I had the pleasure of interviewing Coz Baldwin, the creator, designer, and former Webmaster of HiddenInTheSand.com via e-mail and Discord to talk about his experiences with the fandom while watching it grow and evolve over the course of almost eighteen years.
I sent the first message thinking I would be drowned in an ocean of other messages, but, lo and behold! Fifteen minutes later, he responded. Coz admitted that his memory wasn’t as good as it used to be, but that he would “give it a shot.”
He would then proceed to give me the most detailed responses I had ever read, even going through unreleased metadata for several minutes to answer a couple of questions, all for a stranger who’s name he had learned only eight minutes ago.
This interview was conducted on the 21st of July, 2022. (Four days before his death)
NYMN: What was the first Tally Hall show you attended?
COZ: My first show was at the Pingry School 5/13/05. It was an outdoor show with the band playing under a big tent. Even then, I was one of the oldest in the crowd since most of them were the high school students of the school. (I was usually the oldest one in the crowd.)
Coz, Tally Hall, and Ryan Scott on May 13th, 2005 at The Pingry School in NJ
NYMN: What was the experience like, both before and after the show?
COZ: After the show, I was recognized by Ryan Scott (Tally Mail Guy) who I’d already had an email exchange with by this point. He took me ‘backstage’ (in the corridors of the school) and introduced me to all the members, who were also already familiar with me because I had started the LiveJournal community by then. They invited me back to Andrew’s parents’ house, where they were staying. Rick Lax was there and performed some magic tricks for the group that came along with me to the house. I think Bora was there too, but I have no clue since I didn’t know who Bora or even Rick were then. We ate some food and drank some beers and talked a bunch but I couldn’t stay too long because I had a 2 hour drive back home, so, eventually I left.
I’d say that’s still my favorite Tally Hall experience to this day.
NYMN: Do you remember your first impressions of the guys?
COZ: I don’t, really, other than I felt like they were more happy to see me than I was to see them. I did immediately feel at ease around them, though.
NYMN: “More happy to see you?” Were there not many fans attending concerts?
COZ: Well, there definitely was, but not enough to be noteworthy. Whatever the reason, they were excited and were (are!) just chill, cool and funny guys.
NYMN: Did they usually invite people out with them after shows?
COZ: I would usually catch up with them BEFORE their performances but rarely after – other than to say goodbye, but the situation was different, too. They were touring and didn’t have time to really hang out after shows. They had to get back to the van and start driving, or to the hotel. And to the best of my knowledge they didn’t invite people back to the hotels but I could be wrong about that. They did, on at least one occasion, invite people into the van and do a little acoustic performance for whoever could fit in there. (there’s a video on HITS youtube of that)
NYMN: The Van Concert! One of my favourites! On the subject of favourite videos…TallyCon 2011! How did it come to be?
COZ: Someone or multiple people (I can’t remember who, sadly) came up with the idea for all of us to come out to Pennsylvania to celebrate the last stop on the Good & Evil tour. We didn’t know it would be their LAST stop/show or anything, yet the majority of us went. I like to think, somehow, we knew this show was special.
NYMN: Was there any planning done beforehand?
COZ: There was some planning, yes, but I wasn’t involved with it. Again, I’m not sure who was. I just followed the crowd that day.
NYMN: What was it like when you got there, meeting a bunch of people you had talked to more often online versus in person?
COZ: For me, it wasn’t too weird. We talked a ton on the forums during those days. As much as we do on the HITS discord, but without memes and more real names/photos so I felt I already knew almost everyone quite well by that point. It was like just meeting a friend in a new place than you’re used to seeing them at, that’s all.
NYMN: Besides the forums, were there any other dedicated places for fans to talk then?
COZ: Hmm, no I don’t think so. It was all on the forums! There used to be an official forum the band hosted on their website and everyone would go there to talk. Eventually, people started requesting a dedicated “fansite” that became HITS. Oh and we were facebook friends with each other – at least some of us – so we’d talk there too.
NYMN: Wow, that’s amazing! Who came up with the name for HITS?
COZ: That would be Remy.*
*Remy (who I also interviewed!) created and filmed the Jennielogues, a spin-off of the Boralogues, and has been a Tally fan since they were 15!
Remy and Joe on December the 15th, 2005 at the Hamilton St. Café in NJ
NYMN: I always assumed MySpace and AIM to be the most popular platforms.
COZ: oh! yeah AIM! Man I can’t remember if we had a group chat on AIM or not, but we definitely used that for one on one [conversation].
NYMN: I wasn’t much of a forum kid, so could you explain the system a little, at least on HITS?
COZ: In my opinion it’s very much like discord except each “channel” is a different forum “board”, like “music discussion”, “video discussion”, “Band Discussion”, “General/Anything Goes”. and then you’d create a topic or a “thread” and within the thread you discuss what that thread is intended for. Like “Good Day Video” and in that thread, you talk about the good day video etc. Forums are being introduced INTO discord now and we have it set up in the cover album area where people are creating their threads for the songs they’re submitting.
NYMN: Were the forums active often?
COZ: The official forums definitely were. Like I said, about as much as this discord is. But I created a HITS Forum too which was basically a backup for when the official forums went down (which happened from time to time). and we’d kind of continue the conversations on the HITS forums.
NYMN: I’ve heard you say before that though the fandom in the 2000s was much smaller than it is today, it wasn’t something to be laughed at in terms of size. How big would you estimate the community was then?
COZ: There were about 50 hardcore, active people on the forums. But many hundreds were members who would occasionally pop in or just lurk, I’d estimate. But I always felt there were a ton of people who were fans who just never got into participating. and by ‘a ton’ I mean thousands of people around the world. Though not many outside the US, there were surely a handful. It was different back then. The Internet still made people nervous.
NYMN: I bet the Internet being super slow to load and eye-blindingly ugly didn’t help either.
COZ: haha, yes, the internet was still not always the easiest to navigate unless you had some savviness to you. I will still wonder what something is without realizing “Oh! there’s google! I can just google that finally after years of wondering.”
NYMN: After the hiatus, do/did you notice fan numbers go down at all? I assume most fans went down new paths. Did the “hype” die down, even with #rallyhall, HPII, solo/side projects, etc.?
COZ: Hmmm…. no, not exactly. Because no one knew it was a hiatus for awhile. Well, not everyone. I knew. For me it was tough because there was no news to report until they started putting out solo/side projects and I could cover that. And that’s still a problem; trying to find things to report on and keep people engaged. It’s a little selfish, but I always felt like it was my fault when people moved on from Tally Hall.
NYMN: How did you react to the influx of new fans that discovered the band after the hiatus began?
COZ: That was the best part, seeing that the hype never died. The fandom started changing. In 2013, I noticed it would start going through this strange generational thing. Where people would discover them, obsess over them for 2 years and then disappear. And then it would happen again with a new crop of people. And it’s been like that ever since. But now with tiktok and the RoE meme publicity, there are just A LOT more people who are in this generation and I do expect it to still follow the same path as the others; die out and spawn a new one, but, no… each generation is still as hyped about a 3rd album or something new. In fact, moreso now than in the past probably.
And it’s funny… because each generation starts creating the same jokes and memes as the last one. Trust me… almost every question/thought/analysis/image you see has almost definitely been done before.
NYMN: Hahahaha, do you have some examples?
COZ: Well, I am exaggerating a bit, but like…. the band being photoshopped onto Weezer covers has been a thing for a lot longer than people think…um…gosh…. Sailor Moon, The Wiggles, TMNT. Lettucing. John Lennon = Joe.
NYMN: Any analyses you see often?
COZ: [Sailor] Simon theories have had roots since 2014 after [Hawaii] Part II: Part II was released. I remember seeing some fanart get sent around tumblr too. I like that artists always bring something new to the table when creating original characters from the albums.
NYMN: I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about how the band is going to reunite/tour/etc.
COZ: Definitely. I was right there with them for years. I still am! I’m a little more realistic though.
NYMN: I really admire what you’ve said about whether Tally Hall reunites or not, they’ve done their part. What kept you with the band after the hiatus, after all these years?
COZ: Well, first I need to establish that people tend to put me on some sort of pedestal and/or different from who I am. But in the end, all I am is a fan just like everyone else. And I believe in Tally Hall 100% and I believe in their music and everything else they do. So, I’ve stuck by them and kept my hopes alive just like anyone else would do. But another thing is that I did create this website and in doing so, I’ve tied myself to them in a way not many others do… and I wouldn’t have it any other way because it’s given me purpose. I’ve said it before that it gives me purpose. I keep going because without HITS, I’d have nothing else to —- I don’t wanna say “live for” —– but in a way, that’s the truth. I’m lucky enough that it’s worked out and people appreciate what I’ve done so I’ve created somewhat of my own legacy. This Discord server, although not 100% my idea… I consider it to be my last hoorah, my last gift, to the fandom. Sounds weird to talk about it so egotistically. I’m trying not to be.
NYMN: You’re not. [The Discord server is] genuinely a great place to be. You’re creating new memories for new fans. History likes to repeat itself that way
COZ: Yeah. and as I pointed out earlier, it repeats itself often when it comes to Tally Hall’s fandom. 🙂
NYMN: What is your honest opinion(s) about the newest generation of fans?
COZ: Oh they don’t bother me at all. I am just happy to see more people discovering the band and there’s always gonna be some new way they do that. The only thing I don’t like is the maturity levels of a lot of the people that come from TikTok. I know they’re kids, and kids are going to do dumb stuff, but sometimes it’s uncomfortable for everyone involved, especially the guys.
NYMN: Fair; it’s very different nowadays compared to being a teenaged/young fan in the 2010s.
COZ: Yes, and for an old dude like me, it’s very hard to understand and relate to.
NYMN: Hahaha. Sometimes I have to ask for clarification too, and I’m nowhere near “old.” It happens! Thank you so much for your time Coz; I’m all out of questions!
COZ: No problem! [Says a lot of very, very nice things]
NYMN: […] Thank you for keeping the fandom engaged/alive for as long as you have. You’ve done so much for fans past, present, and future. I’m so proud to be a part of this. As someone who genuinely found my people here, thank you. You’ve passed your purpose on to a lot of people, me included.
COZ: Thank you. It’s been my pleasure.
Interview by Nymn Phi
Art by Franch