Not all cover bands are destined to dissolve. When they joined forces for a Guided By Voices cover band, guitarist Matt Mara, bassist Zoë Wyner, and drummer Ian Gustafson—the three behind halfsour—didn’t realize just how much they’d enjoy making music together. Perhaps it was the way their voices stacked so effortlessly. Maybe it was their knack for punchy pop melodies. Full-length Tuesday Night Live showed they write feverishly when it dropped in January. They recorded Charm School the weekend of its release show, and now that EP celebrates its own release show at the Middle East this Wednesday. To top things off, they recorded an 11-song tour-only tape in August, because, clearly, why stop now?
“As a band, we’re pretty easily bored,” says Wyner. “We’re constantly writing songs and are way ahead of our releases. It takes so long for records to come out that it’s kind of hard not to be.”
Premeditated themes aren’t halfsour’s style. Instead, it grabs at the mundane and exhausts the exhausting until it squeezes the last drops of sugar from them. Charm School sees the band knead a louder, gnarlier product from its songs. “It wasn’t a conscious decision, though,” says Mara, as if puzzled by the three’s own pathway. “It just sort of happened?”
Maybe that’s the best way to look at halfsour’s material: as a finger pointing at the everyday bores until their faults become endearing. EP cut “Vinyl Siding” came to fruition when Mara got a case of the shingles and doctors sent him home with painkillers, so he took a pen to paper while his leg throbbed (and word is it still does to this day).
“Ten Year Tenure” zones in on a different pain: relocation, creative disparity, and city betrayal. “There is some really great music in Boston at this point!” says Wyner. “It’s just getting really expensive and hard to live here as an artist. ‘Ten Year Tenure’ is about watching all of our friends and the bands we love move away, and feeling conflicted about still being here. Like, people say they’ll never leave and then grow disenchanted and leave, and for better or worse we’re still kicking around.”
halfsour’s perseverance makes up half its charm. Ask them about it, though, and the three deny they’ve got lessons to teach. “We probably in part named our record Charm School because we all could use a few lessons on social graces,” laughs Wyner. “Not that we’re not nice, we’re definitely nice. But charming? We don’t know.”
If they had to choose, though, they would mandate a class most Bostonians would benefit from: “How to navigate a sidewalk and exist in public in general.”
Don’t take the snark seriously, or the band’s name. halfsour is stoked as ever to be where it is. “Despite our negativity, there really is a lot of wonderful stuff happening in Boston right now,” says Mara. “It’s definitely a good time to be here, so please get to the gigs.”
HALFSOUR, BIG EYES, KINDLING, LAIKA’S ORBIT, DAEPHNE. WED 10.12. MIDDLE EAST UPSTAIRS, 472 MASS. AVE., CAMBRIDGE. 7PM/ALL AGES/$10. MIDEASTOFFERS.COM