I don’t know about you, but I can never get enough Southern sludge. So when I heard that Horseback and Caltrop drummer John Crouch, former Horseback guitarist/singer Nora Rogers, and Fin Fang Foom bassist Eddie Sanchez had formed a North Carolina-based stoner trio of their own entitled Solar Halos, I was very excited to see what they had concocted. With Rogers heading up the lead vocals, the album emits some Kylesa vibes, but the music’s heavy-yet-slow vibrato rings truer to Horseback and their past split-mates, Locrian. I spoke with Rogers via email about the making of record and what else they have coming up in 2014.
Tell me about the name Solar Halos.
I was on a researching bender reading about Walpurgis Nacht and witches gathering on the Brocken in Germany which lead to these stunning images of the Brocken Spectre, long human shadows cast on low clouds with prismatic halos. Solar halos are an optical phenomenon that happens around the sun when ice crystals are present in the upper atmosphere. I found the images of them really evocative because I am fascinated by the coexistence of opposites, ice with sun, and earth science with myth/religion.
How has living/playing music in Chapel Hill shaped your stoner rock sound?
Compared to maintaining a band in New York City, having a band in Chapel Hill has very few obstacles. We all have vehicles and have a cheap practice space, although we did play with gloves on last practice because there is no heat. The pace here is pretty laid back and really supportive of musicians, so the area has been a hub to lots of creative talent. There is a lot of overlap between band members and a continually growing number of bands of all genres. We do tend to play shows locally with heavier bands in the area like MAKE, Mourning Cloak, Black Skies, and Bitter Resolve.
John and Nora, you’ve collaborated together before in Horseback. How does the dynamic of that band compare to this one?
Horseback is Jenks Miller’s project, so the songs were mostly written beforehand. Some things evolved through improvisation and our own particular playing styles were encouraged, but the framework for the song and general vibe were predetermined. Solar Halos started very casually, seeing what would happen if we combined forces, so we chose to collaboratively write songs. This approach isn’t as streamlined and might move a little slower, but we explore things as a collective, not setting many parameters before writing and figuring it out by being in the same room together.
With this being your debut album, the three of you haven’t recorded as Solar Halos together before (I assume). What mindset did you go into the recording process with and how did that change as you went through it?
We all have known each other for many years so even from our earliest practices the energy has been very positive and familiar. I think we felt really confident going into the studio because we had already recorded some demos of four of the songs. Since we were comfortable in the studio environment we were able to focus on getting the right takes, making sure the feeling was right. We knew we wouldn’t have to micromanage anything. Inevitably someone always get stuck on some part of a song when you have a limited time to record, but I think our ability to joke around with each other kept the mood light and our focus on task so that we could work through those moments.
Can you tell me more about who does the songwriting, arranging etc. in the band?
I think we have a very collaborative band model where we see a journey for a song and trust each other to choose our own path with the greater good of the song in mind. The seed of a song is usually a riff that we explore for a few practices recording jams to see what direction the song should move. Our song writing is often really slow because we give every idea a solid try, often drastically changing the direction of a song. We always write the music first then I go back and listen for the vocal melodies and rhythm. I think the movement and structures of our songs on this album coincide with how my mind thinks spatially and geographically. All of the lyrics were inspired by images of places and scientific phenomena related to Earth.
After next week’s album release, what does Solar Halos have coming up in 2014?
We have a split 10” with Irata on Crimson Eye Records that should be out in the next few months and we continue to write songs for our next album. Once we get the van situation, the main problem being we don’t have one, sorted out we would love to do some travelling.
Solar Halos’ self-titled debut LP comes out next week on January 20th, and we are delighted to stream it in full for you a week early. Listen below and pre-order it via CD or clear vinyl HERE.