I’m going to bring up the P-word now. You told NME the Paramore grind was bringing you down. The actual quote was, “I had a lot of negative feelings toward music. It was the thing that took me away from my family and my home, and I felt like it cost me my childhood. Now I see it as a blessing and I don’t regret it, but I needed a year to see it like that.” Subconsciously, do you see HalfNoise as some kind of psychic backdrop for your adulthood? Because you’re actively going beyond the linear verse-chorus-verse structure that’s part and parcel of the pop-rock scene. Do you feel what you’re creating now is a reaction to that?
I have a two-part answer for that. The first part is, it’s hard to not be misquoted, but I think [NME] did a fairly good job of getting what I said. I guess that quote is pretty fair, but it was more along the lines of I was really relieved that through the time I had off, I could see it for what it was and how it actually really was a great experience. I don’t regret [being in Paramore] at all.
But to answer your question about my subconscious: I don’t think it’s subconscious at all. I’m very aware of it. I think when every artist creates, it has to do with the season of life they’re in. That’s how I write. I’m sure not everybody does that. It’s not very therapeutic in a way like, “Oh, I need this music to help me get through what I went through while being on tour.” It was more life experience and life disappointment. Life still happens while you’re on tour. The therapeutic avenue I took was not because of Paramore as a band; it was because of personal experience. So everything I sing about, whether it happened during the time of Paramore or post-Paramore, had to do with personal experience. This whole project is just expressing to people the kind of music that really moved me and hopefully someone else will have that same experience that I got from listening to music similar to HalfNoise. I try to write what I’m feeling in the moment.
I wasn’t really trying to sound incredibly mature or brilliant. I was just trying to be myself and say, “This is what I’m into, and this is how I am.” I grew up a ton in these past few years. I’m 22: I’m at an age where I’m just discovering who I am as a person. It’s been a vital past two years of my life as a young man. I’ve definitely grown up personally, musically and definitely stepping away from all I’ve known. Paramore was all I knew. We started doing showcases and things when I was 13 years old, so I definitely needed to take a break from that for a little bit, step back and grow up and to make music on top of that. There’s no doubt it’s going to sound different.
You were the drummer in a popular pop-rock band and here you are completely front and center, putting yourself out there in a big way. Point blank: Are you terrified?
Let me tell you, it was so nerve-wracking. I got the call from Daniel and my friend Gavin who plays drums in Paper Route. Daniel was like, “Man, you can sing. You can do it,” totally helping me out. Huge blessing, but I was like, “Dude, I don’t want anyone to hear this,” but the more time went on I decided I’m really proud of this and I want to give it a shot. They gave me a call and they were like, “Hey, Canon Blue and Paper Route are doing a tour, and we’d like HalfNoise to open up. We’ll be your band,” because I hadn’t put a band together yet. I was like, “Oh man, I don’t know.”
I have to be honest, though. We went to the first show, and I went to the stage for the first time I’ve sung in front of anybody ever. We were in Philadelphia and there are, like, 300 kids at this show, and I have to open my mouth and sing. I’m like, “I’m either going to choke and nothing’s going to come out, or I’ll do fine.” Those were the only two options I gave myself, and I did fine. So it was absolutely terrifying, but at the same time, I had this peace, and I was chilled about it.
I’m pretty confident in the state of mind and place I’m at in my life right now. I’ve dealt with criticism in the past, so I’m kind of used to rolling with the punches. The hardest thing for me to get over was singing live. I did those shows and everyone was super-encouraging. I’m not Jeff Buckley, but it was definitely a really cool experience. This whole thing has been a learning curve for sure, but it’s been really good at the same time.
Are you forming an honest-to-God band of other folks since your buddies probably have different schedules than yours? What’s the plan?
The guys I’ve asked to play with me are full-time members of their own bands. But the thing with HalfNoise was, I never thought it would be a huge touring entity. I thought it would be more of a production/artistic outlet for me.
I envision that at some point, HalfNoise wouldn’t be a touring band, but I would love for some of the songs to be on a soundtrack or in a documentary or something like that. When you put your music out, people want to see you play it, so I’ve had some offers and I have some potential shows in the future. Luckily, as far as I know right now, all the shows I need to do, those guys can do. Their schedules are aligning, but if it ever got to the point where I’m doing a two-month tour with this band, I’m definitely going to have to find some guys around town and definitely put something together.
Does any of what you’re doing right now inform Novel American, the band you have with your brother, Josh? What’s his take on HalfNoise?
He’s really proud of me. We’ve both had separate projects happening simultaneously. I love my brother so much. We have such a great connection with music and playing together. Honestly, HalfNoise is such a dear project to me, I definitely want to keep it separate from anything I do in the future, and that’s what I was saying about keeping it as more of a production thing and a creative outlet for me. Not that I couldn’t be creative in a band with Josh, say, Novel American or whatever we end up doing in the future. But this has always been special to me, and he respected that and he’s super-supportive.
But at the same time, I love playing drums. Performing drums live is something I love, too. I’d love, in the future, to be able to do a bit of both, tour with Novel American or whatever we do here as a drummer. Right now, I’m just letting it do it’s own thing. I’m not putting any expectation on [HalfNoise], and I’m just trying to enjoy the process and the experience. Who knows? Maybe I’ll do this full-time for the rest of my music career or maybe I’ll do this and play drums with a band and tour. I’m not too sure yet. Right now, it’s just exciting because it’s something new and different.
So Novel American aren’t going to cover HalfNoise’s “Free The House”?
Not as of right now, because I don’t know if I can—like Phil Collins—sing and play drums at the same time.
While chewing a stick of gum.
Maybe I can do that. But they’re definitely going to be separate. [Laughs.] alt