By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
By Nick Keppler
By Nate Jackson
By Alex Distefano
Getting Their Wings
OC indie rock band Halos shoot for the heavens in 2010
Over a glass of Jack Daniel’s, vocalist/guitarist Dan Lyman leads an early afternoon band meeting with his Orange County indie rock quintet Halos. They’ve gathered at a faded, wooden table near the crystal blue pool behind the Newport Beach home where guitarist Zak Freedman rents a room. The musicians are assessing their goals and spit-balling ideas about what 2010 may hold for them. “We made a lot of adjustments towards the end of last year to ensure that we could come into this year with a whole new game plan, whole new focus,” Lyman says.
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In addition to the requisite recording of fresh songs and lining up local gigs, Halos have hired a new lawyer—the kind who promises to transform hobbies into careers. Relaxing under palm trees, drinking whiskey and casually puffing on cigarettes, Lyman, Freedman, John Hoge (bass/vocals), Josh Huber (keyboard) and Sam Eliopoulos (drums)—look like a band ready to ink a deal.
Since 2008, Halos have opened for Finch and Anthony Green, made two Austin, Texas, trips to South by Southwest and landed in the finals of the Airwalk’s Unsigned Hero contest. When they’re off the road, Halos rock hometown venues like the Glass House and Chain Reaction, where the band perform Tuesday. Despite these tokens of progress, the band’s future remains open. “It’s nice at this stage, not necessarily having a label looking for a single or having us go back into the studio and rewriting an entire album,” says Freedman.
Even if the big deal comes, Halos aren’t about to let record label heads—or anyone else for that matter—dictate what kind of music they make. Lyman fought authority figures as a child and isn’t about to return to a state of abject obedience. Growing up in a strict, fundamentalist Christian household in Amherst, Massachusetts, Halos’ founding member wasn’t permitted to enjoy secular music—let alone play it. Naturally, his interest in the forbidden grew. So did the tension with his parents until one day he came home during his junior year of high school to discover every music lover’s worst nightmare. “My dad had taken out and destroyed every single piece of music that I owned,” Lyman remembers. “My entire CD collection, tapes, MiniDiscs, it was probably like $1,000 worth of music. Never saw it again.”
His anguish from childhood surfaces on the song “Helium.” Tremolo guitar and frantic drums wash over Lyman’s tortured vocals. “Save his soul, sort his goals,” he yelps, “Kneeling by the bedside light each night / While I lie in the next room / Praying ‘Please get me out of here alive.’”
Lyman left his family behind at age 18, moving to New York with a band that disintegrated three years later. Around 2005 he began recording solo material, the eventual foundation for Halos. In 2006, Lyman had a management team based in Orange County that convinced him to move here to assemble a group organically through friendships and industry connections. It eventually morphed into the current lineup, which combines Lyman’s tormented, lovelorn lyrics and vulnerable vocals with melodic, guitar-centric hooks.
In November 2009, Halos teamed with friend and producer Greg Richling—better known as the Wallflowers’ bassist—to record the foundation of a possible full-length at LA’s Sound City Studios, where monster albums ranging from Nirvana’s Nevermind to Metallica’s Death Magnetic were recorded. Between sessions, the members of Halos relished the aura of their hallowed surroundings. “On the wall there were doodles that Tom Petty had drawn,” Lyman says. “That’s pretty righteous.”
Destined for an iTunes release sometime this year, the songs are a gratifying progression from Halos’ previous EPs, Helium and Scarecrow.
The sharpness of the new songs reflects the exuberance of the band’s live shows—which on occasion has spilled beyond the stage. Eliopoulos still jokes about watching Freedman dive unsuccessfully into a cluster of girls at Chain Reaction in 2008. Luckily, he gets a second try as they return there to perform at an Orange County Music Awards showcase. The band hope the high-profile date will help them build the necessary momentum to make 2010 their breakout year. Or at least the year they can quit their day jobs. “I think the goal of this year,” Lyman says, “is to be achieving the things that allow us to make music our full-time life, and [the way] we pay our bills.”
Halos with Moostache, The Colourist, The Bolts and BLOK as part of the OC Music Awards showcase series at Chain Reaction, 1652 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, (714) 635-6067; www.allages.com; www.myspace.com/halosband; Tues., 7:30 p.m. No cover. All ages.