American Shoegazers: Half String

Though it was never as significant a musical movement in the United States as it was in the UK, the subgenre of alternative rock known as Shoegazing (Shoegaze), did have its share of US practitioners. In part a creation of the UK musical press it emerged in the late 1980s in the UK and lasted until the mid 1990s, reaching it’s apex in 1990 and 1991. Just as fast as the UK musical press built it up they tore it down. As Half String’s, vocalist/guitarist, Brandon Capps noted in a 1997 interview in the spring issue of Vendetta #8

It’s easy to ignore the UK press and their flavors of the month when you’re living across the ocean. The English music papers have a heavy influence over anyone who is buying or making records in England. They always pull the carpet out from beneath someone’s feet shortly after standing them up a thousand stories tall.

In the states bands labeled as Shoegazers were to often ignored by major music magazines like Rolling Stone; while the American record buying/music listening public only interest in English bands seemed to extend only as far as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and The Who.

It was primarily through the pages of Jack Rabid’s The Big Takeover , Magnet, and the now defunct Puncture or Options magazines; or in the pages of countless fanzines (remember them) that Americans learned that there were English Shoegazing bands like; The Boo Radleys, Catherine Wheel, Chapterhouse, Kitchens of Distinction, Lush, Pale Saints and Swervedriver, or American bands like Bethany Curve, The Curtain Society, For Against, Half String or Starflyer 59.

In the end it was all for naught. With Nirvana in the vanguard of the new subgenre of alternative rock known as Grunge everything in its path was simply sweep away. In the United States “Hair Bands” were suddenly and emphatically out and flannel was in. In the UK the newly-commercialized grunge music from the States forced established bands to either adapt or whither away. Following the arrival of Grunge in the UK, and in reaction against it, bands like Blur, Suede, Oasis and Pulp formed and became the foundation for that distinctively British musical movement known Britpop.


Tempe, Arizona’s Half String formed in the summer of 1991 following a trip to Los Angeles to see the English groups Ride and Lush play. Originally a quartet: Brandon Capps (guitar/vocals), Kimber Lanning (drums), Matt Krause (guitar) and Tim Patterson (bass) by the time Eclipse * Oval * Hue was in released they had pared down to the core group of Brandon, Kimber and Matt.

Part of Arizona’s Beautiful Noise scene Half String was a stay-at-home band, content to remain within Arizona borders. Notable exceptions were a 1994 CMJ appearance in NYC with For Against; and on the return trip a date with the Ropers and Samuel in College Station, PA (home to Penn State). They also appeared with Scenic in Los Angeles and performed at the 97 Popfest in Pamona, CA.

Released in a limited, numbered edition of 1560 copies (my copy is #0236) on Bruce Licher’s (Savage Republic, Scenic) Independent Project Records, Eclipse * Oval * Hue collects Half String’s first three EPs of dreamy shoegazer psych; eight songs of reverbed chimes, calm wistfulness to near rampages, tribal drums and slow, wistful, sighing vocals.

Half String Discography

Releases:

Oval (7″ Single) (Independent Project Records) 1991
Oval (7″ Single) (Independent Project Records, Terra X Records) 1994
Eclipse (7″ EP, Ltd) (Independent Project Records) 1993
Eclipse * Oval * Hue (CD) (Independent Project Records, Pop Goes On) 1993
Tripped Up Breathing (CD) (Independent Project Records) 1994
A Fascination With Heights (CD) (Independent Project Records) 1996

Tracks Appear On:

“Oval” Terra X – Vol. 1 Love And Hate (CD) (Terra X Records) 1993
“Eyesick” Splashed With Many A Speck (2xCD) (Dewdrops Records) 1997

Eclipse * Oval * Hue

Playing Time: 34 minutes 19 seconds

halfstringeclipseovalhue

1. Hue (6:36)
2. Oval (6:06)
3. Sun Less Sea (5:48)
4. Pelican (3:21)
5. Slow Engine Kill Over (3:15)
6. Eclipse (3:38)
7. Maps For Sleep (2:42)
8. Arc-Fold (2:53)

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8 responses to “American Shoegazers: Half String

    • Brian I’ve added Stinkweeds to the list of record stores in my blogs sidebar. For my part I buy the majority of my music from two local indie record stores; Music Outlet in Enfield, CT and Turn-it-Up in Northampton, MA. For many people there isn’t a local indie record store anymore, which is why I maintain and will continue to add to the list of online record stores.

  1. Another good record store out on the other coast is Rasputin’s. They have a number of locations. BiteMe, I would’ve taken you there when you were out here but we burned up the time we had at Amoeba. Rasputin’s on the next block over in Berkeley, just as big but on more levels. One of their locations is in my new town.

    Hope you’re doing well.

    • Toby, I remember you mentioning that there was an even bigger record store down the block from Amoeba. If it had been just the two of us we’d have probably visited both stores and gone home broke; but with the gang we had with us it’s just as well you limited me to only two hours at Amoeba. I know that for most of people with us that night Berkeley proved to be an eye opening experience and I’m sure that hanging out in a record store (not matter how big, or how cool) wasn’t their idea of fun.

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