Zac Farro’s HalfNoise have a new record in the bag. We grabbed him at The Great Escape to find out what we should expect.
Hey Zac, that show was a whole lot of fun.
Thanks so much. As tiring as it is balancing two bands, there's nothing like it when you step on the stage, and there are people there to see it. It’s tough though, HalfNoise hasn’t ever really done festivals before. These shows are very new for us because we normally play headline shows where you have two hours to soundcheck. Here, you’ve got five minutes. You’re just holding on really. That’s a crazy feeling for a musician because you don’t have that if you tour all the time. You've just got to wing it, and there's something so beautiful about that. I haven’t felt this way in a long time. It’s not only how it sounds, but the energy, because you're winging it, it’s so magnificent. It’s electric. It’s why I was so stoked to play these festivals because the new record is so much like that. I always have everything figured out. I’ve overthought so many things and the new record, it is very put together, but it just needed to sound immediate. It needed to sound like we didn’t think about it too much.
There’s a new record?
Yup. Thirteen songs. We played a new song today called ‘Boogie Juice’. It’s about being a bad apple, feeling like you’re the black sheep of your friend group or feeling like you’re an outcast. I was thinking about how people are fake and realised; I need to put the mirror in front of myself. Without giving too much away, this record is a demasking.
Talk to us about ‘Who You Could Be’.
That song was a turning point for me for this record. I had all these ideas scattered about, but our guitarist and keyboardist Daniel [Kadawatha] was in town, trying to get his visa to tour with us. We decided to write a song, and four hours later we had it written and recorded. It was like a lightning bolt hit the studio. That gave me the blueprints for the record. The next song we wrote was ‘Guess’, which is probably the best song HalfNoise has ever made. After that, the record unfolded. ‘Who Could You Be’ was the leaping point. We needed to get people right away.
It was about me asking an ex-girlfriend ‘who are you now?’ because you really hurt my heart, but I started singing it to myself. I’m looking in the mirror and asking, who am I now? Trying to demask is the point and the purpose of this record, and unveiling what it means to be a human and grow up. It’s your life, and you're only in control of your actions, no matter who breaks your heart or who stabs you in the back as a friend or who hurts you in your family. It’s really up to you how you handle those things, as hard as they are.
A lot of HalfNoise songs have this feeling of you hanging out with friends. ‘Who Could You Be’ feels like you’re all headed off on an adventure. It’s urgent and energetic.
Listen to us. Pay attention. The whole record is like that. There's immediacy to it. It’s like an ambulance siren: listen! Listen! You play these festivals, and I love playing the old songs so much, but ‘Boogie Juice’ is so immediate, you don’t need to know the recorded version. The record is like that. I love all the other songs, but it’s part of growing up and growing as an artist in this thing, having things to say.
That’s why it's important and urgent for artists to experience things because then you have something to say. It’s why I put myself in situations that are unusual, uncomfortable and a little weird. I moved to New Zealand for three years, I lived by the ocean, in a van and I surfed around. I never surfed before because I lived in landlocked Nashville, which is eight hours from any beach. There's a lot of experience and a lot of stuff to say on this record.
There's a lot to share. I’m not good at bullshitting, if I didn’t have anything to say, I couldn’t just make something up. I’ve been in so many situations where I’ve learned a lot, but also ‘Ive had to prove more things to people, so I’ve started doing more things, so I’ve got things to talk about.
Art and Friends was a Paramore creation, but it feels like it’s got the spirit of HalfNoise.
That was all Taylor [York] and Hayley [Williams]. I helped out with it, but the spirit of bringing people together - I think that’s one thing I can say I helped with. Taylor and Hayley always had that, but I helped bring it out because I’m very social as a person. That’s one of my favourite things, bringing people together, so that’s one of the attributes I brought to the band when I came back.
It feels like since the release of ‘Velvet Face’, people have ‘got’ the idea of HalfNoise.
I feel like I got that band. I realised that putting my sense of humour and personality into it, and involving all the other guys' sense of humour, that’s the idea. That’s the dream of it, to bring people together. HalfNoise started with me, but it’s Joe [Mullen] and Joey [Howard] and Logan [MacKenzie] and Daniel [Kadawatha] and Gavin [McDonald]. It’s our friend who’s driving us on this tour; it’s Taylor and Hayley. It’s everyone. It’s all our friends. I use this as a vehicle to spend more time with my friends and do more art.
I really came to that conclusion when ‘Velvet Face’ hit. The new record is even more honed in. My friend said if you took groovy parts 'All That Love Is' and 'French Class', and you went into that world even more, that is your new record. That’s cool because I didn't intend to do that.
After Art and Friends on 8th September, we wrapped up the record cycle of [Paramore album] ‘After Laughter’ and they were going to take a little time because we did years of touring on that, I went and locked myself in my room. I wasn’t going to take a vacation because I was ready to go. HalfNoise has changed a lot, but I think I’ve changed a lot. I realised what I wanted this band to be.
My whole point is that everything is such a process. I got to ‘Velvet Face’ and asked, why haven’t I been doing this all along? Then when I got to ‘Flowerss’, why haven’t I been doing this all along? Then I got to this new record, and why haven’t I been doing this all along? But that’s how you should feel, I think. You're growing, and you're always learning.
That’s the best thing about this project; I keep learning. It helps me get creative outlets out that I don’t get when I’m just drumming. And it’s not just drumming; it's being part of a band and a team there too. I haven’t stopped in a while, but it’s worth it. In your twenties and into your thirties, I’m going to be 29 this year, I want to look back and show my kids, I played drums in this awesome band, and I’m so proud of that, but I also sang and hung with my friends over here in Brighton.
They both balance each other out well because this band just needs more time for people to hear it. It takes years to develop the sound. It’s exciting in all aspects though, whether it's the other band being done with the record cycle and taking a breath after working so hard, or it's HalfNoise getting a time to get out there and get our feet wet, dip our toes. It’s cool; it’s all grooving.
Taken from the July issue of Dork, out now - order your copy below.
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