half•alive are changing the role of the music video in 2019
The role of a music video has altered and evolved a lot over the years and for some artists, it’s become more important than others.
For Californian trio half•alive it plays a pivotal role in immersing the listeners into the visual universe that they’re building around their debut album Now, Not Yet.
Josh Taylor (vocals), Brett Kramer (drums) and J Tyler Johnson (bassist) have not shied away from delivering something that is experimental, DIY and unique at heart within their artistry.
“If you can allow yourself to get past just bopping along to the music and read into the lyrics, you will discover that there is a deeper meaning in the music and realise there’s something else grounding us and making us want to connect with people,” Taylor tells TMN.
“It starts to connect the dots between the merch, the music videos, the live shows and the posts on socials. All of those is how we build that world.”
This has been a vision that has been intact since the very beginning. With the release of their debut EP 3 the band weren’t playing shows and had no plan to. They were focusing everything on the video side of things and establishing a connection with their listeners first.
“With Josh having a background in film, there were definitely some internal ways to create spaces that allowed us to push into that and build an audience through the video aspect.
“Once we guessed there was a strong enough audience, we started to play live shows. We didn’t want to play to staggering empty rooms because that would be uninspiring for us as creatives,” Johnson explains, of the bold decision to withhold live performances from their schedule.
“I think one aspect of where the band even started was a focus on knowing how much videos actually drive things in general in our culture and how people connect with art, it’s very multi-medium now,” he adds.
It was a gamble that has paid off. With their first world tour being a massive success, the band are returning to North America to play venues that are double, triple and quadruple the size they were playing before, including a sold-out night at the historic Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles.
Learning to have faith in their vision, they realised that videos allow them to show so much more of their identity and immediately did that through ‘The Fall’ and ‘still feel.’.
“To me it seems that music videos are there to help build the character of the band and build the identity of whatever the artist is,” says Taylor.
“I think a lot of it happens through the music but it’s just like phone calls, you can’t know someone through a phone call like you can through face to face. So it seems that the visual side of things fuels so much of the character and getting to know the band past the message in the music.”
Inspired by the likes of the ‘Tilted’ music video by Christine And The Queens and the Odyssey film by Florence + The Machine, they have strived to deliver something really different and bold.
“We’ve learnt that If you’re really intentional with the music video and commit to an idea then it can be really powerful mashed with the song,” Kramer explains.
A great example of the band’s creative direction is through the music video for ‘Arrow’. They all cite that video shoot as the most difficult and gruelling one yet. Through Taylor directing and starring in the video and the creation of a very ambitious set, they found themselves having to hope for the best.
“All three rooms had to be built in a way that it used most of our budget. And we didn’t have time for me to watch the shots so I just had to hope that we got it and keep moving on” Taylor explains of the harsh time constraints.
“Certain spaces were literally being made as we were filming in another space. We were filming in the kitchen while the bathroom was being built. It was so different to us, so we have to learn to live in the moment a little,” adds Johnson.
Their unique vision has drawn a lot of praise but criticism has also been brought up surrounding their DIY approach. They admit that they don’t pay too much attention to comments because they find the culture behind them a little uninspiring. However they do cite constructive criticism as something they are open to instead of everyone just saying something is amazing.
“When some of the videos have come out and people comment on it saying ‘what the heck is going on?’, that has made me stop and think about how we could’ve explained the storyline and concept better, which is really helpful,” Taylor says.
The band started releasing their music through streaming only. They didn’t want people to pay for their music, so they just gave it away for free on streaming platforms.
It was their way of making a commentary on the evolution of the music industry that Kramer describes as one that is changing in a big way. “Streaming definitely killed the old industry but I do think a new industry is being born from it which is why we are trying to be innovative with our releases”.
Learning to navigate their way, they are trying to continually push boundaries and create something that is not necessarily the “normal” way. They’re even doing this by the incorporation of dance in their live shows. Taylor admits that people are still shocked when they come and see them live and witness the genre-bending performance because it is an unexpected thing to see from a band.
With their debut album Now, Not Yet out now, they are hoping to continue to propel listeners into the visual world they’ve created with the same amount of intention and authenticity they’ve had so far and keep the praise of industry heavyweights like Zane Lowe coming.