A music blog from Ireland.
After several years building up a reputation on live shows and two EPs, the release of It Goes, It Goes (Forever and Ever) in October 2010 pummelled Dublin band Halves into the strata of successful debut albums. I met with founding member Brian Cash as they prepared for a final show of 2011 at the Unitarian Church tonight, 9 December.
“We always enjoy playing different spaces.” Brian says when asked about the unusual venue. “The last year and a half playing the album songs we got to play some amazing places and it just seemed like a good way to round it off. We looking for a Dublin date and then offered the Unitarian Church. We’ve played the Workman’s, we’ve played Whelan’s, we’ve played all the usual haunts and we’ve always loved playing them, but playing in a church is going to be something else.”
The acoustics should be amazing.
“The Slipdraft guys who do our visuals… apparently they’ve digitally mapped the huge stained glass window above the altar, behind us, and they’re going to use that as projections, so different parts of it will flicker on and off. They’ve been working on it for about a month now so we’ve put in lots and lots of pre-production for the show.
They’re very smart at what they do and this is like their biggest challenge. I think we’re filming the gig as well so we’ve a bit too much on our plates for that gig but if it all goes well it should be a very memorable show. We’re going to try and play two new songs as well that aren’t finished. I’ve got a stockpile of names hidden away but I don’t know which one goes where. One of them we only played for the first time yesterday.
“We’ve also got strings, a couple of new songs, and then in the intervals we’re playing Christmas music on a turntable.”
Will you be wearing Christmas jumpers?
“We did that last year so we’re not going to repeat ourselves. We did a Christmas gig last year for the DSPCA and we all wore Christmas jumpers. I might wash it later.”
Halves have taken about five years to get to this stage. Their first EP was a self-titled production released in 2007, followed by Haunt Me When I’m Drowsy in 2008.
“It’s weird because when we put out our first EP, the little three-track thing, we just did it as a laugh and people latched onto it really quickly. We got this weird hype off that first EP that you’d usually get off an album. That was 2007. But the album, we were confident that it was good – we knew that it was good – and when the reviews started coming in they were all 4s and 5s. We were like, ‘OK!’ We didn’t have the money to do a huge press campaign or have the time to do it, just kind word of mouth.
“I had to find a copy of our album at short notice the other day and I had to illegally download our own album to send to them. So I typed it into Google and saw how many different places were hosting it and all the different countries. A site in Bosnia has got our album, Last.fm has all of the users and where they’re from and when you look around all the different countries, it’s mad. In the Roisin Dubh the other night we got handed this hand-written note from somebody from Israel saying; ‘if you ever need help getting a gig in Tel Aviv let me know’ along with his email address. So there you go.”
Having been introduced to Halves back when the first EP was released, I saw the band play venues all over Dublin on a frequent basis, both support slots and their own headline shows. In contrast, despite the fact that they now have an album under their belts, recent months seem to have been quieter for Halves.
“It Goes was released at Halloween last year and since then we’ve been incredibly busy. We’ve done bits and bobs in Dublin,” shrugs Brian. “We suffer from day-job syndrome so we can only do so much. The most important thing was that we did South by Southwest and the Great Escape. They were great fun but it was more important for us to do shows outside of Dublin because for the first couple of years we were only doing shows in Dublin. The main shows for us were getting out to places like Sligo and so on. There were some big supports. We had the show with Mercury Rev. We’re getting a bit more picky with our shows which is good. We’re not just taking any old things. We finished up a tour last week around the country, and Friday at the Unitarian Church is the last show of the campaign for the first album. We’ll take a year out and make the second album.”
With just a year between the first two EPs, it took double that follow up with the album proper. In comparison, will the second album be a bit quicker to arrive considering there is now a definite audience waiting for more?
“We’ve only just started working on it. We tend not to write anything when we’re gigging because it takes so much time to rehearse. We’re constantly playing with different guest musicians and with rehearsals we never actually write anything – we just spend our time arranging the old songs. We started writing about two and half months ago and we have six new songs so the plan is to record next September and then it’ll be out sometime in 2013.
“We like putting deadlines on. We kind of put a deadline on ourselves in so far as we booked the studio before we finished writing the first album. We’re going to do the same this time, so we’ve decided the first two weeks in September 2012, that’s when we’re recording. It actually lights a fire under your arse to not be lazy, sit down and write songs.”
What lies ahead in the process of composing the second record? The debut was recorded in Montreal: are there plans to return to the same studio?
“I don’t think so. We’d love to but we want to do something different. If we went back there it would just sound too similar, so we have two options. Both would yield completely different results. We’re going to decide in February and then book and then go up in September. Up until February we’re going to keep looking at different studios and different people. At the moment there are two that we are fans of, sound-wise. We might work with… we’ve never worked with a producer so we might co-produce with someone – I’m not going to say who. We might co-produce with someone who’s renowned for doing weird things. We might go a bit weirder. Personally, I’d like to go a bit weirder. It depends on the songs.”
It Goes, It Goes was very well received, accumulating favourable reviews across the board from critics to fans. With a sound as expansive and open to adaptation as Halves’, are there plans to create some shifts or stylistic changes in the sound?
“I think we started off with very obvious inspirational points from the EPs. Then, around the album… there are bits of the album that are inspired by the Cardigans so it’s not like we’re dipping into the Sigur Ros bucket anymore. We’re inspired not so much by band’s songs as production ideas. We don’t think about the notes of the songs, but we love a song that has this kind of weird production or this weird soundscape. We buy more equipment, every year or so and try to learn a new instrument. Tim picked up the trombone a year and half ago and now he plays the trombone very, very well. He plays with Elis on the clarinet and that eventually starts coming into the music. We were very heavy on brass coming up to the album, we got guest players in…I imagine for the second album there might be more brass. We met people, like Jennifer Evans and we get different voices, different sounds and textures.
“Elis does most of the electronics. Myself and Tim, for the EPs and the album, we wouldn’t have done any but for the last six months we’ve started to do more, so there’s different strands to the electronics now, not just one person. It’s expanding that way – the more we do it, the better we are at using what we have around us. As we go on, we get more experienced and a bit hungry to do something more exciting.”
Hungry is a good word. As long as a band has hunger they’re all right.
“It’s good to have hunger. Even though you have a day job or whatever, it’s nice to look forward and go, ‘2013, let’s go out and have fun again.’ There’s no big pressure to be top 10 or touring 300 days of the year. For the moment at least, we’re happy knowing we have these trips coming up.”
All that hard work will be worth it then.
“Exactly. Until the week before the reviews come in, then I’m going to shit myself. Because the first album did as well as it did, as soon as I see a 3/5 I’m going to probably burst into tears.”
Photo credit :: James Goulden.