New band. New music. New business. But for three friends – also the founding members of Haliwel—the original mindset is the same: be the best, and have fun doing it together. The group is kicking off a new tour by releasing a new album with two shows scheduled in this area in December: 12/12 at The Red Zone with Left of Reason, Daphni, and Fall II Rise; and 12/30 at Hijynx in Fort Atkinson with Super Bob. I asked two of Haliwel’s original members to tell me about the current line-up; along with any special things to watch or listen for when the group is back on stage after a short hiatus. And you may be surprised by what a few of the guys started, during the time they took to reorganize.
Maximum Ink: How do you describe the new version of Haliwel?
Shawn Streeter: We are still a Madison-based hard rock band with three of the original members including Max Neal on drums, Ryan Seney on bass, and myself on guitar. There’s also Jake Smith on guitar, and Dax Roberts is our new/old singer.
Max Neal: We are the Alter Bridge, Tool, and Shinedown kind of rock; not the Coldplay or Black Keys kind of rock…just to make sure no one is confused.
MI: Speaking of confusing, it can be heard for people to keep up on the line-ups in a band, and you’ve had a few changes. So, who’s in or out, and why?
SS: First, our original guitar player, Travis Malin, decided to settle down and stop playing music. I completely respect and understand his decision. It can be difficult to find a comfortable balance between your band and your personal life. Ryan and I knew Jake back in college, and he was interested in taking the rhythm guitar position. He learned the songs, and we actually had Travis play half a set and then hand Jake his guitar to play the second half, sort of a “passing the torch” type of thing. Second, our singer from 2014 to 2015, Justin Schmitz, let us know he was leaving the band just before a show with Bobaflex at the Backbar in Janesville. Dax had contacted me a couple months earlier to say his most recent project had just ended, and asked if I would keep my eyes open for a band looking for a singer. So, when Justin quit I immediately called Dax and asked if he could fill in for our show…and he did! It was probably a little easier for him than it would have been for anyone else. He actually helped write the songs for our first album, “From the Inside,” when he used to be our singer from 2012 to 2013. We never got to play a show with Dax as our singer, so it was a pretty cool experience to play the songs the way the way each was originally written, and with the original vocalist.
MI: Haliwel has also been quiet since the changes, and while making your new album. Did you purposely step away from live shows during the creative process?
SS: Absolutely! In just the last 5 months, we lost our singer, held auditions, picked a new singer, wrote 22 demos, cut it down to 12, recorded and mixed those, re-recorded our last album, made new artwork, t-shirts, and CDs (literally, we hand made the cases), booked a release party, and found time to practice, and sleep somewhere in the middle of it all.
MI: Did you all write and record the new album together? Is it similar to your earlier music?
MN: We’ve had some of these songs on the back burner for a few years. The first album, “From The Inside,” was written mostly by Shawn. We did some work together recently to re-structure some of the music, and made a few other changes. But the songs on “Pandemic” are more collaborative as a full band. I also feel like the songs are a little more robust; “From The Inside” was straight ahead radio hard rock, and I think these new songs have more dynamics with quiet parts, build ups, metal riffs, etc. It’s weird though, most are around four minute songs which surprised me. I thought each was epic at first, but still compact enough for easy consumption, which is good. We do have one long song that’s a face-melter though!
MI: How are you getting ready to introduce the new version of the band, and your new music at your album release show on December 12?
SS: By printing t-shirts, folding CD cases, and practicing as much as our schedule will allow – which isn’t as much as we would like, so we are in high-stress mode right now! We are obviously a different band with the new members and material, but we are also the same band. I think people that enjoyed “From the Inside” will be able to enjoy “Pandemic” equally. We are hoping to gain a more new listeners with our range of song styles on “Pandemic.
MI: Haliwel is your baby. Three of the original members are still involved, so you must be proud of some of your early accomplishments?
MN: “The Only One” was MaxInk Radio’s Song of the Year for 2014 which was freaking amazing! Opening for bigger bands was also a great achievement for us: Nothing More, Bobaflex, Psychostick, Eve to Adam, and Framing Hanley are probably the biggest ones so far. But, now we haven’t played live in several months, so I am itching for that. We’ve been waiting a long time to get these songs out too. We’ve gone through a lot of crap to keep the band together, but persevered knowing these songs are good, so I’m more optimistic than anything else right now.
MI: Do you have new goals for the band?
SS: Our current goal is to move farther out with our shows. We want to start planning bigger and better shows in different scenes throughout the midwest. You will be seeing more of us than you did in the last 5 months, but not as much as before we took this break. We were playing up to 5 shows a week and that helped us gain a following, but we are looking to book better shows, with more appropriate line-ups that we fit into, and preferably shows that pay. Making and playing music can get pretty expensive, even if you do it DIY like Haliwel and so many others, so paying gigs will help us be able to spend more money and time on things that will help us reach a larger audience and larger opportunities.
MI: A few of the band’s members have also recently partnered in some other music-related ventures. Who is involved, and how’s it working out?
SS: Ryan, Jake, and myself opened a studio in Brooklyn, Wisconsin called Burn United Records. We used our facilities to record, mix, and master “Pandemic!” Things are going well, but we are really just starting, so aren’t expecting things to be easy right out of the gate. We would like to be known as the place to go for bands that can’t get handouts or loans. I don’t know any musician that can afford to produce the type of album they want with their own money, and since we are all in a band, we can easily understand how difficult it can be. We provide graphic design, recording, mixing, mastering, producing, web design, and video production services. Everything that we have now done for Haliwel was created at B.U.R. We are really proud of that as yet another piece of our new chapter!