Five men stand in a line at the front of a stage. On the far left, a backup dancer wearing a black hoodie. To the right, the guitarist wearing a striped red shirt, then the vocalist wearing a yellow jumpsuit, and then the drummer wearing a green patchwork shirt. On the far right, another backup dancer wearing a black hoodie.

Half Alive: Alt-Pop Band on the Rise

By Susannah Wilson
Music Journalist

“Are you here for the Half Alive concert?” The kid who approached me outside The Historic Scoot Inn in Austin was skinny, wearing glasses, and looked to be about 14. He and his posse instantly reminded me of my younger brothers and their high school friends.

“Yeah, we are,” I said, motioning toward my boyfriend, Max, and myself. The kid triumphantly presented me with a black Sharpie.

“Y’all are numbers 31 and 32,” he said. “Write those numbers on your hands to keep your place in line. There’s no formal line, you can stand anywhere you like.” I obliged, wondering if these kids volunteered for this task, and feeling humored at the sense of importance with which they did so.

“I’m glad we didn’t show up too early,” Max commented as we stood outside the venue. I had worried we’d show up to lines circling the block, but even as the entrance time approached, the crowd remained a modest size. We managed to reach the barricade without difficulty, which consoled us somewhat, considering we were the first two people in line who didn’t get the VIP wristbands for after-show pictures with the band.

The outdoor space did eventually fill to capacity, but the initial lack of frenzied fans surprised me. For a band gaining traction as quickly as Half Alive, I expected the crazy stan energy to emerge, but it never did (thankfully, since the experience was thus free from pushing and shoving.)

However, I predict this to change in future tours. Half Alive carries themselves with the confidence and character of a band who has already made it big time. It’s only to be expected that the fanbase will grow accordingly. Their debut album Now, Not Yet, a lyrical and aesthetic masterpiece commercially released on RCA records in August 2019, boasts production credits almost guaranteed to catapult them into national fame.

To provide a reference for the band’s sonic image, look no further than producer Mike Crossey, who kickstarted his career by discovering Arctic Monkeys and launching them into stardom, and has since worked with The 1975, Twenty One Pilots and other significant indie-alternative acts. Interestingly, producer Mike Elizondo also collaborated on the album, bringing his experience with various star hip-hop artists such as Dr. Dre, Jay-Z and Eminem.

With such an impressive team backing Half Alive, it’s easy to understand how they could very soon enjoy an explosive expansion of their fanbase, similar to the recent domination of Billie Eilish. They have already gained significant popularity through performing on NPR’s Tiny Desk series, after making their “All Songs Considered” segment with hit single “still feel.” in September 2018.

Even if one attended a Half Alive concert completely ignorant of their accomplishments, they would be instantly converted to fans. Half Alive’s show includes snappy choreography reminiscent of their music videos and involving fun interactions with the LED backdrop board. Their stage presence is polished and dignified while remaining authentic and casual. It gives one the impression that they have a message to deliver, but they aren’t trying desperately to win you over.

Two men performing on a stage. On the left, a man in a yellow jumpsuit plays an electric keyboard. On the far right, a man plays drums. Blue and red lights create a stark contrast.
Josh Taylor on keys and Brett Kramer on drums. Photo by Susannah Wilson.

It’s this “take it or leave it” energy that amps up their cool factor. This confidence also allows them to present topics such as belief in a higher being, the importance of rest and other commentaries on humanity and the spiritual realm, unabashedly and unapologetically. These deeper messages lie beneath the surface, so the listener can enjoy the band at whatever level they wish, be it casual or highly analytical. Half Alive delivers a double whammy, first with their charisma and nostalgic, groovy sound and then with complex ponderings on human existence.

A man playing bass on a stage with red lights shining on him
J Tyler Johnson on bass. Photo by Susannah Wilson.

If you start listening to Half Alive now, and maybe even snag tickets to one of their shows while they’re still relatively unknown, you can impress everyone for being such a hipster when they get big. Because for Half Alive, fame is inevitable.

Featured image by Susannah Wilson.

Share Your Thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s