When Half Past Two guitarist Max Beckman was diagnosed with cancer last year, one of his priorities was making sure the Orange County ska band of 10 years put out a noteworthy fifth release.
Nearly one year later, that's just what the group did. Half Past Two will release Camp Slushtone on June 22 at the second annual Ska-mic Con event, which is being put on by the group's guitarist Cameron Hallenbeck's production company, Pocket Entertainment. Less Than Jake and Reel Big Fish are scheduled to headline the two-day festival.
The album, named after the band’s original moniker, was funded using Kickstarter. It will also be distributed in January as Half Past Two's first vinyl release since the group got together in 2006. The record will be a split with their previous release, Mastering Karate.
"We've been fortunate enough to cross a lot of our aspirations off the list, but vinyl has always been one of our goals," lead vocalist Tara Hahn said. "With this new music, we just agreed it was time to make a Half Past Two vinyl."
Guitarist David Parris, a founding member of the group who recently returned to the band after an absence, said vinyl is also something "cool and unique" that he didn't see other local ska bands doing.
The band has always followed a do-it-yourself path, he said, because they are on their own label and are their own booking agents. Last month, they released a music video for "SoCal Summer," which their filmmaker friend Chris Graue directed at a neighborhood pool party.
"The ska scene around here is neat. Everybody helps each other," Hahn said. "The music video needed to be done DIY so that years down the road, we can look back and say, 'Hey, look at all of these people that believed in one another and did this really cool thing together.'"
"Camp Slushtone/Mastering Karate" includes 12 upbeat ska tracks, including a cover of The Killers' "Smile Like You Mean It."
The group recorded with David Irish of Pot Of Gold Recording. It was their fourth time working with the Orange-based studio.Irish considers the songs as "the best written and performed songs they have done to date."
"Half Past Two makes the process so easy and fun," he said. "They showed up prepared, know what they want and are open-minded to ideas." Hahn said recording their best album to date became particularly important after Beckman was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma last June.
"Immediately, everything was put on hold so we could support him through his recovery," she said of Beckman, who relapsed nearly a year after his initial diagnosis. "During that time, David stepped up and really helped us keep things going like Max wanted. I'm really grateful that we've been able to unify and complete Camp Slushtone. It means so much more because of what it took to get here."
Beckman, who was admitted to the hospital over the Fourth of July weekend and was recently released, is facing “more severe” treatment this time around, Hahn said.
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“David is learning Max’s guitar parts because, just like before, Max doesn’t want his cancer to stop Half Past Two,” she said. “He’ll be playing Ska-Mic Con because opening for Less Than Jake is a dream come true, but he has to stay really scheduled. … He’s just ready to beat this and get past it.”
The group also raised more than $800 by fans on Kickstarter for the album, meeting its initial goal of $500 in less than 24 hours.Beckman said he was grateful for the support. "It makes me want to push harder to live up to their expectations and do more and more," he said. "We're hoping to continue raising funding to add to the exclusive packages and provide even more goodies to our supporters."
"Camp Slushtone" will be released on CD and digital platforms July 22 at Ska-Mic Con for $6. The band is aiming for a January 2018 vinyl release for "Camp Slushtone/Mastering Karate."
Half Past Two will perform July 21 at Ska-Mic Con at Out of the Park Pizza in Anaheim. Tickets range from $40 to $80. For tickets, click here.