EIGHT FEET TALL
by Max Bowen
Formed in November 2012, the reggae/hip-hop band Eight Feet Tall has been making a name for itself in an unprecedented way, playing to a sold-out crowd at their debut show at Church, and performing with national touring bands such as the Sophistafunks and the Fear Nuttin Band.
For months, the band has been releasing their music one song at a time, and the response has been huge. That momentum has culminated in their recent album release, and the band’s lining up a slew of great shows in Boston, Providence, RI, and Bangor, ME. Among the confirmed dates are July 19 with Spiritul Rez at the Spot Underground, and July 26 with the Rebirth Brass Band at the Middle East Downstairs.
Eight Feet Tall was formed by the hands of former members of Doctor Doom Orchestra (DDO), Pete Doom, Andrea Tavares (lead vocals) and Lucas Batten (drums), along with Patrick Christman (bass), Kai Sandoval (trumpet), Vinay Bhatt (trombone, vocals), and Tom Barry (keys, guitar), with rotating members Aaron Darter (guitar, keys) and Evan LaFlamme (saxophone).
Noise: How did the Eight Feet Tall come together?
Pete Doom: The new band formed basically as a Craigslist creation. I wasn’t sure if I just wanted to do some hip-hop stuff and mellow out and do my own thing and have my own fate in my hands. Actually, I got the best of both worlds, because the person I met was Patrick Christman, who’s a former bass player from Roots of Creation, Richard James and several other groups. He’s been around the block and he’s phenomenal. And the thing about Pat is he can just create, create, create. It’s almost as if he’s ending me instrumentals like I was working with a hip hop producer. But then the instruments are conscious of having a full band around you, so the instrumentals have parts for everybody. So that music was able to transform into a band, so it’s almost like a mix of the hip-hop world the way the music is created and it’s turned into full band, so it’s been great.
Andrea was there with me waiting in the wings, Luke was there waiting in the wings, and once things started cooking, we found the others by luck and by friends. Mark Kaye from Hear Now Live hooked me up with Vinay Bhatt. Pat found our trumpet player, Kai Sandoval, through New England Conservatory classified, and Tom Barry we found through Mark Kaye too, so thank you to Mark Kaye for helping us out.
Noise: What do the different members bring to the table?
Pete: DDO could be too heavy for some people. I think Eight Feet Tall is more universal, if that’s possible. It’s a little lighter, and you don’t always need to show up to our shows with ear plugs. Point in case is we go up and play a place, the Minglewood Tavern in Gloucester. We bring our mini-amps and seven of us get up on stage there and play. DDO’s sound was just too big for those rooms, and Eight Feet Tall can sit in those rooms and play without making people have to stand back 20 feet. I think the main difference is DDO was a band that could only play at the big venues. Eight Feet Tall can get into those in-between paces, and I really do think that’s important, because the in-between places, to me, is where you really make your fans.
Nothing’s recycled, everything’s brand new. Everything is brand new and it just keeps coming and coming and coming. I think we have 28 songs that the band knows now that are all originals. It’s a train that just doesn’t stop.
Noise: Did you have a plan in mind for Eight Feet Tall?
Pete: It was see who we get and let’s go from there. The bass player Pat, I say, is the engine of the band. He pushes us, the dude is non-stop, just always constantly programming things, constantly working on things, constantly finding ways to better ourselves. Just when we master one thing, he’s got something new and more innovative to go after. He always has this quote, “This is where we are,” and I think that’s a great mentality to have. I think bands strive to be where they should be next year, and why? This is where you are now, embrace it and be proud of it. There’s no goal, it’s all open-ended positivity, and we’ll go wherever it goes.
Noise: You’ve been offering your music for download one song at a time, at whatever price people can afford, or for free. What’s been the response?
Pete: It’s been really good. It seems to me that when something’s new, they’re not ready to drop money on it until they’ve heard it. So even though people know us from former projects, it was a way to get the sound out before they necessarily see us live, which is sometimes a difficult thing to do. We’ve had a lot of downloads, a lot of support, a lot of people spreading the music and posting the music. That’s really the way it sails. It’s really when strangers and friends post the songs that it makes people think, “Maybe I should check that out.” So the free downloads work well and it was a great way for us to get out name out there initially.
If they like it, maybe they’ll come back and buy it. We’ve given people the option to donate and that’s been the best thing. When you’re sitting there and you get an e-mail notification that $20 comes through because someone literally donated $20 to download one song, that lets you know there are people out there supporting you, and that makes the difference in my day. I’m sure it makes the difference in the rest of the guys’ day, too.
Noise: What can you tell me about the release of the band’s album?
Pete: I thought about it and I thought about it, and I’m tired of CD release shows. To one extent, it’s fair, it’s a way to get people out to support you. But don’t you want people to listen to the CD and then come to your show? Now they’re going to the show and you’re saying, “I love that song I hope that they play it.” This lets us work on promoting the album. I don’t know how it’s going to work yet, but I wanted to put the energy into the album, not into our show. I still think that having the show takes focus away from the album release.
Noise: How have fans of your former projects responded to the sound of Eight Feet Tall?
Pete: I think it’s cool that we have new faces and new fans coming in and I’m really psyched about it. All of our shows that we have done in Boston have been sold out, except for one, the Paradise. That morning, we got 17 inches of snow, and we still got 600 paid (admissions), and that’s nothing to snicker at. Our kickoff last November at Church of Boston was sold out.
I think that when we book shows, we’re very conscious of who’s on the bill. I think lot of bands jump on the bill because they’re like, “We need the date, we’re happy.” Sometimes I think people think we’re being too picky or even being dicks, but we’re not. I think that lots of bands are great. I think we’re picky about the bands we play with because we want it to be a good, flowing night.
Noise: What’s the writing process?
Pete: Pat is creating MIDIs, which he’s sending to me. I put lyrics on them. Sometimes I put Andrea’s on, sometimes I send it to her, it depends on what’s flowing. She’s usually pretty cool with what I write, she’s easy to work with. We send it to the horns, sometimes they’ll write the lines, sometimes Pat will already have a line or a direction on a line. It’s sort of like an Internet pass-around and we see what sticks.
Noise: Let’s take the Internet out of the picture. How would this work?
Pete: I think it wouldn’t work. This is a completely new style of writing. I don’t know any other bands that are doing it. I don’t know how it works otherwise. When we got together, half of us barely knew each other, and I’ll be honest, everybody in the band is awesome and we get along great, and it was trial and error and we all really like each other now.
To get seven people in a room, say we’re getting in at 5:00 and going until 11:00, that kills you, after awhile and at the pace that we want to go, that’s tough stuff. Doing it this way allows us to get in a space and do it for an hour, two hours and everybody feels good about it, and not feel like they spent half their day in a box on their day off. I think that’s what makes it work.
Noise: What’s next for Eight Feet Tall?
Pete: August, July, we have unbelievable shows lined up. We’re going all the way to Erie, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, upstate New York. We’re getting some great opportunities, we’ve made it to Burlington, Vermont, Western Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island. I don’t know where we’re going, but I know we’re making the right moves.
These guys aren’t afraid of a little bit of work, and you know what? They’re not afraid to show up to a venue on a whim and play to maybe 25 people or play to 300 people. We play both ends of the spectrum. I’ll tell you what, when we play to 25 people, we get them dancing before the end of the night and they want to know who we are. That’s enough for us, we don’t have big heads on our shoulders. We’re happy to play to five people if they’re rocking out. I think that’s the mentality that any band that wants to tour needs to have.