With major tastemaker praise under their belts, including the backing from a film icon, Portsmouth risers Hallan are turning heads.
The four-piece, led by Conor Clements, are a fiery post-punk band that combines lyricism with the monotony of daily life to address abstract dystopia.
Their concept-driven debut EP Reporting live from the Living Room Floor captures the passion of their live shows, with tracks like Modern England, Orwell’s Idyllic Future and Reruns.
They’re signed to the stellar label Nice Swan Records – an indie responsible for an incredible charge of guitar acts right now, including Courting, Sprints and English Teacher.
Hallan received a tweet shoutout from Robert Carlyle, Trainspotting’s new music champion and icon.
Hallan also cemented their status of one to watch, performing a captivating set at Nice Swan’s MOTH Club showcase in Hackney earlier this September. This event featured slots from Malady (Mandrake Handshake), Opus Kink, Jelly Cleaver, and Malady.
Conor was interviewed by Rory McKeown of the Daily Star to discuss Hallan’s career so far, their influences and growing up in Portsmouth.
Conor, how are you? How would you summarize the last 12 months for the band in twelve months?
“Guten Tag. The last 12 months have been a blur of up and downs for us. It started out looking quite bleak but with the help of the Nice Swan Records family we’ve had the support to put out Modern England and our EP.
“We can’t complain too much, it’s quite odd being a band where our most successful period has been during a worldwide pandemic. In short though it’s been rehearsals, YouTube binging, trimming my bonsai tree and then forgetting to water it.”
You’ve just released your debut EP Reporting Live From The Living Room Floor. Let me know more about the writing and recording process. How did it all begin?
“Most of the EP was written during the early stage of lockdown. We’d just went into Ford Lane Studios to record Modern England and so we began thinking about releasing a body of work off the back of that.
“Although there were some ideas floating around the Hallan bucket, the first lockdown allowed us to get cracking and create something substantive.
“I was also planning my last year uni project at the time which cosmically aligned with the EP, hence all the visuals and the zine.”
It’s the band’s first foray into concept material. What are the common themes that run through it?
“We tend to write from an observational point of view, sometimes quite bluntly. This time we had the idea to blend together some outrageous exaggerations and fictitious elements in our writing, creating a larger-than-life version of ourselves in a way.
“The EP represents where we’re from and the people who live on our island, especially the local music scene. The dystopian and wild world we created within the music and the artwork isn’t too far from the reality of our lives, but it’s abstracted enough that we won’t be getting into anyone’s bad books. “I think.”
You’re from Portsmouth. What was the scene like in Portsmouth? How did it shape you into the band you have become today?
“We’ve been part of the local music scene for a few years now, playing every venue left in the city. I like to think we pride ourselves on sticking it out and lasting as long as we have done.
“When we started it felt like we were outsiders within a bit of dying scene but over the past couple of years Portsmouth’s alternative music community has started to liven up I think.
“We’ve played many a gig in our town with the room being pretty barren but I like to think that did us a favour. We’ve been trained for the worst so we’re ready to get out on the road now and play to hopefully busier rooms in other friendly cities.”
When did you get together?
“It all started a couple of years ago when the four of us crossed paths at an all-inclusive relaxation retreat. We’d all had enough of our busy and bustling lives in the city, so we’d fled to an anonymous country for some peace.
“It was pure luck that we were all in the same cabin. We were enjoying a few drinks in a common area when a fan fell from the ceiling and hit me on the head.
“Luckily, I was okay but I came around with the word Hallan repeating over and over in my head. This is where I discovered a sort of clairvoyant ability. I knew from that moment that we had to form the band and make it back home to share our musical skills.”
Back in May you were given a Twitter shout out for your track Orwell’s Idyllic Future by film star Robert Carlyle. Was that a pleasant experience?
“That was a bit of a surreal moment. He’s a good lad and cheers to him for shouting us out. We grew up watching him in movies and just like most kids of a certain age revered him in Trainspotting.
“Now it’s great to know that he’s not just a great actor but also someone with impeccable music taste.”
Who are your main influences – either musically or personally?
“We’re quite varied in our musical tastes. Some of us are keener on louder, punkier stuff whilst some of us prefer the gentile tones of 12 string acoustic guitars.
“I was raised on a lot of classic punk from the 70s so that’s definitely under the Hallan surface. Although a few of us are into 60s music at the moment, that could change in the next week.
“Admirable and influential non musicians include George Mallory, David Lynch, Aleksander Rodchenko and Hannah Hoch.”
You’ve had a host of support from the likes of Rough Trade and BBC Radio 6 Music. What was it like to have such support in the early stages?
“It’s great! We never expected to really get this far with our off-kilter riffs and funny yelling but it’s good to know other people are enjoying it.
“We’ve always had a lot of love from BBC and all the way up from our local station to the big 6 they’ve had a hand in supporting us.
“There’s such a lot of good music coming out our homeland at the moment so to be singled out and admired is quite lovely. Rough Trade and other independent record stores stocking our EP is also quite nice to hear about.
“Everyone should be going out and supporting those places and what’s not to love when you can do it by buying one our records.”
You’re part of this incredible charge of guitar bands coming out of the UK and Ireland. Are you feeling a sense of excitement to be in a band right this moment?
“There’s tonnes of great bands making noise at the moment. If people say they’re lacking, then they definitely aren’t looking hard enough. It’s definitely exciting just to be able to get out into the country and play to real life people in real rooms.
“All the bands we’ve met within the guitar band scene have been lovely and it’s nice to know there’s still a lot of love and support between bands even in this digital age.”
You’ve already supported the likes of Sports Team and Porridge Radio. What lessons did you take away from those shows?
“Those shows feel like a lifetime ago nowadays. We’re a million miles away from the band that played those shows but we wouldn’t be who we are now without them. We spent a lot of time finding our sound and it took a lot of playing and shows to find our identity.
“We’re a lot more confident and certain of ourselves now, so I suppose those shows helped us get over any nerves and worries younger bands have.”
You will be touring the UK in autumn. It’s a great opportunity. What can we expect to see at a Hallan performance?
“After all this time locked in our little houses it’s safe to say we’re thrilled to be leaving the island for a bit. We always pride ourselves on our live performance so it’ll be nice to get out there and share it with all the new fans we’ve brought on board since our EP release and singles.
“You can expect some yelling and sweating, maybe a little bit of tonsillitis, and a rogue tambourine. It’ll be a good time that much is certain.”
What’s next for Hallan? Is there an ultimate goal for you?
“We’re probably going to knuckle down and get some more material written and recorded. We’re constantly writing and with one and a half years of lockdown you can imagine there’s quite a back catalogue to pull from.
“We shall see where the cosmic winds of the world take us, but we’d like to play more shows and see more of our lovely, green country. And I’ve only left the country once, so if any of Europe is willing to take us, we’re down for that as well. I think whatever comes next will be something special, that’s certain.”