Zac Farro may still be best known for his role behind the kit for Paramore, but with their latest EP, his other band Halfnoise are far more than a mere side-project.
Zac Farro loves vinyl records, old cars and film photography.
He loves analog gear and the feeling of old Led Zeppelin records. He relaxes by making music in his studio, he loves being back in Paramore and he loves what Halfnoise has grown into. “It’s a friend band.”
The past couple of years have been a whirlwind for Zac. “It’s been full on but in a great way,” he beams. “I stepped away from Paramore for six years when I was twenty and I just took time off. I moved to New Zealand, I found time to recharge and grow up. I was fully energised and ready to work hard and that’s what I’m in the thick of right now. I find that Paramore and Halfnoise are quite different so they compliment each other.”
It wasn’t always so hectic though. Halfnoise released their second album ‘Sudden Feeling’ in 2016 and that was going to be it. “I told myself that this was the last thing I was going to do unless I started seeing some promise in it. I was always going to write music but how much energy and time was I going to give to it?” Taking a step back and deciding “I’m going to give it one more shot and then see what else is out there. If it’s worth it, it’ll prove itself. If I work hard at it, I’ll know either way,” Zac gave Halfnoise everything he had. Within the year he’d played on ‘After Laughter’, rejoined Paramore and written ‘The Velvet Face EP’. “It was everything I wanted to be doing. I’m so glad I stuck it out because it’s so important to me. It’s such a massive part of my like that I couldn’t live without it.”
‘Velvet Face’ came in 2017, all blooming joy, laidback funk and excitable collaboration, giving Halfnoise a redrawn sense of purpose. This year, Zac brings us ‘Flowerss’. A crayon drawing of big lines, bold colour and impulsive glee, the seven tracks are a step up in every way. “The whole band is evolving in such a natural and unexpected way for me. It’s really becoming a proper band. When I started it was a solo project and now, I go in with the band in mind, and the producers in mind. Friends will stop by, throw on a guitar and it’s becoming more special and more unique. It’s not just this bedroom studio band anymore; it feels like the real deal.”
Written on the road and recorded between tours, there’s an urgency to ‘Flowerss’. “If I have too much idle time, I tend to overthink things,” admits Zac. “I work quickly and while the inspiration is still fresh. I don’t like to sit on things for too long.” That gut led dash is there from the swaying sparkle of the title track, through the shimmer and the shake of ‘Every Single Time’ until the closing promise of ‘Always Young’. Moving quickly but letting things come to life in their own time, you can’t help but feel Zac in every polaroid snap.
“I was upstairs in my old house, looking out of the window in my shower and just worrying what I was going to do that day, worrying about what I looked like and worrying about all these normal, everyday, human worries. It’s partly what the entire EP is about. Why do I worry so much? Why does it matter?” The title track finds safety “always in the shower, where nothing matters up here,” before promising “always and forever, I’ll hold your flowers for you.”
“It’s this wall I’ve put up within myself, because I can’t enjoy relationships because I’m always in my head instead of being present. The metaphor is that flowers just exist, they’re beautiful and there’s nothing you did to make them beautiful. It’s about releasing all of this self-pressure and self-worry I put on myself that doesn’t need to exist.”
Elsewhere ‘All That Love Is’ stands tall as “a bitter anthem.” “The EP is very personal and vulnerable. I tend to write about hardships in my life, hardships in relationships and how I’ve been let down a lot,” he starts before changing lane. “ok dude, we get the point. You’ve been hurt. I want to stretch myself on the next one but this EP, I was continuing that vulnerability. I put myself out there again and you start opening yourself up but then you get let down again. All that Love is, is a feeling that’ll let you down. I was feeling very hopeless and asking what the point was.” He found the answer. “I’m just going to dance, and a make a really dancey song with an almost aggressive guitar riff and percussive afrobeat thing to shake it off. It sounds pessimistic but it was just what I was feeling at the time.”
That act of dancing despite the hurt is one that Halfnoise know well. Throughout ‘Flowerss’, Zac bares his bruised heart as the party rages. There’s fun to be had at every turn and distractions are welcomed with open arms. ‘Every Single Time’ feels stuck in the present but the wonderful ‘Inter Luau’ finds space for deep breathes and beaming grins, as well as packing the best song title this side of ages.
That personality and sense of reckless fun are contagious. Halfnoise used to write slow songs but now they don’t. “I got sick of them. Especially at a show, I just want people to have a lot of fun.” It’s the same energy when Zac plays Halfnoise songs during Paramore shows. “At the start, I was very reluctant. They were like, we should do a Halfnoise song and I was like, no we shouldn’t. That’s a bad idea but now it’s just become one of those points in the show. Halfnoise stuff is fun and laidback so it’s time for us to cut loose and have fun. It’s not that we don’t have fun during the Paramore set but it’s just something that naturally happens when I’m not behind the drums, when the three of us are up front joking around, having fun and playing a tune together.”
Zac is protective of Halfnoise. Every photo and every video has to add to their ever-expanding visual collage and the songs dig deep, each release sees him sharing a little more. But it feels like there’s an ambition behind it all. He wraps his fears in large, attention grabbing pop songs and couldn’t look more comfortable performing them to sold out arenas across the world. “My thing is that if it happens naturally…” he starts as success and size are brought up. “This is definitely not the band I’m going to force on anybody. If I’m not 100% myself, people are going to see through that. There’s really no desire in my heart for it to be something that it’s not. I’m not saying we don’t work hard to grow this band but the second something feels unnatural or we’re pushing something that doesn’t feel right, there’s no point. I feel like people can see through that these days, that façade of appearing larger than life. I don’t want to be one of those bands, I want whatever happens naturally to speak for itself. Even if this EP crashes and burns and it’s the worst thing ever, making the record with my friends was better than any massive arena show you can play. We’ve already met our goals. We’ve already passed our expectations because it was such a fun experience just doing the recording, the writing and the collaboration. For me, it’s already a big band in a way. For me, the success is already there because I’m doing it, I’m incorporating every friend that I can.”
And that sense of friendship, important, inspiring and vital, keeps growing. “Seeing it starting to connect with people is really one of the most powerful things. This EP, it’s for people that need to connect and need to process through not worrying so much. It’s such a rad time to be alive. There’s so much negativity, horror and terror in the world but that makes for a great time to rise up and this like minded community to get together. It’s up to us to preach peace and love and spread good stuff. That’s a terrible quote but that’s my motto. It’s great to be alive now. Hopefully people get that from Halfnoise. We’re not trying to be the newest or most innovative band, we’re just trying to put a good vibe in your stereo.”
Taken from the June issue of Dork, out now. Order a copy here. Halfnoise's 'Flowerss' EP is out now.