When producer Stephen Shannon made “Another Way of Being There” with his band Halfset, the most he had hoped for was a “review in The Irish Times and a few sales in some record shops.”
Instead, the album, a stunning collection of electronica, received rave reviews in the Irish press. The Irish Independent called it the best Irish album of 2008. And in January, Halfset were nominated for the prestigious Choice Music Awards, an award chosen by a panel of media professionals.
“When we started off we didn’t have any ambitions,” said the 36 year-old Co. Wicklow. “We knew we just wanted to make a record.”
Halfset are a four piece made up of Stephen Shannon, Jeff Martin, Sinead Nic Gearailt, and Cillian McDonnell. All four are multi-instrumentalists and come from a rich variety of musical backgrounds.
Jeff Martin, a Dublin native who has released three solo albums, met Shannon in 2001, when he was enlisted to record Martin’s first solo album. That collaboration eventually led to Halfset’s 2005 debut “Dramanalog.” Nic Gearailt and McDonnell were invited to join the group on tour, and then asked to work on the album that would become “Another Way of Being There.”
Although the phrase “easy-listening” is generally used in a negative sense, Halfset’s “Another Way of Being There” is precisely that: it grabs you on the first listen, absorbing you with its layers of gorgeous guitar hooks and hypnotic synthesizers.
The second track, “A Place to Stay” is a case in point, and sounds not too far removed from Irish singer and composer, David Kitt.
Some reviewers have compared the band to Mogwai and Sigur Rós – comparisons that Shannon rejects – although he acknowledges some similarities with British electronic duo, Lemon Jelly.
“Broadly speaking I guess we are a kind of post-rock of band,” says Shannon. “When we put the record out I thought people would find it hard to categorize.”
The band are currently on tour in Ireland – and Shannon admits that the band’s live performances can be technically challenging.
“We all play three or four instruments when we are on stage, we are always swapping things around,” he says. “Whatever we can’t play we roll out from a computer. It’s very challenging and takes a lot more rehearsal and takes us a good two and half hours to set up – but it’s worth it because when it goes well, it’s great. And live it what we are all about.