Halou

Some bands spend years cultivating a loyal fan base in the San Francisco Bay Area before making their way into the national music community, and some seem to bypass the local scene alltogether, either because their style doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere or because they were catapulted into the spotlight before the local scene could take hold. San Francisco's Halou is a product of the former.

As they celebrate their twelfth year as a band, husband and wife team Rebecca and Ryan Coseboom and producer Count have seemed to find general recognition nationally, but remain unknown by many local music gurus. In an email interview with Ryan, he explained that he thinks the band just never quite fit in to any one scene.

“We’ve always kept up on music and ideas from all over and I think that has been an important factor in us identifying more with things very much outside of the San Francisco area, whatever those may be,” he said. “I’m not sure we really fit in anywhere. We’ve managed to somehow keep to the side of pretty much every fad that has come along, and we’re fine with that.”

But that’s not to say the band doesn’t have a strong following. Halou has just returned from a nationwide tour with Bob Mould (most famously known for Hüsker Dü), and Count’s mixes have been played across the country, including a Rod Stewart remix that made it to #1 on the Billboard charts. Also, their video for the 2006 song “Everything is OK” got lots of attention during the YouTube Underground contest:

Count was also on a panel at last year’s CMJ festival about remixing, amidst general demand for his production services among such performers as DJ Shadow and Blackalicious.

Halou’s most recent project is The Sawtooth EP, a collection of six songs that have a slightly different feel. The same effected guitars and smooth vocals pervade the songs, but this time with a bit less of a purely electronic core.

“The new music definitely has a shift in focus,” Ryan said. “We’re still working in the same way, but I started writing all the songs with guitar and bass – as opposed to software instruments and samplers as I have previously done. So, this time we approached things in reverse, sort of. The result, surprisingly, is that it sounds like Halou, but with enough of a twist to keep it fresh and interesting. I simply couldn’t make another record the same way. It wasn’t working.”

Here's a clip from the song "Evensong" from the new EP:

[audio:http://www.halou.com/sawtooth_clips/evensongclip.mp3]
Click here to download the full song.

Though the band has long since used electronic elements, the change in sound has a lot to do with how those elements are incorporated, not only in songwriting but in recording.

“All the new songs were recorded in a studio with an actual drum kit and guitars, bass, etc,” Ryan said. “However, when we perform live, Count plays a mainly electronic kit that allows us to have the exact drums sounds that were on the record – he’s triggering the actual samples from a laptop. My guitar, also, instead of going through an amp, is being run through a laptop so that I have a lot of control over the complex effects that I need for the songs.”

The Bay Area’s opportunity to see these complex live setups is here – Halou is doing a residency at Café du Nord starting this Wednesday with Michael Zapruder. The following two Wednesdays they will perform with The Drift and Nyles Lannon. All of the shows start at 9pm and are $10/$12. Though the typical Halou visuals may not be present, Ryan was enthusiastic about the shows:

“We’ll be playing plenty of songs,” he said, “and we’ve got a couple of the best guys we’ve ever played with up on stage with us, so I’m excited about that.”

The band is mysteriously working on a new album – the only information they have released is that it will be entitled “Halou,” have 14 tracks and have a blue cover. Though that doesn’t help much as far as what to expect, it’s just enough to make the musical taste buds salivate for what the band may come up with next.