Their hair is graying and less plentiful. Mullets are cropped away, resurfacing as beards. Like their bellies, the musicians’ sound has fattened from the feedings of nicer equipment.
Members of Tall Tales once gigged with The Fleshtones, Agent Orange and The Neighborhoods. The Oklahoma-based band, which performed locally from 1987 to 1993, penned around 20 original songs per year and released multiple cassettes during the pre-CD era, when cover bands were all the rage. (See vintage Tall Tales)
The group was solicited by Virgin Records exec Andy Factor, but his interest never bore fruit. By the time the “69 Minutes” debut CD was released ” no small feat back in 1993 ” only singer Danny Fallis and drummer Alan Hiserodt remained. Guitarist Rob Reid left for New York and bassist Mitch Newlin quit, and the band limped along before fizzling out.
NOT DISTORTED ENOUGH
Why didn’t Tall Tales make it? Its XTC-influenced brand of parted-hair hardcore was not distorted enough for die-hard punk rockers. And it was too fast and loud for most pop-rock crowds.
“I’m glad people have fun at our live shows and that we can have a reputation of having some crazy stage antics, but we write songs and record too,” said Hiserodt, who also plays with Newlin in Klipspringer and Ottrepop. “We’ve written over 300 songs together. I’d rather be known for that.”
Tall Tales could be known for something else. In 1986, Reid gave R.E.M.’s sound guy a demo in an envelope displaying a scribbled ultimatum: “Listen to this or it’ll be the end of the world as we know it ” and maybe that’s OK.”
That was at an OKC show a year before the release of R.E.M.’s seminal “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).”
When Reid showed up at Hiserodt’s Norman doorstep in 2000, the drummer knew the disbanded Tall Tales could reboot and record the “Pot Pie” CD, released in 2004.
“The one really good thing that came out of (Reid’s departure) was the addition of ex-Big Sleep stud guitarist Greg Dobbs,” Fallis said. “Having him and Rob playing together in the same room is magical.”
After a hiatus, Tall Tales will perform again in Norman as a four-piece Friday at The Deli, opening for The Gunship.
“Really, it’s not a reunion, just a continuation,” said Hiserodt, now the concert hall manager at the University of Oklahoma’s School of Music. “(We’re) placing the band back on play after it being on pause for 14 years.”
SMATTERING OF SONGS
Fallis said the new set consists of four songs from “Pot Pie,” served with a smattering of songs from the older era.
“I don’t think we will be throwing out stuffed animals like we did in the 1980s, but that could change,” said Fallis, now the senior Avid editor for Ackerman McQueen’s Tulsa office.
Reid, who works as the U.S. travel editor and spokesperson for Lonely Planet, is unable to make this month’s gig. He said the GarageBand program is allowing him to record 17 new songs for release this fall. Tall Tales will reunite with Reid on Halloween night at Tulsa’s Cain’s Ballroom for the Freakers Ball.
“Some (songs) haven’t been played together as a band before. We wrote and recorded them in parts,” Reid said. “I guess that makes us like a Def Leppard, doesn’t it? Fortunately, we have all our arms.”
Reid, who also has penned a dozen traveling guidebooks, is tangentially involved in the Failed Bands of Oklahoma. The collective is looking for defunct Okie groups to perform a future gig, dubbed “FBO Night in the Panhandle: A Celebration of Failure,” in Guymon.
Meanwhile, he said Tall Tales is working on a new track titled “We Were Out to Save the World,” which should debut this Halloween.
“(It) allegedly refers to something someone allegedly said Wayne Coyne said of us in the early ’90s,” Reid said. “Frankly, I don’t think he knew we existed. But we always thought it was funny. Perhaps it was accurate, though. We just failed trying.”
Fallis, who has loads of respect Coyne and The Flaming Lips, said he remembers hearing about a reporter interviewing the Meat Puppets with Coyne in a limo outside Norman’s now-defunct Rome XC club.
“The wannabe reporter had a Tall Tales tape on him and asked Wayne if he had ever checked us out,” Fallis said. “Wayne’s reply was something like, ‘Yeah, they’re just another band that’s out to save the world.’ So in this new song, I make fun of us and that idea. I think in a lot of ways, we were out to save our own little world with delusions of grandeur.
“The only time I recall Wayne at one of our shows, he stood 3 feet from the PA speakers getting his ears blown out. He should have been out to save his hearing.”
Considering the nicer equipment this time around, Tall Tales concertgoers should be able to hear the bassist’s solos. And Newlin, a software developer by day, can now grow a full beard beyond his mustachioed days of yesteryear.
Tall Tales and The Gunship perform at 9 p.m. Friday at The Deli, 309 White, Norman. “Rob Collins