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Their second album’s here after seven long years so what have Hal been up to? Getting lost, riding the studio “merry-go-round” and using the sea as a chat-up line.
Craig Fitzpatrick, 14 Jun 2012
When we last left our Hal heroes, they’d capitalised on a thousand beehives of buzz and released the acclaimed, sunny pop Irish classic that was 2005’s self-titled debut. Touring followed, promises of a follow-up and then… nothing. Really, they left us. For some five years at least. Whatever the Killiney lads were off doing, thankfully that long-awaited sophomore album is finally here and finds the band sounding as golden as ever. Still, and I don’t want to come over like some furious, jilted lover here but, where the hell were they?!
Singer and chief songwriter David Allen – who, messily-haired and fresh-faced, hasn’t aged a day in the interim – smiles broadly, as he often does.
“I just wanted to go away,” he admits. “You’re surrounded by a small group of people for ages. Then you come home, having been out of touch with people for a long time. I kept writing songs, but I wanted to go traveling on my own time. I went to Europe, America, worked in various establishments. Trying to get back to normal, get my feet on the ground. I would play a gig here or there, basically just sitting around the pub. A few Paul Simon songs, drop one of mine in there. I wanted to get lost.”
Keyboardist Stephen O’Brien nods along, though he remained closer to home, building a studio and working with Fionn Regan and Bipolar Empire. Paul Allen, bassist and brother of David, also continued to make music and dipped into photography.
“We saw a lot of other bands rush a second album and not have much fun with it,” says Stephen. “We basically took two full years off.”
In the meantime, their fans waited patiently.
“We were always getting messages,” nods Allen. “People going, ‘I hope you do something soon!’ or…” O’Brien laughs: “‘Where are you?!’ Lives are busy things, they take a lot of maintenance.”
Was everyone on the same page as to when they should return, or was there a certain tension? The pair look at each other. “There’s always tension!” says Stephen. “Yeah,” agrees David. “Sometimes we don’t speak to each other for a long time, months maybe. But we know each other so well. We’re still trying to understand each other at the same time.”