With an eerily psychedelic sound, Half Loon – Aidan Clough, Andrew Saunders, George Latham and Daniel Alexander Pickard – are a London-based band that defy genre. Their beautifully unsettling sound has been pinned as art pop; as have their off-kilter videos – like Ruth, in which frontman Daniel dons a dress and explores an alter ego. But the five-piece don’t mind how their listeners absorb and interpret their sound. “I wish for people to describe it as they hear it,” says Daniel. “I wouldn’t like to think everyone hears it in the same room, so to speak.”
Daniel himself has spent a lot of time in one same room, writing most material at home with nothing but four walls and a dictaphone to record his thoughts. Following the success of their latest single, The Quip Class, which was released in March, they unleash their new EP (the first of a two-part story) this week. With a pop-inspired sound that’s cleverly coated with the band’s signature dark overtones, it’s clear that Half Loon are carving their own sonic path. Here, Daniel reflects on the band’s influences and what’s on the horizon.
Natalie Walsh: Let’s start at the beginning. Can you tell me a bit about your background before Half Loon and how you all met?
Daniel Alexander Pickard: I was playing on my own for a while, you’d find me in a stodgy, empty and sodden Camden pub with an acoustic guitar before Half Loon. Aidan was recommended to me by a mutual friend and I’ve known George for a few years and finally managed to poach him and his tranquility. We all seem to have a similar melancholic resonance to our characters but we reveal it in different ways. Perhaps it’s down to the different areas of London we live in.
Natalie: Your sound has been described by many as ‘psychedelic’ but how would you describe the sound of Half Loon?
Daniel: There are influences of psychedelia on the sound but we are not a psychedelic band. With the upcoming EP, I quite like the idea of it sounding as if it could be the soundtrack to some cat-and-mouse thriller, set in a theatre, like Fredrick Knott’s Wait Until Dark, where three con-men try to obtain the secret contents hidden inside a doll by manipulating a blind woman, but she uses her heightened senses to combat them by turning the lights out. But that’s my take on it, I wish for people to describe it as they hear it. I wouldn’t like to think everyone hears it in the same room, so to speak.
Natalie: The video for Ruth is very interesting. Can you tell us a bit more about the song and how you came to the idea for the video?
Daniel: The song depicts a painful realisation that time can kill a relationship, not only heal one. Monica (Director) and I tried to keep a broad-minded approach with ideas. I suppose the video is a connotation of an example as to why the friendship halted, and over time as one evolves, we can upset those who we believe to be our closest companions, by mere evolution.
Natalie: Your new single Quip Class has a somewhat haunting feel to it, especially paired with the video. Where did the influence for this song and the sound come from?
Daniel: Surrealism is the big leverage with this, and the choice of a falsetto vocal to relay an unabridged, spur-of-the-moment writing felt like something I had to get out of my system. It was about creating a character for it, which is why it was important it was over soon.
Natalie: I read that literature is a big inspiration for your music…
Daniel: I like words, and have done since my late teens. I was a very shy child and poetry snapped me out of it, for example the surrealistic elements I’ve flirted with I put down to the influence of Artaud, Breton and more recently David Gascoyne. My interpretations of Oscar Wilde, Friedrich Nietzsche and Charles Baudelaire are romantic and they accompany me most days.
Natalie: Musically, who has influenced your journey as a songwriter and musician?
Daniel: I love truly great songwriters who never quite give it you easy. Ray Davies, Neil Young and Serge Gainsbourg come to mind. Soundtrack and innovative composers such as Michael Nyman, Francois De Roubaix are currently significant, I’d like Half Loon to work with Yann Tiersen at some point.
Natalie: Are there any gigs that you’ve played that have stuck with you as being a particular favourite?
Daniel: Our most recent show felt like playing at a well-organised house party and we’ve never seen people dance as they did before that night. We enjoyed that. I think the last few shows, which includes the European dates, Amsterdam and Berlin in particular, have been the most favourable because there seems to be a newly found confidence in the performance.
Natalie: What can people expect to hear from your latest EP?
Daniel: Four pop songs, a swooping of light and dark ambience. It’s the first part of a two-part story.
Half Loon’s ‘EP 1: Thank You For Leaving’ is out now.