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Town Hall
NYU Musicains Make the Grades
by: Devon Antonetti - July 11, 2012


In between dorm life and mid-term exams, NYU trio Town Hall released their full-length debut “Roots and Bells” this spring. Though maybe not your typical college undergrads, the Brooklyn trio met as students at the Clive Davis Institute of Recording Music in 2010 and have been jamming together ever since. With the poppy, upbeat vocals of Stefan Weiner and Phoebe Ryan, the band charges through “Roots and Bells” with songs about mischief and longing that mix playful humor with a diverse set of stirring folk melodies. Together with multi-instrumentalist Jesse Kranzler (and, yes, that is him on the glockenspiel), and an array of crack backing musicians, Town Hall brings together 90s-inspired pop with murmurs of folk. And because they are college students, the band has fun doing unexpected covers like Ja Rule and Ashanti’s “Always on Time” and R. Kelly’s “Text Me.”

As band of music students, do you worry about losing any creative spark through an instructional structure?
We all study Recorded Music at NYU, so we spend most of our time focusing on the business and behind-the-scenes aspects of the music industry more than actually working on music in school. It's nice to be able to bring our music into the classroom as a real-life application of what we've learned and we're lucky to have teachers and mentors who support us in and outside of the classroom and are willing to work with us so we can get as much out of school as possible.

With such diverse tastes and having done some pretty interesting (and awesome) covers, what artists are you each listening to at the moment?
Jesse: Over the last few weeks, I have gotten really excited about Conlon Nancarrow's works for player piano & the new Extra Life album, "Dream Seeds." I have been trying really hard to get into the new R. Kelly album ("Write Me Back") since he's my favorite artist of all time, but I'm not convinced by it yet. I've also been listening to the new Birthmark album "Antibodies" a bunch Stefan and I went to the release show a few weeks back and it helped
Stefan: I've been on a big classical kick for the past few months. I've been listening to a bunch of Debussy and Philip Glass. I also love '20s and '30s music, and since I've been at home in Massachusetts for the last few weeks, I've been able to dig into my 78 record collection. Gospel, cowboy country music, jazz, and weird music from Eastern Europe. They're not labeled, so I just pick them out at random.
Phoebe: For the past month, all I've been listening to is 40's on 4, the Sirius radio station that only plays music from the 1940s.

How do you balance school and work? (Do instructors facilitate you guys being able to play shows and completing assignments?)
As I mentioned, we're fortunate enough to be able to study in a department that understands the lives and schedules of musicians and can be flexible to accommodate us. Not only are our teachers cool about us playing shows (as long as we have enough notice and get our work done), but also we're often playing with our teacher's bands. Usually school doesn't get in the way of what we are trying to do but, when it has we've been able to find ways to make it work. (For example, Jesse was able to do additional work to get out of exams sophomore year to tour Europe and was able to receive credit this past semester to go transcribe traditional music and teach in Kenya.)

What was it like releasing your first album recently? Were there any experiences you hadn’t expected?
It was really awesome. We all put so much time and energy into that album and scrutinized over every detail and we're just glad that it came out as we envisioned it. We couldn't have done it without Dan & Jon over at Mason Jar Music and all of the incredible musicians who played on the album. I'm sure a few things worked out not quite as expected since we were pretty ambitious from the get go but we're very happy with the final product. We're just really excited to finally start working on new music since we spent such a long time working on the album!

Since the EP and the album were recorded at the same time, what do you see as the biggest distinction between the two?
The biggest distinction between the EP and the album is the fact that the EP songs we're the first songs we wrote as a band. We initially recorded them as an acoustic EP before our first short tour in October of 2010 and wanted to show people how our sound had progressed to preview the full-length without giving away any of the newer material. Since that EP, all of the songs have been written much more collaboratively and with the intention of being for our new full-band instrumentation. We wanted to include a lot of the EP songs on the album so we could give those older tunes a new feeling in the context of our newer material.

"We all put so much time and energy into that album and scrutinized over every detail and we're just glad that it came out as we envisioned it."

Town Hall
"Roots & Bells"

what it is

Eager young adults stuck on pop, classical, and every other style of music. For those who like: Jenny Lewis, Band of Horses, The New Pornographers