In November of 2015 Josh Taylor, lead singer of The Moderates, a band that originated in Long Beach, California, decided to go on a seven-month song-writing program to write 50 songs. Joining him were Brett Kramer, a friend of Taylor’s from his non-denominational church, and J Tyler Johnson with whom both Kramer and Taylor had a connection. Kramer and Johnson met while performing at music festivals during their university days and had even won a jazz competition together. Taylor, on the other hand, met Kramer through his own brother.
So began half•alive.
It was evident they’d stumbled upon something great. In 2016, they officially formed the band as they watched the songs they wrote together come alive and evolve. “We slowly worked through songs together, taking our time until we were ready to record the 3 EP,” they say, looking back on the experience. “We decided to record in the Mojave desert and realised there that we had something special.”
The Moderates disbanded in April of 2017 with half•alive releasing their first single, “The Fall,” that same month. Their debut EP, 3, was released on the same day as well and has amassed over 6 million streams on Spotify so far. What set this indie-pop band apart from the rest from the get-go was the inclusion of dance within their music videos.
“Dance integrated itself into the character of the band quite seamlessly,” they explain. “Josh’s friendship with Jordan Johnson of JA Collective sparked the first notion of choreography in the aawake at night music video. After such a positive experience with that touch of dance, we decided to go full out and have JA choreograph an entire video for us, being still feel. None of us in the band have had any real dance training. Josh moves the most out of us three and interacts with JA’s choreo in the live show, but it seems like for all three of us our openness to movement has really been the biggest motivation for how much dance is integrated into our aesthetic now.”
With the success of the EP and their breakout single, ‘Still Feel’, it was time for an album. The boys went hard at work to create something unique that they could put out for their growing fanbase. “It’s the first opportunity we’ve had to really let people into the character of half•alive, and it’s filled to the brim with intentionality and carries an essential message – the only way to change culture is through a story. So all throughout this album, we are telling stories with the aim of shaping the culture around us as well as the culture within us.”
“Within the narrative of the art direction, we’re presenting Now, Not Yet as a place,” they continue regarding their upcoming debut album. “Welcome to Beautiful, Now Not Yet… a town where unusual signs of beauty breakthrough, but only those who are aware will notice. Here, polar opposites often exist in the same space – the extraordinary and the ordinary, the broken and whole, the growing and the dying. It’s the allegorical narrative we’ll continue to grow throughout the album’s lifetime.”
Since the group began through songwriting as a team, they reveal what they focus on while writing together. “We write lyrics with specific intention and thoughtfulness on a topic that we hope can find itself to most universal experiences. The lyrics come from moments that are personal to us that we try to respond by speaking into a topic to bring life and courage into challenging situations or perspectives.”
Earlier this year, they performed still feel on Jimmy Kimmel Live, making their late-night television debut. Speaking on the experience, the band says, “Performing on Jimmy Kimmel was a stepping-stone moment for us. We were met with support throughout the entire team that basically said we trust your vision, do what you want, and be as creative as you can. We left that night feeling proud and honoured to have been given the creative freedom and support to bring a different type of live show with a full band and choreography.”
Going forward, half•alive is set to go on a UK tour this November. They’re playing shows at London’s Electric Brixton, Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester. The band is hoping to grow their UK fanbase along with their US one, though, they might already be headed there. Back in February, they had to change venues from Camden Assembly to Dingwalls because the soaring demand to see them was so overwhelming.
“We’re looking forward to revisiting the cities from our first tour and performing the entire record for our fans,” they say. “We’re very excited to perform our great new song, Breakfast Club. It incorporates the most collaboration with JA collective and really pops off live. As we sing the songs night after night, we are both singing to an audience and to ourselves, as we are often forgetful creatures, hoping that the message simultaneously takes root in the listener’s heart and our own hearts.”
Photographer: Muffadal Abbas
Stylist: Paolo Cassab
H&MUA: Laura Pusey
*Originally published inside Volume #32*