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By Aaron Kaczander
Daily Arts Writer
The five men of Tally Hall sit in a half circle
in the dark, musty attic bedroom of guitarist
Joe Hawley. Their topic of discussion: proper
necktie procedure. According to Hawley's 1985
copy of Dick Clark's Easygoing Guide to Good
Grooming, completing the half-Windsor is far
harder than it appears. And as Dick Clark has
realized the trials of necktie-tying, Tally Hall
knows the difficulties of songwriting.
"Joe is a perfectionist, he's very meticulous,
he envisions songs months before he's com-
pleted them," gushed guitarist and vocalist Rob
Now, seeing how integral neckwear to the
multi-colored performance of the self-pro-
claimed "wonky" Ann Arbor pop-rock outfit,
it's pretty important that they each understand
the vital stylistic procedure of tying their ties.
No, these aren't the skinny-tied, scorning rock
snobs most associated with the clothing acces-
sory. Rather, they are the scrupulously color-
coded, inanely well-spoken band of college
cronies that have staked iconic status around
Ann Arbor with their brand of deliciously catchy
The Tally Hall train has gathered so much
national and even international steam that they
have found themselves semifinalists in mtvU's
"Best Music on Campus Contest." That is, they
have managed to land a spot as one of the top-10
best college bands in the country. The contest,
which features an open online voting system on
mtvU's website, will run until April 17. Snippets
of Tally Hall's song, "Good Day," which also
won keyboardist Andrew Horowitz the grand
prize of the John Lennon Scholarship Competi-
tion at the 2004 BMI Pop Music Awards, will
run on mtvU until the contest is over. If Tally's
votes add up to the top-five campus bands, they
move on to the finale, where they'll be judged by
industry professionals and artists like G.Love.
The grand prize is a $25,000 recording deal
with Universal Records.
From their first performance at a 2002 Base-
ment Arts showcase in the Frieze Building to
a recently sold-out show at Ann Arbor's leg-
endary Blind Pig, Tally Hall never thought
this musical venture would land them at the
potentially career changing seriousness they
"That show convinced me that we had some-
thing more than just being a way to keep your-
self busy," drummer Ross Federman said.
Even though Cantor says they'll devote a cou-
ple years to their project, they remain grounded
to the fact that this strange trip may come to
an abrupt end. "We all have all these different
career paths that could possibly happen, and
all these people know that," Horowitz said. But
Hawley is optimistic: "We're feeling like we're
And on to something they are. Tally's website
has recently suffered slowdown due to an over-
powering number of visitors, and the Hawley-
directed video for the Caribbean-fused "Banana
Man" was broadcast to millions on Albino-
This limelight has garnered fan mail from
Tally-Hallniks as far as Japan, Belgium and
Germany. This international exposure, com-
bined with the devoted following of University
students, has led Tally to the point where they
can step back from their tri-harmonic, shared
vocal duties and let the crowd sing.
Yet fans unfamiliar with lyrics don't bother
bassist Zubin Sedghi.
"Even worse than nobody knowing your
words is we've played in places where you really
don't feel welcome," said Sedghi said.
This obstacle isn't really an issue for the close-
knit group. "We're pretty confident with our
product," Horowitz said, on the eve of a Cancer
Awareness Week performance on the Diag.
When it comes to scrutinizing the fine line
between Tally's lighthearted performance style
and prolific songwriting, Cantor drops the silly
"With five tough critics working on each
song, we can usually come with a pretty fair bal-
ance," Cantor said.
The writing process for Tally Hall is fairly
simple; Hawley, Cantor and Horowitz individu-
ally pen the lyrics and melodies, and then show
the product to the rhythm section of Federman
"I think we try to achieve some level of pro-
fundity in an accessible fashion," said Hawley,
reflecting on the incredible variance in the song-
style of Tally Hall's Catalog.
A proposed short spring tour would "wonki-
fy" crowds in states from New Jersey to Illinois.
But for now, Tally Hall is content inhabiting the
dual roles of campus and band life.
"We're college kids and we use the resources
we have," Cantor said.
Those resources must be working, because
Tally Hall's opportunity to take "Best Music on
Campus" award is anything but local.
"It's basically gonna be a ride, and we're
takin' it," Cantor added.
Quite the ride for the profound, banana slin-
gin', megaphone rockin' harmonies of Ann
Arbor's favorite group of friends.
CourtesyofT tally Hall
Tally Hall members Joe Hawley, Zubin Sedghl and Rob Cantor perform at the U-Club In October 2004.