Halves eye up Choice Prize ahead of Limerick gig

Alan Owens


Alan Owens

ESCHEWING the spotlight, the modestly titled Dublin trio Halves might not be among the best known of Irish acts, but they are certainly among the finest.

ESCHEWING the spotlight, the modestly titled Dublin trio Halves might not be among the best known of Irish acts, but they are certainly among the finest.

The trio made up of Tim and Elis Czerniak and Brian Cash are one of the country’s best but largely unknown acts, currently touring in support of their debut album, It Goes, It Goes (Forever and Ever), the name a reference to the live reel-to-reel tape machine they recorded the album on.

A stunningly haunting, ethereal and cinematic album, the ambient trio recorded It Goes, It Goes in Montreal and Dublin, the two locations forming two halves of an album that is immense in scope, and is rightly nominated for this Thursday’s Choice Music Prize, the country’s premier album prize, modelled in the style of the Mercury Prize.

The affable Tim Czerniak laughs at the information relayed by this reporter that the band are third favourites for the prize, a very good outside bet at 8/1.

“Are we eight to one? And third favourites yeah? That’s interesting. I didn’t know that,” he laughs.

“We are not really putting any pressure on ourselves to be honest. The thing about the Choice is - if I was to put money on it, I would probably back Villagers , but to be honest you can never tell, it could really be anyone, because sometimes they will surprise you with their approach, so we don’t have any expectations, in fact we have no idea what is going to happen.

He admits it is “fantastic” to be nominated among a list of the best album released last year in Ireland.

“We are absolutely delighted to be nominated, we didn’t really expect to get a nomination, so when it happened we were really pleased and it is great to be among such fantastic albums, it is really special.”

On a list dominated by Conor O’Brien’s Villagers - the likely winner in Vicar Street this Thursday - Halves’ album undoubtedly provides the most impressive scope, and is certainly the most daring, fusing post-rock elements with haunting melodies and minimal lyrics.

“We planned it out quite vigorously really, we are quite perfectionist when it comes to making recordings - which works against us sometimes,” explains Tim.

“We planned a lot of it out and then we went to Montreal for a couple of weeks and recorded the backbone of it, and we came back and did extra strings and brass here, in Dublin. We had quite a lot prepared beforehand, but a lot of it was done in those two weeks. We knew mostly what we were doing.”

The trio took themselves to the hip Hotel2Tango studios in Montreal - housed in a former alarm factory beside a freight railroad - and recorded in the completely analogue studio where Godspeed You! Black Emperor recorded their album. Using a vast collection of instruments, amps, organs and effects, the location informed the album’s atmospheric feel, Tim explains.

“Yeah, the studio was amazing. It is one of very few completely analogue studios. Being able to work with tape, because it is so unforgiving, if you use digital you can do it in takes and choose whichever one you want, but if you use tape and do another take, the last one is gone and that is way it is, so you have to decide - it almost makes you play better.

“We did a lot of it live, which we like hearing because it gives an energy to it that you don’t get when you are playing it bit by bit. We did all sorts of stuff with what we were recording to make it sound interesting, to give it an atmosphere,” he adds.

Returning to Dublin, strings, brass and twenty-seven members of the Kilkenny choir were added, along with Irish musician Katie Kim and Stars/Broken Social Scene’s Amy Millan, who sang on the excellent Growing and Glow, quite a coup for the trio.

“We were hoping for someone to sing the part and we thought it would work really well,” says Tim.

”We thought it would never happen, but Brian knew her agent, who is an Irish guy and basically we got in contact with her quite easily in the end and she was like ‘yeah sure, why not?’ She was really nice, she came down, spent about two hours on the part and that was fantastic, she has a great voice and really adds to the track.”

Halves play Upstairs in Dolan’s this Saturday night. The Choice Music Prize takes place on Thursday and is live on Today FM.