If you loved Half the Animal‘s single “Babylon,” get ready to fall in love with a whole new layer of it, thanks to the acoustic version. Chase Johnson, Nick Gross, Evan Smith and Dan Graham are the voices behind this not yet one-year-old project.
We spent a few minutes with frontman Chase, and he filled us in on the (literally) colorful way he sees the new songs as well as the two meanings behind the band name. Check out the SHAPES EP, the acoustic video, and the interview below.
Vinyl Mag: So tell me a little bit about how this project came about.
Chase Johnson: Nick and I met in Catechism class when we were 14, and we’re 28 now, so a long time ago! We’d get kicked out on purpose to talk about music, and finally we just thought, “hey, wanna do a band thing?” I was like, “I sing,” and he was like “I drum.” I already had like a little group set up at elementary school. So, we started from there and had a band called Open Air Stereo for a really long time, did some great things with that. And then we took a break from Open Air Stereo, and it led to Half the Animal. We started writing all these songs, and we felt a whole new birth, a whole new sound for us, and it felt really good; it felt different. We felt new. We’re a lot less rock now, there’s a lot more pop-driven kind of stuff going on. So, we wanted that to pull through, and with Open Air Stereo there was a whole lot of rock stigma going on so we felt that a change was good.
VM: What’s the biggest strength that each member brings to the table?
CJ: We all have our strengths. Nick is the business mindset and an amazing drummer, obviously. Evan is the most amazing sound-tech guy that there is. He actually owns a production company for live shows. And he holds down the low-end obviously … everyone holds down their instruments. Dan is an incredible guitarist, and between me, Dan and Nick we all write a lot of music ourselves, for the band, for other people. Dan is an amazing writer–he’s always got his laptop and making beats, making everything—and we all collaborate on finishing the song. And then for me, I’m the crazy, outgoing lead singer, I guess! I keep getting pegged as that, but I guess that’s kind of what I signed up for. I always love talking to people and getting to know people. I love engaging with fans, and I love hearing their stories. And then I also do fashion/editorial photography, and I’ve done some photography for the band, too, and then I’m also a writer as well.
VM: How do you combine those strengths and backgrounds into a cohesive sound?
CJ: You know, I don’t know how we do it. We just do it, and it works. Even though Dan’s fairly new to the band and the project has only been around since July, there’s this cohesiveness because we’ve all done other stuff outside of it. We brought all of our experience to the table, and I think that’s a collective thing we have together.
VM: What’s the history behind the band name?
CJ: I have my own perception, and then Nick has his own. For me … I love researching human behavior, and I feel like everything in life—especially if you live a creative life—everything I’ve done well at has been a little bit off the cuff and making quick decisions and going with your gut, going with your animal instinct. We all have it–not in like a crazy person negative way, but in the positive way. Using that animal that you have in you to do great things in life is really important. So that’s what it is to me. For Nick, he has this buddy who does a bunch of broker stuff in New York–he’s a big business guy. Nick was on the phone with him one day, and he said, “Man, if I’m half the animal you are, I’m going to live a very great life.” So, those are the two ways that we rationalize it, I guess!
VM: I know you guys just released the SHAPES EP at the end of last month! If you had to describe it in one tweet, what would you say?
CJ: Each song on the SHAPES EP has its own shape and its own color. “Babylon” is blue, “Saturday Night” is bright red, “If You Want My Love” is green.
VM: What makes “Babylon” blue?
CJ: “Babylon” can be conceived to me as a love song or a struggle song or an empowerment song. I want it to be open to interpretation for everyone–if you’ve had a struggle with drugs, alcohol, love, just life in general. As we all know, Babylon was the most amazing, advanced, beautiful place, and it fell one day. It took a long time to build it, and then it fell. For me, there were some things going on in my life–half of it’s for the woman I was with for a long time and the other half is for some choices that I made that weren’t the best in life. It’s that whole thing of thinking that’s the most amazing thing in the whole world, oh my god it feels so good, and then it falls. And I don’t think there’s any gray area with blue, which I know is confusing because I’m talking about colors. But blue like the ocean–the ocean’s the best thing in the world. Blue can be a really good feeling, or blue can be like having the blues. It’s a bit of both. I’ve listened to the song before and was like, “Oh, that’s kind of heavy.” And then I listened to it again and think, “it’s uplifting!” It’s very moody.
VM: What made you choose that song for an acoustic performance video?
CJ: Other than it being the single, I think we would’ve chosen that song regardless, because it translates. We kind of do it a little differently acoustic to change it up a little bit to give it a new little bit of life. Bringing a new light to a song (especially a single) that everyone’s going to be hearing so much … it’s really cool to get a different viewpoint for it.
VM: Which version do you like better?
CJ: Personally, I like playing it all out live. I love it; it’s so much fun. I love acoustic music, but with my ADD I want to jump around all the time. But I’m kind of digging the acoustic; it’s fun! It was almost like a challenge for me mentally to do which is cool. I always accept a challenge.
VM: Would you say it’s your favorite song to perform live?
CJ: I do love to perform “Babylon.” I love playing “If You Want My Love” live; it’s so different. It’s a little bit more jazzy and kind of vibey, which I love. But live, I have a couple favorites. “Saturday Night” I like to play live and then a couple new ones that aren’t out yet that we play. We have one called “Shapes” that’s really fun that people are digging a lot, and then a song called “People in the Room.” But yea, I could say “Babylon” is a favorite.
VM: Which song was your favorite to write and record?
CJ: “Babylon,” absolutely. I got to get out some stuff.
VM: What do you hope audience members walk away with when they leave your show?
CJ: I hope they feel like they just saw a great music show. I hope they feel emotions from the songs … we just want people to feel good after they see us, and excited and definitely wanting more. We pride ourselves on our live show–we love to perform so we want them to feel good, great, amazing!