The Tell is a new collaborative project that features:
- Noah Dickie: The Henderson, NV-based singer/songwriter co-founded Coastwest Unrest back in 2019 with his older brother Josh. The band released a series of albums through their own Reclaim Records with their last album, 2017’s The Crazed Ones found the band sonically creating an uneasy balance between roots Americana and stripped-down punk folk.
- James McAllister: The much sought-after Los Angeles-based programmer and touring dummer, who has worked with The National, Sufjan Stevens and Bon Iver. McAllister has worked with The National’s Aaron Dessner on Taylor Swift‘s last two critically acclaimed albums. He has collaborated with Stevens, Nico Muhly and Bryce Dessner on an album titled Planetarium, which was released through 4AD Records back in 2017. As as a solo artist, McAllister has released material through Justin Vernon’s and Dessner’s label 37d03d. And he has contributed to the soundtracks of a handful of Oscar-nominated films, including The Big Sick, The Two Popes and Call Me By Your Name.
Dickie and McAllister explain that the project’s name is a sort of double entendre, referring to poker players, who are easy to read and the sonic narrative of their musical work, an aural journey from borderline despair to well-being, using music — and of course, it’s creation — to try to heal psychic and physical wounds. The project pairs Dickie’s narrative songwriting and folk roots with McAllister’s buzzing soundscapes. Sonically and aesthetically, the duo manage to reflect live lived in a pandemic.
The duo who have individually worked on a number of critically applauded projects have been friends for many years — and their new collaboration together can trace its origins back to 2018 when they originally started working on a series of songs, which would eventually comprise their full-length debut, slated for release later this year. The duo finished the album this year, recording most of the album’s material themselves in their respective home studios, adding producer Luke Vander Pol for two tracks from his home studio in Burbank.
“Clap Clap” is the duo’s first single — and a bit of a taste of what we should expect from the forthcoming album. Prominently featuring Dickie’s Odelay-era Beck-like delivery, the song is centered around an atmospheric and buzzing soundscape that includes twinkling synths, looping guitars and boom bap-like drumming. What makes the song interesting to me is that it manages to simultaneously be trippy and upbeat. “Musically, James and I created this tension in the song’s verses and pre-chorus with the release coming in the chorus…’There’s a way through the trap but we can never go back’… Only by letting go (‘going through the trap’) can we move on.”
Clap Clap” was created specifically by Noah and James to curate a shifting, sonic world of metaphysics and magic that becomes increasingly urgent as it goes along. The lyrics start with a question and ignite a rhythmic journey for the listener. The two hope that the song will break through peoples’ insular cocoons to ultimately bring everyone closer together. Even though many people are still separated and at home in quarantine, they can all connect through music. The Tell strategically used the Zen sound of one hand clap-clapping throughout the new song to evoke music’s power to heal and transport audiences to new places. Noah shares, “It’s hard to describe…but after writing ‘Clap Clap’, especially lyrically, it felt like such a release. Something being let go of… There’s this feel like the song is in full-blown chaos…a darkness…pandemic, George Floyd, a rioting country, political and social upheaval. Describing these things, not in a generic way, but with a personal story to coincide with this underlying buzz of turmoil.