The Next Big Irish Thing
Hailing from Dublin, HAL seem to have been born in another era. Their music has a classic quality to it, an innocence that takes you back to the days when you — actually probably your parents — would spend summer afternoons at the beach and evenings at a friend’s place cooking out and listening to records. HAL sings happy songs about love and rock and roll. Mercury Rev relaxing at the beach with Brian Wilson. Brothers Dave (guitars, vocals) and Paul (bass, vocals) Allen, Steve O’Brien (keys, vocals) and Steve Hogan (drums) fuse falsetto harmonies with lovely organs, bright guitars, and enough pop percussion to pack a punch.
HAL’s music already shines brightly across the pond even though their first album has yet to be released. Over the last few months the band shared stages with the likes of Granddaddy, Starsailor, Doves, The Magic Numbers, and fellow Dubliners The Thrills. Having offered up a couple singles to European audiences, the band’s label, Rough Trade, will release HAL’s self-titled debut LP May 10th here in the States and April 24th in Europe.
Critics have lauded these guys since the band’s inception. One BBC review, for example, projects HAL will be playing Wembley Arena within a year’s time. Mostly this sort of hype means death to would-be talents. But with a masterful upcoming record, some preliminary roadworthy testing, and the European festival circuit ahead of them, HAL appears poised to take on the challenge of critical acclaim.
Recently we sat down with the band before their third U.S. date at North Six, where they opened for Blood on the Wall, Dios Malo, and the Fiery Furnaces. They played the Mercury the previous night and spent SXSW in Austin playing the Rough Trade showcase and buying guitars on South Lamar. The conversation was easy — these lads are kind, humorous, gracious, and blown away that they get to spend their time playing and talking about rock and roll music.
FREEwilliamsburg: How long have you all been playing together?
Dave: Steve and I actually started playing about six years ago. Most of the songs didn’t end up on the album.
Steve: Yeah, Paul never played an instrument before or anything, until about three years ago.
Paul: I’d be dicking around my dad’s house, and the lads would be in there making music. And I’d say, “Geez, that sounds fucking great, lads, why don’t you go and get a band together?” And the lads kind of showed me how to play a bit of bass and do a bit of singing, so we kind of started developing like that. We got ourselves a drummer and a few gigs, and here we are.
FREEwilliamsburg: Dave and Paul, your parents are folk singers?