Embracing the experimental layers of their artistry, Californian trio half•alive are holding nothing back in their attempt to create something unique and memorable through their legacy.
Their debut album ‘Now, Not Yet’ has only been out for a week and Josh Taylor (vocals), Brett Kramer (drums) and J Tyler Johnson (bassist) are sitting on the other side of the world in Australia, reflecting on the creative process that ended up teaching them about the innovative artists they want to be.
Starting the process of the album by renting out different AirBnb’s in various locations that they could find inspiring, they would spend some time discovering fresh elements and concepts to introduce to their sound. This allowed their genre to be undefined as they were never trying to cater to one repetitive element. “Each song just started from a place of purity” explains Johnson. “With some of the more jazzier and funkier tracks, someone would just come up with a little riff or idea and we would start building on top of that without being restricted to one genre”.
“There are so many styles of music that inspire us as band that our sound has become sonically all over the place. We all have a jazz background and then Brett likes folk music and Josh likes more pop music. But then as a collective, we all like those same things at the same time because genre is becoming less and less of a thing because no one is really connecting to just one genre anymore” he adds.
Looking towards the future of how we classify music, Johnson also believes that the industry is starting to move towards moods which is something streaming has helped introduce. “I think genres are becoming a little outdated and now it’s becoming more about the mood as we question regularly how a song makes you feel as a listener which is something we have also embraced within our music” Johnson explains.
On each of the Airbnb trips they would listen to different artists that would sometimes get their creative juices flowing in a unique way. “On one of the trips we were listening to the likes of of Billie Eilish and Samm Henshaw which is so crazy because Samm ended up making it on the record. We were listening to his stuff a lot and thought it was so cool, so we reached out and asked if he wanted to collaborate on the track ‘Rest’” Taylor reflects.
But Kramer cites that it wasn’t just music that was making an impact creatively on their songwriting during the album process. “Sometimes I would be listening to a podcast and it would spark some thoughts and I would come to the guys and we would start writing from that which was unconventional I guess, but it worked”.
On the back of these trips they created a list of topics they wanted to write about which gave them clarity of the message they wanted to convey to their listeners through their songs and their music videos which in time became a very integral part of their artistry.
While some of their songs have very literal meanings, they’ve also wanted to leave it up to the listeners interpretation to take it into their own personal lives.
“Interpretation is very important to us because for example, ‘The Fall’ was written about how difficult it is for us to write songs and release them to people we don’t know. But then someone can take that sentiment as ’it’s really hard for me to release whatever it is I’m holding inside me’, which is the complete power of music” Taylor explains.
But they have found that the more they open up about particular parts of their life and the more literal they are getting, the more universal their material is becoming through connection. “The more authentically and deeper we go into our songwriting the more universal it seems to connect which is really interesting because you would think it would be the opposite. If we really nail what is in our hearts then people seem to really connect with it” Kramer reflects.
One of the more literal lyrical moments on the album comes during ‘Creature’ when they directly mention Jesus Christ in the lyrics, which they explain wasn’t an easy decision to make because of the repercussions and other beliefs that played a factor into it. But to them, that was the belief they were referencing and what it means to them so they decided to go for it.
“Speaking in light, it’s much easier to write a song like ‘Breakfast’ which is about strength and vulnerability which people see as a cool thing. But it’s a lot less culturally cool to talk about Jesus even though it is apart of life and exploring the discovery of life” says Taylor.
half•alive excel in the unexpected. No one knew what to expect with this album. All they knew was that is was going to be different and experimental and they delivered that from the very get go, which Taylor explains was very intentional. “Us starting ‘ok ok?’ with the heaviest guitars we could find and then never going back to that sound the whole album is the level of unexpected that we wanted to create. We wanted to immediately put the listener in a place where they were caught off guard”.
The breakthrough success of ‘still feel.’ was huge for the band as it very quickly introduced them to a legion of fans around the world. With the song being played almost everywhere, Kramer reflects on how the strangest place he heard it playing was at a Yogurtland. “We walked into the store one night at like 9pm in our pyjamas and ‘still feel.’ was playing. My wife just starts yelling ‘YEAH!’ and nobody else had context as to why she’s screaming, so they just awkwardly stared at us. They all just thought we were a little too excited for Yogurtland” he laughs. “So I felt like I had to explain to the cashier why she was so ecstatic and when I told her it was my song, she didn’t care. She was like, ‘cash or credit?’”.
With the band having just wrapped up their first Australian tour, they are returning to the states to kick off their biggest headlining ruin of dates yet. “We approach our live show very intentionally just like how we approach our music videos very intentionally. All different experiences are all apart of the ‘Not, Not Yet’ universe” Kramer explains of the innovativeness they try to embody within all elements.
“It’s taken a long time to get the live show to where it is now. We rehearsed for so long with no shows lined up. We were just trying to find our groove as a band. And even with all of the rehearsing, there are still things we are finding in the live show as we are doing them that we need to tidy up”.
And this thirst for innovativeness comes from Taylor’s craving to create the best show possible that ties into the unexpected branding of half•alive.
“Whenever I go to a show, I take them apart in my head. I deconstruct and wonder why I liked particular things and why I didn’t like other things. I reevaluate everything and try to figure out how I can create my favourite show that I could go to. And that’s how the dance element came about. It’s still very new to me but I’m just enjoying learning to move my body in a new way” Taylor explains.
And that’s exactly what they’ve done. They’ve created a thought invoking live show that will you have screaming, dancing and singing along as well as immersing yourself into the innovative universe they’ve created.
half•alive’s debut album ‘Now, Not Yet’ is out now