Half Waif is an ambient experience, providing music that searches for answers within a rich landscape of synthesizers and percussive grooves. The group is headed by of Nandi Plunkett, with Zack Levine and Adan Carlo, all of Pinegrove fame. While the three members have similar roles regarding instruments in Pinegrove, Half Waif lets a different side of their musical identity shine in swirling, atmospheric grace. There’s a genuine amount of emotion written into the songs, evidenced from the heart wrenching “Tactilian” and “Cerulean;” the two closing tracks of their last releases. Songs like the ones embedded in Half Waif’s catalogue are laced with pop elements, but twisted with each band members personal and vibrant delivery.
Recently, the trio released form/a — a six song EP that shines in expression. The songs have a certain level of uneasiness to them, as if writing them led Plunkett into a difficult but immersive search within herself and what is heard is what she found. “Frost Burn” has motifs littered with heavy synths, cleanly transitioning into a bold piano line while Plunkett finds herself on her own island. The imagery and landscape of form/a seems a bit cold, while the songs bubble with whatever warmth is available, evidenced by the hypnotic opener “Severed Logic.” Immediately after, “Wave” thumps with a wall of synthetic beats, opening into a vessel of ethereal vocal offerings at the song’s ending lines. Each transition across form/a moves with a succinct purpose, unraveling into areas that are just as exciting as the last.
Having played major showcases at SXSW, the band still remain humble and tour within the aspects of D.I.Y. whenever possible in between their lengthy and full Pinegrove schedule. With such a loving and admirable crowd rallying behind them, the band has taken their own time to create and instill their tracks with an unmovable layer of passion. Vocalist composer and keyboardist Nandi Plunkett was able to provide a look at the musical community surrounding Half Waif and how it is identified and cherished from the perspective of a band that roots for others while embracing its own style.
Community is such an important role in the music industry, and a way to pay respect and dues to musicians across the industry. In your experience, how has the community impacted your ability to constantly create within the pitfall of the music industry?
I feel really grateful that Half Waif has been birthed and embraced by the DIY community, especially as our “sound” is not necessarily typical for it. I think what that says is, this community is more concerned with supporting each other, creating safe & open spaces, and being inclusive than it is about championing a certain kind of music. It’s enabled me to continue to explore the sound of myself without concern for “what people will think” or “what people will like” – those were things that definitely worried me when I first started out, but have faded to the background as I’ve realized that this community is a supportive one that just wants to see people being true to themselves and, as an extension, positively reaching out to others.
How important is having an accepting community for you to be as personal as you are across your songs?
I wouldn’t say that without it, I wouldn’t be writing the way that I am, because when I first started this project, I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere. That was scary and frustrating – I couldn’t change the way I was writing, though often I wanted to, because I thought it would be easier to fit in. I’m really glad I stuck to my guns over the last five years, because building community and being embraced by other bands and listeners has been gratifying and has given me the confidence to go on, dig deeper, look myself a little more sharply in the eye. I used to have this image of myself as a tiny creature looking through a window into a lighted room, where a party was going on. I saw myself tap tap tapping at the window. And now suddenly I find that I’m in the room, and the window was open all along.
When writing Half Waif songs, a lot of your personal experiences are brought out, is that a natural release for you? In having your own music speak to you, do you think in turn it allows others to relate?
It’s kind of the only way I know how to process things. Ok that’s a lie, I also really like talking to friends over a glass of wine. But there is something intensely magical and spiritual about being alone and pulling sounds, words, and arrangements out of nothing and making something. Like looking at a slab of stone and it could be anything at all, and then it gets whittled down to the unique thumbprint of you. So it’s both a release and an adventure, every time. It’s how I love to pass the time and make shape of my life. And I think that doing anything that you truly love will translate to other people, because we all recognize and are drawn to the spark of that truth.
When writing your latest EP, form/a, was there a certain foundation that had already been established as your routine, or was that writing experience unique as part of its own journey?
When writing form/a, I was specifically trying to return to the routine of how I used to write, when I lived alone and was just generally a loner and would spend hours isolating myself at a keyboard. I thought that by removing myself from the city and from my life, I could recreate that. But obviously I’ve changed, and the tools that I use have changed – I write much more on the computer now. I was incredibly frustrated and bummed at first that I couldn’t just generate that old spark by recreating the surroundings, but once I abandoned myself to letting the songs unfold as they wanted to, I was able to finish out the EP in the style of my current self: restlessly, jumping between keyboard and computer, ideas coming in fast tumbles during snatches of free time. It’s not romantic but it’s real.
Tough question, but what is your favorite moment within your music that makes you say ‘wow, i made that!’?
This is a nice question to think about. I think I’d choose the moment in “Night Heat” when the canon of vocals comes in at the end, leading out of the instrumental, and then the beat drops – that’s an exciting moment to me. It feels like the right amount of build up and release. It sounds like whooshing out of a tunnel.