The room is packed, I can hardly squeeze through the crowd. It’s the release party for The Halfways new album In The Interim and the room is buzzing with love. Frontman Daniel Fernandez is on stage with a shimmering light show projected behind him and the crowd is screaming for an encore. Caught off guard and out of new material, Fernandez adjusts his capo and improvises a solo rendition of an old song as the rest of the band scrambles into the audience to watch.
A few months ago the Halfways had a completely lineup change – I’m not really sure the reason, probably some intergalactic interference bringing about a new musical evolution. The only original member to remain was Fernandez, a multi instrumental whirlwind of vision and the drive. I’m not sure what the auditions were like but I met people in the crowd complaining they didn’t make the cut.
The new lineup is perfect.
Erika Evans is crouched behind two keyboards like a mischievous lioness at the cusp of her den. Opposite her is Taylor Catherine sporting a blue beret, appropriated attire as her basslines march like soldiers coming back from war. Erika rocks a red beret and Taylor blue. Beside them lead guitarist David Rawlingson rocks out riffs that sound like surfing down a wave which is just beginning to crest. And of course one cannot ladle enough praise on Everett Bergstedt, the passionate powerhouse of a drummer notorious for destroying his drum set during shows. Bergstedt is noticeably gentler tonight.
The Halfways are also under consideration for most attractive band in Austin, though the competition is tight.
Ever humble and with a smile as wide as I-35 Daniel Fernandez thanked all of his friends for making it out to the show. And as much as I appreciate the compliment I am much more a fan of his than I am a friend. Everyone was feeling the love at the core of the Halfways. That’s not even an analogy. As a packed room shouted “Taylor is Bae” to the blue bereted bassist Daniel reminded them “Taylor is mine.” They’re dating and Erika and Everett have known each other since they were kids.
Fernandez is as much the man behind the scenes as he is the frontman sparkling under the spotlight. He wrote and recorded almost every musical part on their debut album – drums, lead and rhythm guitar, piano, organ, mandolin, and half a dozen other instruments – a feat in the vein of Kevin Parker of Tame Impala. While they both make trippy rock music the Halfways offer up something entirely different and out of the mainstream. Their music is flavored with eastern influences, grunge aesthetics and 70s psych goodness.
The Halfways are minimal lyricists with haunting melodies. “I Don’t Know How To Say No” is an ode to Daniel’s perseverance in the face of challenge. The story’s all in the music – it’s the circular main riff which rises like a phoenix and and flies into the future, and the minimal interludes which sound of depression and the strength to overcome it, and the brief but climatic synthesizer solo which is the stuff dreams are made of. In the weeks leading up to the release show I found “I Don’t Know How To Say No” stuck in my head frequently.
I’m not the only one who was having that issue. It’s one thing to sell out the Mohawk with an album release show but it takes a phenomenal band to have a crowd sing along to every word of a song before anyone’s even gotten a chance to give the record a listen.
Or catch them at any of their upcoming shows this South By Southwest:
Sunday, 3/12 at Hotel Vegas
5:15 on the Patio Stage
Monday, 3/13 at Spiderhouse Cafe
12:30 pm on Chapel Stage
* Just A Note DO NOT MISS THIS EVENT
Tuesday, 3/14 at Hotel Vegas
7:00 pm on the Patio Stage
Thursday, 3/16 at Hotel Vegas
2:00 pm on the Patio Stage
Thursday, 3/16 at the Craftsman
Midnight on the Main Stage
Saturday, 3/18 at Shiner’s Saloon
3:15 on the Main Stage