The Halfways on the Differences Between Austin and Miami's Live Music Scene

Two years ago, an alien hopped into a spacecraft with his space babe and traveled from Miami to Austin in hopes of infecting the local scene with psychedelic sound waves. There, he merged with three like-minded beings, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Such is more or less the origin of Tthe Halfways, an Austin-based psych-rock quartet whose debut, self-titled EP dropped yesterday. The project started in Miami with frontman Daniel Fernandez and guitarist Alejandro Facusse. Several lineups and a swap of scenery eventually led to the current incarnation that includes bassist Justin Martinez and drummer Sean Lochridge.

While visiting Miami during the holidays, Fernandez sat down with New Times to talk about the band’s debut EP, unexpected songwriting influences, and his ultimate dream, both for the band and as a musician.

New Times: Though the band had its early beginnings in Miami, the Halfways are now an Austin-based band. What is your perspective, having lived in both cities as a musician?
Daniel Fernandez: The way I think about it is they're both good in their own respects. I feel like Austin definitely lacks the electronic music aspect that Miami does really well. That kind of music really flourishes here in Miami, but live music doesn't as much. Over there, it's the opposite. It's like live music is everywhere, but the electronic music scene, which I also like and am a big fan of partially thanks to my girlfriend — that's really lacking over there. There's nothing like Miami, really. I don't know if this is going to be relevant, but I really dislike that everything in Austin closes at 2 a.m. So it kind of kills the mood, and that is not enabling of culture.

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As you said, live music undeniably has a home in Austin. Do you find it hard to distinguish yourselves from all the noise?
There are so many bands in Austin. It's a very saturated market. At the same time, I feel like we try to stray away from the most abundant genres. There are other bands that are stylistically similar to us, but we try to incorporate a little bit of everything to get the best of all worlds. I feel if we keep writing songs as originally as possible and performing them as intensely as possible, I think Austin is a really good place because it's what you make out of it. Even though there's a lot of competition, there's really nothing holding you back from doing your best. At the same time, it is daunting just how many artists there are — and how many great artists too. It's very intimidating but very also very motivational.

Tell us about the new EP.
Musically, this will be the full band’s debut EP. We've worked on things as a band before, but it's never been the band working together in one room as a unit, much like we did in this EP. It's going to be a nice mixture of songs; it's got some funk, some plain rock, some folk moments, and some psych rock.

You’ve mentioned before that sci-fi has been an inspiration for songs, which is evident in “Gnarltrees,” an early track about The Empire Strikes Back. Has this genre continued to influence your songwriting?
I'm not a huge sci-fi nerd, but for some reason it's one of those things that really strikes me. Let's put it this way: I'm not hugely knowledgeable. I'm the kind of person that sees something and automatically wants to take part in it. So sci-fi just somehow always makes it into my songs one way or another. For example, "Not All Are to Be Trusted." It's not overly explicit, but in my imagination, the song is supposed to be told from the point of view of an alien telling his alien friend to be careful on Earth and cautious of humans.

What do you hope is in the band’s future?
The dream has changed. It's no longer about having a huge plane and lots of groupies and Champagne and caviar or whatever. Now, it's a matter of being able to do what you love, make a good living out of it, and being comfortable. That's still a huge dream to have, especially with how hard it has become to be a musician. My biggest goal is to keep learning, keep writing songs that put images in people's head. From this particular EP, I hope [fans] take away the fact that we're a versatile band and not a one-trick pony. We really want to cover a wide variety of music all the while having it come from the same origin.

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