INTERVIEW: Half Waif chats “form/a” and 2017 focus!

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Last night, I headed out to Great Scott here in Boston to talk to Half Waif a.k.a Nandi Rose Plunkett and I was instantly charmed. Half Waif is about to release their new EP “form/a” and with the first European run on the books, it was the perfect time to chat with this talented band. For our chat, we made it casual on some bar stools and talked everything new music as well as the near future for the band! Find it below and check out “form/a”, dropping on February 24th!

You’re in a really crazy time right now.
It’s a crazy time! It’s really exciting.
You’re going to Europe for the first time.
Yeah it’s Half Waif’s first run in Europe. We leave next week. We’re doing this run of four East Coast shows right now with Forth Wanderers. Yeah then we head out for two and a half, three weeks in Europe. Like a week in Spain so we’re really excited about that. Seems like a good time of year to go to Spain.

Then maybe for these shows, if people haven’t seen your band before, maybe why should they come out? What should they expect?
Yeah we put a lot of care into setting up our live show. If you listen to the recordings, they are a lot of electronics and I write a lot on the computer and arrange and produce on the computer. Live, we’re very much a band. So our challenge as a trio is always how do we recreate these very multi-layered soundscapes into this live setting and make it visceral and still feel full but not necessarily just me playing with backing tracks. So it’s a really cool interplay of electronics and acoustic instruments and we really try to blend those two elements to feel like something kind of new and exciting.

Then I wanted to ask. You released music pretty recently in 2016 but as talked about, you have a new EP coming out in February. You’ve released the first single. Maybe how long has this EP kind of been in the works for you?
It seems like it’s actually been fast in the scheme of things. I know artists often will work on something for a while and certainly with my last record that I put out, “Probable Depths” in May, it had been finished the previous July. So it was almost a year between when I had finished it and when I released it. And some of those songs I had written even years before that. But I really felt like with this EP, not that I wanted to rush it, it’s just that I’m writing all the time. I have a lot of ideas and I don’t want to be tied down to one single sound. Like I want to constantly keep innovating and pushing myself more and challenging myself. So with this EP, I wrote most of the songs a year ago and recorded it in the spring. Finished it over the summer and soon after that, signed to Cascine Records and now this first single is coming out. So it’s only kind of been a yearlong process which feels fast but also, exciting. I want to just keep sharing things and keep building momentum.

And you say how you don’t want to get stuck. You want to be able to progress with your sound. Do you think there’s still a song on this EP that like screams Half Waif or something you think is pretty different?
I think it does sound like a continuation of the previous album because there wasn’t such a long time between those two recordings. To me, it feels like a direct extension. It still feels sort of experimenting with some of the same techniques but hopefully they sound more fined or a little bit more crafted. But with this next record, which we’re already starting to work on, we’re going to be recording it with a live band, as a full band for the first time. Bringing in live drums which I haven’t really had in the past. It’s been almost all electronic drums. So we’re already starting to think about the next one. I do want the next album to feel or sound even more like a departure. So I’m kind of already thinking what are some techniques I can use that I haven’t done before. That really feel different. Where as “form/a” feels like the next step from “Probable Depths”, I want the next album to feel like a leap.

No that’s great and you talked about how this will be the first time you bring real drums, the band into the studio. Do you think that’s going to affect the writing process?
For sure! Yeah it’s a good question and it’s already starting to happen. I trust my band mates so much and Half Waif has sort of always been my solo thing. I’ve been finding these other musicians who I get along with so well and we have a lot of musical symmetry. I trust the ideas they’re bringing into it and there’s more writing that’s happening collectively. We went up to the Catskills in August to have a writing retreat and we were there for about five or six days and we wrote a bunch of new songs. I’m still writing the lyrics and the vocal melodies but what I’m writing is now much more affected by what they’re giving me. So it’s more of a give and take and more of a push and pull. Less of a sitting alone and constructing a universe of my own. It’s more of a conversation.

And obviously not to ignore it, you are in another band and this is your solo outlet. Maybe how do you think your solo project helps you grow as an artist?
It’s wonderful having both. Aden and Zack are also in Pinegrove so yeah the three of us are really blessed I think to be a part of these two very different projects. Half Waif started when I was living with the guys in Brooklyn. It was our first year after college and we were really starting to pursue Pinegrove more seriously and I wasn’t writing much at first. But after rehearsing and playing that year with Pinegrove, I started feeling this urge to have that outlet. To figure out what do I sound like? I understand what my voice sounds like in this group of people but what do I sound like when I’m removed from that. So Half Waif sort of grew directly out of Pinegrove and it’s really just become such an important space for me to figure myself out. I mean I think we’re all kind of on this constant quest of like figuring out who we are and what we want and what we’re doing. What we believe in and for me, that is really what this project has become.
That must be cool, a supportive system obviously.
Absolutely. We’re getting to the point where it’s starting to get a little challenging with scheduling but we recognize that that’s actually a good thing. It means that both bands are getting more opportunities and we’re both getting to do what we want. But it’s hard too because you want to do it all and I want to be playing with Pinegrove as much as possible but also recognize that I got to do my thing too.

Then obviously there is a lot coming up, this is your first Europe run then you have “form/a” coming out. We’re still very early in 2017. Kind of what is maybe your game plan, your goals or your focus?
Well it’s funny. When I finished “form/a”, my thought was I was just going to put it up on Bandcamp. No fanfare, no PR. I was sort of feeling a little bit jaded about that world and so my thought was just that it was going to be this small little thing and walk away from it. Then you know we were so fortunate to sign with Cascine and start working with them. So it is becoming a little bit more of a release then I was imagining. One that I wasn’t necessarily anticipating which is cool and we’re going to run with it. We’re going to do Europe and then we’re doing SXSW. We’re playing a few showcases there. We’ve got some shows that we’re planning for March and April. Going to be writing and working on this new full length in the spring. Then hopefully just touring more through the summer and possibly going back to Europe in the fall. I think that we’re really ready to be playing a lot of shows and bringing this music to new audiences across the country and across the world. We’d love to go to Japan. Just putting that out there! I have a good friend in India and I was just messaging with him today. He was like when are you coming to India I’ll book a tour for you!

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Colleen has been writing about music since 2009. Interviewing bands since the glory days of Warped and has continued to do so for now over fourteen years. As well as doing freelance for other publications, the love for everything rock continues today.

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