A Chat with Halfloves (08.06.21)

Based in Iowa, Halfloves is a unique fivesome merging elements of indie-rock, pop-rock, lo-fi and jazz in their sound. We speak with frontman Jeff Roalson about their latest single, ‘Do U Follow Me’, musical backgrounds, effects of Covid-19 on the music industry and much more!

OSR: How did Halfloves come together?

Roalson: Jeff and Trevor started playing in a band together some 13 or 14 years ago after meeting at a summer basketball league and realising there was also a shared interest in music. Most of the whole band have been friends for a long time (some friendships even pre-dating Jeff and Trevor’s initial musical collaborations). Zach is the most recent addition. The five of us have now been making music together coming up on five years.

OSR: What inspires you to make music?

Roalson: Lots of things! All kinds of life experiences, from deeply impactful moments to anecdotal visual snapshots and to some extent, imagination about lives and situations that we aren’t living. Other music and art certainly influence us as well. A lot of what goes into making music is having a healthy balance of fostering whatever muse and inspiration come upon us, as well as simply putting in the time practising and writing trusting it will yield results even if the particular piece isn’t coming together as effortlessly as we’d like.

OSR: What is the backstory to your new single ‘Do U Follow Me’?

Roalson: We had been sitting on the bassline since 2016, inspired by Kendrick Lamar’s ‘King Kunta’ and Gorillaz’s ‘Stylo’, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2020 that the rest of the song unfolded. We became haunted and mystified with the motivations of our communications in this age of screens – what was sincere expression and what was based on our “brand” on social media? We were obsessing over that question of whether this was a healthy self-reflection or was it self-centred?

It’s just curious how something as seemingly innocuous as technology that enables you to share photos of your dog with your family also has this enormous power to subconsciously direct the behaviours of millions and shape the zeitgeist of culture, transforming the deepest parts of our psychology and sense of purpose. Meaning has become conflated with metrics. We had to ask ourselves, “Where is this leading us? What are we following?”

OSR: Did you face any challenges when writing and recording the single?

Roalson: Definitely. We had an entire bridge section that we recorded in the studio and later scrapped because it wasn’t quite right. Several other parts and sounds changed around as well. For instance, the bassline was initially a synth and later changed to a bass guitar which opened up a new feel for the song.

OSR: If you could change anything about ‘Do U Follow Me’, what would it be?

Roalson: Maybe add a new musical element. Even though the previously mentioned scrapped bridge part wasn’t very strong, it did provide a nice left turn that the more experimental side of our creativity enjoyed.

OSR: What is the most exciting thing about being in an indie-rock band?

Roalson: This elongated pandemic stripped away a lot of the things we love about music but also stripped away the shaft. It’s been 15 months since we’ve played a show and although it’s a very simple answer: the most exciting thing about being in this band is playing music together. The experience is even more fun when we’re able to share it with an audience.

OSR: Do any of you have musical backgrounds?

Roalson: Certainly. Our basic backgrounds are as such: Lucas started playing bass as an early teen and in high school, his band and my (Jeff) band would sometimes play shows together. My musical background started pretty much the same time I started my first band. I loved the idea of being in a band and making songs even though I had almost no musical skill. Indie, Euro-pop, punk and lo-fi music appealed to me both in a quirky art sense and also because some of that music is more about story-telling and emotion than musical virtuosity.

Trevor is a classically trained pianist turned synth addict, Zach comes from a jazz background (still drums on jazz gigs currently) and Nate came more out of the pop-punk and hardcore scene before joining the band. Pretty full-spectrum musical backgrounds!

OSR: If you could perform with any artist who would it be?

Roalson: Probably Radiohead. They’re the band around which all of our musical inspirations and preferences most align. Anthony Fantano once made a video about how one of our songs “sounds exactly like Radiohead”, so we also like to keep up that gag going whenever we get a chance. If we ever did get to open for Radiohead, at the end of our set I think it’d be hilarious to yell into the mic “We’ve been Halfloves, please stick around for Radiohead!”

OSR: Do you believe the Covid-19 pandemic will affect the music industry on a long-term basis?

Roalson: The obvious effects of the pandemic might fade and become murky going forward but essentially, yes, I do think there will be long-term effects such as the general landscape of international touring, visas, fewer independent music venues and touring options, etc.

OSR: Do you have any phobias?

Roalson: Nope. We’re all very strong and never scared.

OSR: Describe your music in one sentence.

Roalson: We sound like Radiohead trying to cover Phoenix songs.

OSR: Are there future plans for Halfloves?

Roalson: For now, we’re going to get back in the swing of live shows later this summer and continue to record a few more songs. No immediate plans for the next album but we’re trying to build towards that goal by building back up for both the band fund with gig money (no thanks to Covid-19), as well as building up a good collection of new songs to see where the music leads us.

Thanks to Jeff Roalson for speaking with us. For more from Halfloves check out their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify.

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