Pop goes the world

Tally Hall guitarist-vocalist Joe Hawley did the natural thing when he heard his band would be touring with Japanese pop stars Puffy AmiYumi. "I immediately went out and bought their GameBoy title," he says by phone from the quintet's home base of Ann Arbor. Yes, Puffy AmiYumi have their own video game (the awesomely named Kaznapped!), as well as a cartoon and an extensive line of branded merchandise, all in addition to their recorded output. Longtime superstars in Japan, the duo play to sellout crowds of cult fanatics every time they tour the United States.

So how did Tally Hall, a quintet of well-spoken dudes from Ann Arbor who haven't really played out all that much, get wrapped up in all this bright pink Puffy AmiYumi chaos? Skill, to start. Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum, the band's debut, has a lyrical and melodic savvy that's craftily at odds with the extreme leanings of their young pop peers. Tally regularly rhyme 10-cent words, and use their instrumental chops to the keep the arrangements off balance. But they also know how effective simplicity can be. "Good Day," recently tapped for use in Fox's teen melodrama The OC, wraps a hearty Beatles influence around jaunty piano and lyrics sweet enough to melt the sparkly paint hearts of the show's female viewers.

The OC hookup is an example of how everything's suddenly coming up Tally. The band has the East Coast Puffy tour to look forward to, as well as an upcoming appearance on CBS's Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson. They're also putting Marvelous into wider national release this August with the help of their label, Ann Arbor-based Quack!, and will probably be chilling on TRL before summer's end. What's next? A cameo in the sequel to Kaznapped!?

"A year ago they'd never played outside of Ann Arbor," Quack! mastermind Al McWilliams says. But last year the label sold 1,000 units of Marvelous in an Internet pre-sale, and as Tally's MySpace presence grew, they were able to take those numbers directly to the music biz. "Hard numbers impress them," McWilliams says, "and with those we were able to land awesome management and booking." Cut to Craig Ferguson making a joke about Tally Hall being a nunnery where he was whipped repeatedly as a petulant Scottish boy.

What are the band's expectations of their tour with J-Pop's reigning princesses? "We think it'll be a golden nugget of fun," Tally Hall says during a lively conference call in which their voices overlap one another in a transcription nightmare. Then the phone line drips with knowing sarcasm. "A happy, puffy, fun time, out-of-body experience."


July 18, at St. Andrew's Hall, 431 E. Congress, Detroit; 313-961-8137. With Puffy AmiYumi.

Johnny Loftus is Metro Times music editor. Send comments to [email protected].
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