SONG PREMIERE: Scranton/Philly indie rockers The Tisburys adjust to the ‘Fading Light’
In the midst of this pandemic, everyone seems to be going through a transition of some kind, and The Tisburys are no different.
The first single from their upcoming album tackles that very topic, as does the entire record, which will now be released in a different way thanks to COVID-19. Like all of us, though, the Philadelphia via Scranton indie rock band is rolling with it as they update their sound and approach in this crazy new world.
Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Tyler Asay grew up in Clarks Summit and got started by playing open mic nights in and around Scranton. He and guitarist John Domenico played covers of The Beatles, Fleet Foxes, and Bon Iver, but he knew early on that he wanted to write his own songs, so they formed The Tisburys in 2012.
“After building up a catalog of original songs, John and I recruited his brother Matt to play bass and our friend Matt Montella to play drums. We played a bunch of shows with that lineup before I went to college in West Chester, but we would still get together and play shows when we could,” Asay told NEPA Scene.
“After graduation, I moved to Philadelphia and recruited some college friends, Andrew Huston and Doug Keller, to play drums and bass, respectively. I still keep in touch with the Matts, though, and we still play music together whenever we can.”
Originally, they were called Tisbury Obama as a pun regarding the name of a friend, but they dropped the presidential moniker to “make it a little more timeless.”
“I’ve always seen ‘The Tisburys’ name as a collective or ‘family band’ anyways, like The Traveling Wilburys, because we would always be rotating through this cast of musical characters,” he continued.
“In the beginning, it was definitely more freak folk-influenced with acoustic guitars and wacky, impressionistic lyrics, which was what we were interested in at the time. I’m still ‘folk-influenced’ when it comes to storytelling – it’s just become more focused and direct, which comes from getting older. I’m more interested in tightly composed pop songs than I was in the past, while still having a lyrical-driven story that makes sense.”
Following their debut EP “Sacks of Phones” in 2015, 2017’s “Crooked Roads” EP, a few singles, and the two-part “Wax Nostalgic” EPs in 2019, the current Tisburys are moving in a more indie rock/power pop direction with “Sun Goes Down” and its lead single, “Fading Light.”
“I’ve always been in love with the catchy college rock of the ‘80s and ‘90s (R.E.M. and The Replacements) and anthemic mid-aughts indie rock (Wilco and The National),” Asay emphasized.
“‘Fading Light’ is a process song about moving through a relationship and the push/pull that comes along with that. Originally, it was inspired by Bruce Springsteen – I wanted the solo to be a saxophone! – but as we started playing the song together live, it came back to that core ‘Tisburys’ feel, which included John playing a kickass Thin Lizzy-esque solo.”
He has been working on “Sun Goes Down” since wrapping “Wax Nostalgic,” and the group started recording these songs at the end of last fall with their good friend and frequent collaborator Justin Nazario at his home studio in West Chester.
“I would technically view [‘Sun Goes Down’] as our first full-length, only because ‘Wax Nostalgic’ was released in two separate parts. However, it does have more of a ‘second album’ vibe. We do have some Scranton-adjacent plans for our first EP, ‘Sacks of Phones,’ which recently celebrated its fifth anniversary,” Asay said.
“Our last record, ‘Wax Nostalgic,’ was all about reflecting on the past. When I started writing songs for a follow-up, the recurring theme I kept founding was moving on from the past, which was a logical next step in the Tisburys story. The concept of ‘fading’ kept coming up, about moving into the next stages of life, with my younger years fading further and further from memory. It’s become more about focusing on the future realistically for the first time in my life. Changing tides!”
The tides have changed dramatically with the coronavirus, but he sees the situation as “both a curse and a blessing” in this case.
“The original plan was to release the album over the summer and do some touring to support it. Since that can’t happen anytime soon, we’ve decided to release singles steadily throughout the summer to keep interest in the band up and release the album in the fall. We’ve also been putting finishing touches on songs remotely and, in the process, we’ve decided to add a couple more songs to the final product,” he noted.
As for his personal life, that hasn’t been easy, but it has had its bright spots in quarantine.
“It’s been tough. I work at a bar, Dawson Street Pub, and a record store, Main Street Music in Philadelphia, which were both hit heavily by the pandemic. I’m still working hours here and there when I can, but it’s been all about innovation and staying active on social media – support local businesses! When it comes to my own music, I’ve been focused on making sure the record is as tight as possible. I’ve also been covering Vampire Weekend albums in full on Instagram Live, which has been a lot of fun,” he said.
“My girlfriend and I just adopted a dog, Ziggy, which has quite a treat. So when he’s not pooping on our carpet, I’ve been playing a ton of guitar, ‘Animal Crossing,’ and watching ‘The Sopranos.’”
When the Dawson Street Pub was open, Asay hosted the open mic nights, “which always had a steady stream of musicians coming in and out.”
“We’ve definitely found our people when it comes to the music scene here, and there are so many different scenes that intertwine, which makes it all the more interesting. It’s very similar to Scranton – you’ve got the punk kids, you’ve got the folkies, and you’ve got the hippies. And they all seem to know each other!”
“As long as you take it with a grain of salt, [playing online] can be a ton of fun. Don’t take it too seriously, and don’t get bummed out when only seven people tune in. Also, think of other ways to make it special! You don’t have to be performing the entire time; make some time to just engage and talk with viewers,” he said.
“Follow us on social media and please reach out if you enjoy the music! I love talking music with people.”
Hopefully people will be able to do more than just talk about music and watch it online by the end of the year. Asay remains hopeful and willing to swim through those changing tides.
“I have hopes, but it seems pretty obvious at this point that we won’t be seeing any live music, especially in large group settings, until next year. With that said, couldn’t we still go to a large park where a band happens to be playing as long as people follow social distancing? As long as people continue to wear masks in public and don’t ruin it for everybody else, I have a feeling that next summer could be prime concert time. The waiting is the hardest part.”
Photos by Dylan Eddinger Photography