While Half the Animal have only been around for just more than a year, the poppy foursome have made quite a splash with their catchy brand of alternative rock. Plenty of groups spend their first couple of years trying to work their way out of the garage, but Half the Animal were born out of a shift in the musical stylings of Open Air Stereo, a band you might remember from MTV’s venture into OC-based programming, Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County.
Even before front man Chase Johnson and drummer Nick Gross were getting caught up in the televised high-school drama of the rich and obnoxious, the two were musical soulmates. It was their chemistry that made Open Air Stereo a success for several years, and—with their new shift in songwriting and the additions of bassist Evan Smith (who’s toured with bands such as Silversun Pickups and Chromeo) and guitarist Dan Graham—it has also been the backbone of Half the Animal. “Nick and I were in catechism class together when we were, like, 13 or 14, and we started getting kicked out on purpose to go talk about music and stuff,” Johnson says. “I needed a drummer, he told me he played drums, and since the first time we started playing together, we haven’t spent much time away from each other. It’s like a musical marriage.”
Johnson and Gross have always been Laguna Beach residents, and surfing and beautiful women are the two most important things outside of music, according to the vocalist. Although he may not be writing romantic seaside ballads for too many Half the Animal tracks, he’d still rather spend time on the beach than in the studio most days. “I don’t think it correlates into lyrics all the time, but [the beach] is a big part of the feel of how we make our music,” Johnson says. “Growing up by the ocean, it’s a really spiritual, medicinal aspect to what we do. The ocean means a lot to us, and we’re very blessed to have been able to wake up every morning and see it.”
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In addition to releasing their debut EP, Shapes, Half the Animal are also offering a behind-the-scenes web series to give fans a more intimate look into the band. Considering that Johnson and company know more than their fair share of documentarians and camera crews, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. “When we were kids, we all wanted to know certain things about our favorite bands like Incubus and Blink-182,” Johnson says. “We wanted to know what they ate and drank, what kind of clothes they wore, to just see them in their natural habitat. To see all of that, we had to wait for their DVDs with extra bonus footage to come out. Now, with YouTube and Vimeo, we’re able to show people how we live our lives. We really want the fans to feel connected and be connected.”
For those who want to connect in-person, Wednesday is the last opportunity for fans to catch Half the Animal’s residency at the Wayfarer in Costa Mesa. Not only has it been a great way for the relatively new band to get some extra shows under their belt, but it’s also been a way to expose more potential fans to their music. “The first show was just kind of a warmup, but the last one was great and really packed,” Johnson says. “As with any residency, it’s a really good live rehearsal for upcoming tours. It’s cool to play to fans and old friends that never get to see you.”
Half the Animal perform this Wednesday at the Wayfarer in Costa Mesa. More information is available on the venue's website.