Interview with TALLAH: “The reception has been incredible”

They are young, energetic and they’re here to stay. They are Tallah, a band from Pennsylvania that debuted with their first album last October and gave a lot to talk about among nu metal fans. Matriphagy is the title of this debut (click here to read our review), an album which captured the attention of many fans and the music press. It revolves around a story worthy of a psychological horror movie, with a devastating sound which increases in intensity song after song along with the narrative. It’s a debut to remember. Not all bands can brag about reaching this level so soon. As Julius Caesar once said: “Veni, vidi, vici.”

Behind this project is Max Portnoy, who in addition to being the band’s drummer is also the main songwriter, except for the lyrics. Rock Culture wanted to know a little more about Matriphagy and this is what they had to say about it.

Versión en español

Hey guys! First of all, thank you so much for this interview from the Rock Culture team. How are you doing?

Max: Doing pretty well, all things considered with 2020.

It’s been three months since Matriphagy dropped. How was the reception of your first album?

Max: The reception has been incredible. We’ve been hyping up a debut album for close to 2 years and our fans that have been with us from the start we’re beyond stoked to finally hear a full length from us. The songs are doing surprisingly well too, we’ve gotten way more attention then we’ve imagined, and people are titling the album as “Album Of The Year” which is insane!

Real talk, the album premiere was awesome. The Willow Glen State Penitentiary with all those creepy elements and you playing the whole album for the first time for your fans was so special. Also, there was a surprise: Alex and Mewzen as guitarist and DJ. How was the experience of recording this show?

Max: Filming and recording that release show was amazing. We got to work with Hate5six, who does incredible work, and we’ve all been following him for a long time, so collaborating on this premiere was an honor. We got to really stage the location we played in to fit the artistic vision and image of the album, with tons of easter eggs spread throughout the stage, which was fun to think about and set up. Like you we’re saying too, this was our debut of Alex and Mewzen playing with us, and the fans loved em which is great, because they’re both great fits. Mewzen has actually been rocking with us for a bit, as he recorded the turntables and samples on the album back when we recorded it in early 2020.

For those who haven’t heard you yet, how would you define Tallah’s sound? What are your biggest influences for the sound of the band?

Max: The band’s sound draws alot from heavy music in general. The sound we’ve been calling ourselves is “Nucore” which we feel fits our sound pretty well. We take influence from hardcore and nu metal, but also merge it with whatever we think sounds crazy. There are tons of influences from other genres and styles mixed in so it’s truly hard to pin point exactly what we are, but there aren’t many Nucore bands, and that title has always felt right for us.

Back in 2018 you released the EP No One Should Read This, which contains five of the songs of the Matriphagy tracklist. About the other songs, where they written before the EP or are they from the same time and they just were discarded?

Max: When the EP “No One Should Read This” was written, it was intended to just be a 5 song, stand alone EP. But when we signed to Earache Records, they had really loved that EP and had wanted us to take those 5 songs and combine it with 6 new songs. We were a bit skeptical at first since those songs were a part of a concept and we didn’t want to just throw some other random songs in with them, so that’s when Justin and I decided we could just expand the EP and it’s story into a full length release. So when it came to writing the new material, it was fun to have that perspective going into, and trying to elaborate on the story and songs we already had on the EP.

Matriphagy is a concept album, which lyrics narrate a story but they work in tandem with the instrumentals. For example, in Cottonmouth or Murder Seed you go into more extreme sounds and that’s where the story starts to reach it’s climax. Were the instrumentals written to work with the lyrics or viceversa?

Max: The instrumentals are always written first. When I’m writing and demoing, I get a finished demo of the instrumental to send over to Justin for him to begin writing his lyrics and vocals, so most of the time, the inspiration of what the song should be about, or what the vibe should be stems from how the instrumental is sounding. However when writing the “new” material for Matriphagy, I did ask Justin a few times what he planned on doing when expanding the concept, and where the holes in the story would be filled out. So there was some knowledge of what was happening in the story at the time when I wrote the instrumentals, but they weren’t totally solidified until the instrumentals were pretty much finished.

Is there any song special for you? Just because it’s the one you enjoy the most playing live, because you relate it with to a special moment for the band…

Max: My personal favorite on the album is No One Should Read This, as it has some of my favorite riffs and drum parts that I’ve written. The song just drives and holds its aggression from start to finish which I love, and Justin‘s performance on it was great. But if were talking about one song that related to a special moment, I’d say Placenta, because that was the first true Tallah song written, and after that, it really set the tone of what the band was going to be and the direction it was heading in.

The story of Matriphagy could be a psychological horror movie. Are there any clear references or inspiration sources for it? Would you do something like this again, maybe continuing this story?

Justin: It could? I never thought about it that way. Horror movies scare me, so I do not really like writing stuff like that. I think next album, we will probably keep it PG.

Let’s talk about how the initial idea for Tallah evolved towards who you are today. Did you achieve the goals you set for this first album? Any long/short term goals for the future?

Max: The goals were absolutely met from day one of forming Tallah. I had a very specific vision when I started forming the band back in September of 2017, I just wasn’t sure exactly how to get there and what the specifics were for this sound and vision I had. But over time things began clicking and making more sense, and I was able to get that vision solidified and out there, and we all absolutely nailed this record in the studio to the best of our ability, and I can say that we’re all totally proud of how this record turned out, and how we got here.

This year has been very fucked up for musicians, specially because the shows had been cancelled. What would you like to do when all this situation gets better?

Get out and tour like we had planned. We had tons of tours and shows lined up but they all fell through. We’ve made the most of what we can do on lock down, and we’re still pushing through, but I know were all ready for to get back out there and play.

Are you taking advantage of this situation without shows to write new songs, or is it too soon?

It’s never too soon if you have the inspiration and motive to write. I can’t speak much about what, but theres alot going on behind the scenes that no one knows about yet, and we’re stoked to get it finished and ready for the world.

Would you like to do a collaboration someday in an album? If yes, who would it be with?

Max: Everyone will know in good time.

Many people say metal is dead, but we think it’s the opposite. There’s a lot of young bands with potential right now.. Would you recommend us some of them? Which ones would you like to share the stage with?

Max: Alot of my favorite metal music today comes from smaller younger bands like ourselves. I’ve been heavily into Ailiph Doepa for a while now, and they just released a double album not too long ago (Exormantis//Plasma ~ The World). They’re definitely the most interesting and exciting metal band I’ve come across in a long time. Another great one is Guerilla Warfare, those dudes are killer and are destined to do great in the coming years. Highly recommend checking them out.

Talking about sharing stages, tell us about the No One Should Read This tour experience. What do you miss and what do you not miss?

Max: Touring during that EP period was something else. The first tour we did was before we had even dropped one song. Nobody knew who we were and we didn’t give a fuck. We probably should have been arrested multiple times back then and we somehow dodged it everytime. If you managed to see us back then, kudos to you.

I’m sure you have some funny stories to remember.

Max: We’ve got plenty of funny stories, but the other guys would probably not be so happy if I shared them. Justin and I got puked on by some rando when we were on a train in Chicago on tour and then got shushed by others for laughing. So that happened. 

Do you know any spanish festival? Would you like to come and play here? You’d fit very well in Resurrection Fest, a massive festival focused on modern and extreme metal.

Max: I know of Resurrection Fest and it would be a dream to play there. If we can get on any festival we would take it, we’re dying to get back out there again!

Thank you so much for your time for this interview, we hope to catch you guys live soon!!

Iria López
Fotógrafa y amante de la música, uno en mi trabajo mis dos grandes pasiones.

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