HALFNOISE RETURNS TO NEW YORK CITY
On one of a three-date tour to support the new album, these musicians really shine.
"Does that big ball turn on?" A spot is beamed at the disco ball in the center of Elsewhere's most intimate space and spinning circles illuminate a crowd of fully vaccinated music-lovers from across the tri-state area. Elke, Liza Anne, Louis Prince, MAN ON MAN, and other musicians/notables slip in as Halfnoise starts their set with the first two tracks on 'Motif,' their latest full-length offering. The album is a clear departure from the sweaty funk of 2019's 'Natural Disguise,' replete with lush orchestration and adult-contemporary crooning - a sonic palette more Feist than Funkadelic.
The waltz-time love songs sandwich in the familiar dance numbers. ‘Boogie Juice’ trails a fuzzy ‘Who Could You Be’ and the once-uptempo, synth-driven crowd-pleaser ‘Sudden Feeling’ is given an acoustic update to follow the fun 'Someday.' Throughout, Zac Farro is bursting with energy, falling to the stage in a frenzy, a triangle or tambourine in hand, even for the slow songs.
There are other falls too. A crash cymbal knocked off the drumset, a drink kicked over, the microphone slipping off the stand, separated from the cable. Twice.
The jaunty furor frames the band’s strict cohesion. Despite being the second of three shows on their album release tour, Halfnoise have no kinks or jitters to work out. This is a group of skilled, veteran musicians. Farro has toured extensively and his control is apparent. He is quick to indicate a tempo or dynamic adjustment to facilitate crowd-involvement.
Earlier in the night, he subtly injected his expertise into opener Elke's stage banter, reminding her to reintroduce herself and mention the shirts for sale between songs.
Joey Howard (touring bassist for Paramore/Hayley Williams and session bassist for several other artists), Nick Aranda (‘Motif’ producer and guitarist of Paper Route), and even Saxl Rose (Paramore fan turned Halfnoise saxophonist), have all played much larger venues as well.
The band's precision and shameless flirting between Farro and Elke compete as fixtures of the evening. "Get up here Elke," he signals to his girlfriend who is side stage snapping pictures on a disposable camera before the finale, ‘Two of Us.’ They chant "I don't want it to end," and fall to another stage-floor tambourine duet before the song and set does indeed come to an end, unfortunately.
But once it does Zac is kind enough to answer some questions. Here's what he said:
What has been your experience being part of a huge, successful, major label band and running an indie project/label?
Z: They coexist in a beautiful way and I’m glad I get to do different things through them. As far as being a drummer, for Paramore or for Kayla (Elke), I only know one way.
You wear a lot of hats: music video director, producer, photographer, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist. What have you learned about yourself in juggling so many roles?
Z: I learned that you gotta have a lot of patience. You’re not going to be good at something right away and you may never be that good at it, but figure out what you’re good at and stick with that. It’s kinda like when I realized what my personality was... I wanted to be like everyone else in the room. I wanted to make them laugh. Just not being myself. I think it’s all about finding your identity in what you do and trying to be yourself the most you can. Does that make sense?
Yeah, it’s not about pleasing other people, you have to find what works for you.
Z: And finding joy in the process of it instead of just making a product. With these shows, I just really wanted to enjoy it. Normally I think, ‘I should do this song because I know it’s fun’ or whatever - this time I wanted to feel everything and that’s what great about it. Whether it’s this or shooting on film, you really just have to be patient. And you learn a lot because it tests you.
Do you think knowing who you are as an artist, appreciating the process, and leading a band yourself has made it easier for you to collaborate with others outside of Halfnoise?
Z: Yeah, and I think being a producer is the biggest thing that has helped with that. I’ve been producing more lately and it helps with learning what to add or not and knowing what’s important in a song. Having that experience has been really helpful.
‘Motif’ is much more downtempo than the music you’ve released before. I love the orchestration on it, some gorgeous Motown-style string arrangements. What inspired that direction sonically?
Z: I didn’t even intend to have strings on the record. I started making this record and I really just wanted it to sound classic. I shared it with my friend when we went over and used his piano and he’s like “Do you have anyone doing strings on this? I arrange strings.” And I’m like “No.” And he said “I’ll do it,” and it was amazing. So that was a happy accident and it was the perfect record for it. So there was no real intention to make it sound that way, it just came about.
Motif is out now via Congrats Records.
Lucas is a photographer + commercial producer based in New York.