Interview with HAL, 28th September 2005

I recently unearthed a collection of interviews and articles that I wrote in the mid-00s for Nottingham student magazine The Mic, where I was an editor. The magazine still exists today, which is great to see given I was there at the very start. I’m going to post a few of the articles over the next few weeks in their original format.

Here’s the second – an interview from 2005 with Dave Allen from the Dublin band HAL. Now, I must admit that reading this again I should have added a final paragraph that talked about how amazing their live set was that night (I remember it well – Duke Special opened for them and they were both in great form). But I’m not here to right wrongs – I’m just allowing articles of interest to be available to anyone interested. Here goes…

When HAL emerged earlier in the year in the build up to the release of their eponymous debut album, they were caught up in a wave of media attention and hype. On a co-headline tour with the then relatively unknown (but equally enticing) Magic Numbers, they found themselves hopping night after night across all of Britain’s most confined venues, making the tickets sparse. Suddenly, this was the gig to see.

Fast forward to the end of summer and HAL are making yet another big step in their career. Although they have visited most of the towns and venues on their current tour, they have previously not found themselves on a headline tour in the UK since their debut album was released back in April. “We did a lot of support tours last year and people were there to see the main band,” explains Dave Allen. “They didn’t have a clue who we were. It’s a good reward to see people singing along, you know?”

Despite this, the Irish frontman is visibly tired. The current tour has been going on since March, and has seen them take on full UK tours supporting Doves, The Thrills and Brendan Benson, a massive German tour opening for Adam Green (“He’s massive over there!” informs Allen) a string of festival dates and now this. Through this he remains optimistic. “We finish in Amsterdam in a few weeks. It’s not bad, you know?”

As soon as the tour is finished, the band are looking forward to cracking on with their second album. “It’ll be the first time in ages we’ll have a chance to finish off new songs and make demos at home for the next record.” Influenced heavily by Harry Nilsson, they’re looking to build on the immense sound landscapes heard on the debut. It’s a sound, Allen admits, that is hard to replicate live. “When we play live it’s all pretty stripped back. With ‘My Eyes Are Sore’ there’s 40 vocals so it sounds more like a choir singing. For a lot of it you’ll never be able to get it live unless you have 5 or 6 extra players on there.” 

This leaves a problem for the next album. “We don’t know which way to treat the songs yet. Whether we have them stripped back and pretty plain or we do the same as with this album and bring two or three more people on the road with us.”

One thing he is sure on is the need for a break before work begins again in the studio. “We’ve got a good few ideas [for the new album],” he explains. “We’re going to tour this record now and that’ll be it. We’ll stop and start again.” The danger it seems is a fear of producing an overly similar sound to that found on their debut. “A lot of bands after touring relentlessly just get lost. We’re not a band who can write songs on the road in the back of a van. We need to get back home”

These final words are obviously weighing heavily at the front of the singer’s mind. As much a sign of fatigue as an eagerness to move on, he simply wants to be off the road and getting on with a well-deserved break. 

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