent years the band has stopped performing live, instead shifting their focus to their personal lives, while still writing and recording music together.
The Railway Prince Hotel which released just a couple weeks ago via HHBTM, is Tullycraft’s seventh album, their first since 2013’s Lost in Light Rotation. This new batch of songs sees Sean Tollefson and Jenny Mears continue to share most of the vocal duties, while long time musical stalwarts Chris Munford and Corianton Hale create most of the music.
These new songs have a modestly different sound, somewhat due to the fact that long-time drummer (and original Tullycraft member) Jeff Fell, doesn’t make an appearance, but also because of the fresh approach the band took to recording this record. Equipped with lyrics, vocal melodies and rough bass lines (provided by Tollefson) the band composed many of the new songs from the ground up in the studio. This was an untried approach for Tullycraft.
The result is an extraordinary album of 12 ultra-catchy, whip-smart gems that take aim at everything from failed relationships to the danceability of Billy Joel songs. Throughout the album the music has an exciting urgency which is likely attributed to both the band’s spontaneous recording process and the enthusiasm each member brought to the new material. Are the wonderfully snarky, self-referential indie pop lyrics still here? Of course they are, this is Tullycraft after all. A deep dive into the lyrics uncovers an embarrassment of obscure indie references to be discovered.
The Big Takeover, with the utmost twee glee, has the pleasure of hosting the premiere of the video for “We Couldn’t Dance to Billy Joel”, a groovy, upbeat, hip-twister ‘n’ toe-tapper rife with lightly plucked (what sounds like) ukulele, a fleet bass line sweep, lively tambourine jingle, snazzy cymbal hits, and peppy drum beat.
Tollefson takes lead vocals, sing-talking casually with a stream-of-consciousness delivery. He’s backed and twinned by Mears’ sweet and perky vocal tone, while a burning rock guitar line makes the occasional appearance.
The moving-collage video for “We Couldn’t Dance to Billy Joel” is a ’50s-to-‘70s eras throwback that is meticulous crafted with vintage footage and film clips brought together in smaller boxes on the screen. Many of the scenes feature beach-goers in their glory. After a long, hard day’s work, who wouldn’t want to play in the sand and surf?
But much the visuals bypass the beach and showcase the latest retro dance moves, old-school clothing styles, brief snips of cartoons and news reels, and more – going through previous decades like a quickly flipped photo (well, video) album.
Tollefson reveals some details about the creation of the track, commenting, ““We Couldn’t Dance to Billy Joel” was the last song we recorded for this album. It was something I had been working on, however I never felt my idea was finished enough to be introduced to the band. But after a surprisingly productive day in the studio, the following morning I was inspired to bring “Billy Joel” in as a rough song idea. All I had was part of a bass line and a vocal melody. Chris and Cori moved quickly writing and recording great parts, and by lunch Wayne had tracked drums that sounded really good. All the while our producer Pete kept saying “Come on guys, shouldn’t we be working on one of the “real” songs instead?” By the end of the day we had recorded a pretty great instrumental. Most of the lyrics still needed to be written, but this was definitely the quickest Tullycraft had ever written and recorded a song.”
The Railway Prince Hotel is out now via HHBTM. Order it HERE
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