Begging for an autograph on the $5 demo she purchased a few seconds ago, the attractive concert attendee broke her revering gaze on the members of Half Moon Run for several precious seconds to ask me if I knew their names. I inquired which one, and in a sultry tone, she let me know that it didn’t matter because they were all sexy.
But thirty minutes ago, she, along with the dozens of other converted groupies, had no idea Half Moon Run existed. And one day earlier, neither did I, sort of…
The night before the show (at OUMF Festival), through guitarist/keyboardist/back up vocalist Conner Molander, I arranged an interview / rehearsal sit-in with the band at their jam space. The space is situated in a particularly sketchy neighborhood (an unsupervised naked child strolled by) and doubles as a venue / illegal party space whenever it’s not shut down by law enforcement, so I offered a precautionary farewell to my bike as I locked it to a post outside.
The three-piece met me on the sidewalk, answered an onslaught of questions, and then took me inside to digest all the biographical information while they ran through their set for the following day. All of them barefoot, Dylan (Phillips: drummer/keyboardist/back up vocalist) shirtless, and Devon (Dunn-Portielje: Lead singer/guitarist) slightly drunk off Tecate, the atmosphere leaned towards casual. But the intensity on their respective instruments was unwavering.
Originally a 5-piece, Half Moon Run lost two members and shuffled their entire sound around. Due to the lack of manpower, they went exclusively folk and have grown progressively more dimensional since, with each member performing two or three duties at once (especially Dylan who somehow manages to play synthesizer, drums, and back-up vocals all at once). Unfortunately, inviting a new member in to help is out of the question, because in Devon’s words, “We’re too deep down the rabbit hole.”
In the overheated practice room, the trio methodically played their brand of indie/folk/electronic (imagine a younger Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear, and Radiohead supergroup) and discussed possible alterations between already-perfected songs. Their obsessive nature and flawless precision were spot-on for clear reasons. Forty hours of practice a week, constant refinement on technique and music theory, and the sacrifice of any social life have made Half Moon Run the band they are now. They all work part-time jobs just to pay the rent and maintain the beer supply. None of the three have held an intimate relationship in years, all have lost friends, and two have dropped out of school.
This is dedication.
Their tiring efforts have taken a toll, especially on Devon, who is noticeably exhausted and ready for the future. Not to say that Half Moon Run concern themselves with success, rather, little emphasis is put on getting their name out. Instead, they allow their shows to speak and in most cases, that’s all it takes to win over new fans (though concert attendance is limited, as they recall their largest previous show topping off at 250, while most don’t surpass a few dozen). As Devon’s near-falsetto and entirely-agonized voice cries, “the needle in your skin brings you closer to God” on the closing-credits-worthy track Full Circle, I remember the uncertainty about Half Moon Run’s future Hafffhe exposed earlier. “I doubt it frequently. But at this point, there are no better options.” Those words kept running through my mind and even now, I don’t know if they’ve fully sink in.
Check out part 2 of Half Moon Run’s story.
Photo from: www.krdesignphoto.com