In a Detroit suburb, tucked between a pizzeria and a Walgreen's, lies an arcade jam-packed with one-of-a-kind oddities. Rife with dark nooks and impossible angles, the space is plastered with vintage circus banners, hanging model airplanes, and handcrafted coin-op machines. A 19th-century electric chair rests beside a life-size Cardiff Giant, which is around the corner from an antique nickelodeon whose hand-painted sign promises glimpses of the forbidden. It is from this bizarre wonderland that Tally Hall draws the inspiration for their debut album, “Marvins's Marvelous Mechanical Museum.”
Named after the long-closed strip mall that once housed this museum, Tally Hall formed in 2002 at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. During college, the band "felt like a hobby or side project,” says guitarist Rob Cantor. “We figured it was a lark that would be fun for a while, before we had to get serious about the real world.”
But their “lark” bore unexpected traction. With their own brand of grass-roots promotion, Tally Hall developed a fan base, first around Ann Arbor, then throughout the Midwest. Demos began to circulate. Keyboardist Andrew Horowitz's “Good Day” won the 2004 John Lennon Scholarship Competition. One of guitarist Joe Hawley's film class projects, a music video for “Banana Man,” became a viral success and served as an early indication that attention was collecting outside of their hometown. As concerts began to sell out, music industry professionals took interest.