"Likable" may not be the most cherished description in rock 'n' roll. For Tampa quartet Tallhart, though, it's been key to a quick rise from local favorite to national act.
"All the bars around Tampa, I feel, tried their best to put us on shows that would get us in front of audiences," singer-lyricist Matt Segallos says. "The media have been really kind to us, and we're really appreciative," he adds.
That good will has helped the band survive, and even thrive, despite a forced name change — previous moniker Marksmen had been copyrighted by another band.
Since the name change, the band has vaulted into the big leagues, signing with Rory Records, an imprint of punk/alternative label Equal Vision.
Tallhart is the first band signed to Rory, a label founded by Say Anything's Max Bemis. Bemis is a huge supporter of Tallhart, as evidenced by a piece about the band on his label's Web site.
Bemis calls Tallhart a "brilliant young band from Tampa who can write a stadium rock-level anthem like nobody's business but don't shy away from lovely, dense songwriting." He describes their sound as "smart and brave music, rich with a swelling, unfiltered feeling."
Segallos is calling from the road on his way to San Diego, a stop on its current tour opening for Say Anything. Tallhart's first local show since signing with Rory will be at Tropical Heatwave. It's the second year in a row for the band, although it played WMNF's festival last year as Marksmen.
The band — Segallos on vocals and guitar, guitarist Christopher Brickman, bassist Glenn Espinoza and drummer Reed Murray — is on the road behind its first Rory release, a six-track EP called Bloodlines. It kicks off with a reprise of Sister of Mine, retitled Fever (Sister of Mine), the title track to the band's debut album.
Like that track, the rest of Bloodlines is epic alternative rock, intimate yet capable of filling arenas, that fully justifies Bemis' comparisons of Tallhart to U2, Manchester Orchestra and early Pearl Jam.
Heady stuff for a young band, particularly for Segallos, for whom Tallhart is — jealous hater alert! — his first band.
"Glenn had been into hardcore, and Chris comes from a more power-pop background," Segallos says. Reed had played in a church worship band, but this is my first band and I think it's Reed's first real band, too.
"Reed and I really lucked out," Segallos says with a laugh.
Segallos says he had written "a lot of terrible, terrible songs on my own" before joining the band.
"Chris was very kind in not being so quick to say how terrible they were," Segallos says. "I can tell you we have never used any of the songs written before Chris and I got together," he says. Otherwise, "I might not be talking to you now."
The band has worked hard, Segallos says, but he's quick to acknowledge how grateful he is for the way the Tampa area embraced the band.
"I'm not ignoring our hard work," Segallos says. "When we started out, we were trying to get on any bill we could."
"But I think the promoters and people around town saw that we weren't just out on the weekends having a good time, we wanted to do it for real. And when they saw that we wanted to do it for real, they were glad to help," Segallos says.
"We love our city," Segallos says. "We really love Tampa. It's great that we've been able to get this thing going."
The name Tallhart, by the way, is taken from a family of characters in the A Song of Ice and Fire book series, which also spawned HBO's Game of Thrones.
Tallhart plays a headlining show May 26 at St. Petersburg's Local 662.