When As Tall as Lions played the Casbah this summer, Dan Nigro told the audience that he’d been waiting 27 years (basically, his entire life) to rock the Casbah. “It was a joke, you know? ‘Rock the Casbah,’ the Clash song?” The remnants of a high school buddy band that continued into college, As Tall as Lions hail from a part of New York not known for alt or indie rock.
“It’s hard coming from Long Island,” says Nigro. “Actually, I feel like there’s no good music coming out of Long Island, and everybody’s kind of stuck in this…I don’t know what it is…this cock-rock, jock-rock, or emo type of music. That’s really popular there.”
Back home, Nigro says, friends, family, and the band members have formed a sort of music underground through which they filter new and classic pop-rock to each other. “The group that I’ve discovered recently that’s an older group is the Cocteau Twins,” he says. “That’s my new obsession.”
It would be easy to say that As Tall as Lions is knocking at Coldplay’s door, but that would be a simplification. A rocker’s body with jazz brains, the band’s music is anthemic in places, thorny in others. Think of the late Jeff Buckley, who once called his music a “low-down dreamy bit of the psyche, part quagmire and part structure.” The same could be said for every song on 2006’s You Can’t Take It with You. Nigro says, “I went through a phase where I listened to Jeff Buckley for probably two years straight. I’m very well versed in Jeff Buckley’s catalog.”
It turns out the band’s name is about showing nerve against bad odds. “When we were in college, we dropped out to do the band. Our parents were saying, ‘What are you doing? Are you crazy?’ In that sense, we were standing up for what we believed in, right?”
AS TALL AS LIONS: House of Blues, Sunday, October 11, 7 p.m. 619-299-2583. $19.50.