Single: Half Stack – I Might Try

“Half Stack is a byproduct of life in the Bay Area, but the band’s work thrums with an expansive Western energy—the kind that could soundtrack an aimless drive down a wide-open desert highway. Singer and guitarist Peter Kegler was raised by a bluegrass musician father, who taught him the instrument at a young age and encouraged him to get involved with bands in his teens. This has manifested itself as a lifelong passion for Kegler, who has been contributing rambling songs to Half Stack since 2017. “I’ve always kind of referred to it as country-influenced music,” Kegler says. But – while he and the rest of his bandmates have certainly leaned into scrubby cowboy vibes, putting a whiskey-soaked spin on DIY rock – one can sense whispers of artists like Tiger Trap, The Silver Jews, and The Grateful Dead in the band’s music, too.

Most of the original Half Stack lineup met while Kegler and fellow members Digger Barrett (drums) and Marley Lix-Jones (vocals and guitar) were enrolled at UC Santa Cruz. They all came up playing together in a tight-knit music scene, and the famously bohemian vibe of their alma mater seems to have subtly influenced that early output. (For evidence, look no further than Kegler’s old surf rock act Babewatch.) Their work from that period possesses a lo-fi, acid-inflected energy that so many of their Northern California peers were championing during the thriving 2010s garage rock revival.

After graduation, Kegler, Barrett, and Lix-Jones independently ended up in Oakland with no big ambitions other than to make music. During this freewheeling era, Kegler and Barrett started working on some jammy country songs together. They eventually recruited Lix-Jones, Oliver Pinnell (vocals and guitar), and Callum Beals (bass) to flesh out the project, and the full Half Stack lineup was born. The act found communion in a shared love of folky music, even though post-punk was in vogue at the time. The band took its name from the funny mental image of a stack of pancakes being used as a guitar amplifier, with some melting butter for a head. This unique sound and lighthearted attitude helped Half Stack cut through the static in a crowded and austere niche, and they quickly began touring the West Coast in support of a self-titled 2017 EP and 2018’s Jay Som-produced Quitting Time. When Covid hit, the band’s lofty plans to play shows in Europe went down the drain and they put out the stellar Forged Artifacts-issued LP Wings Of Love with no way to promote it on the road.

During this confusing period of restlessness and downtime, Half Stack began working on their latest LP, Sitting Pretty. To heighten the bizarre circumstances, Kegler developed most of his contributions to the record while recovering from a fairly serious surgery. The band tracked the album in a few days with Mac Demarco-collaborator Joe Santarpia, who engineered the sessions at his home studio in San Francisco’s Mission District. The end result finds Half Stack dialing back the earthy outlaw energy a bit, replacing it with natural songwriting that shines through in optimistic, sometimes even power-poppy ways.

Where Kegler took the lead as a songwriter on prior Half Stack records, this time around he passed the mic to Lix-Jones for a number of tracks. The impact of her songwriting shines through across the varied tracklist, and is especially gripping on swaggering “New Light” and shoegaze-y “TOTM3.” Opener “I Might Try” evokes the navy hue of the Pacific Ocean, with its knotty vocal melodies and soaring guitar lead. “Burnt” flirts with honky tonk and “Sweet Jane”-style talk-singing. “Diamond Dancer” lands squarely in the psych rock camp, thanks Kurt Vile-esque lyrics and intricate guitar-monies. Sitting Pretty’s variety cements the album’s place as Half Stack’s most wonderfully unpredictable and ambitious outing to date.

The pandemic also shook things up for Half Stack’s lineup, as some members moved around when grad school applications were accepted and jobs went remote. Since things are now so spread out, Half Stack’s local shows find Kegler and Digger using a nebulous lineup that includes members of other Bay Area bands. “Playing it live has been kind of getting to revisit the songs with a new group of people and a new group of musicians,” Kegler explains. “As a band we’d played together for a long time, whether it was Half Stack or in other groups that we’d all been in. So it’s been interesting to rework a lot of songs with people who maybe have a different approach.” Kegler says it’s been rewarding to get to know a new cast of characters, and the band isn’t stopping anytime soon. As new challenges and adaptations come into play, things feel bittersweet—Half Stack is going to keep going, having fun recording with the original group and kicking up sonic dust live no matter what cluster of musicians takes the stage.

[Written by Ted Davis]

Half Stack

When I first heard this single, I was feeling like I knew the band, but I had no idea why. Then I checked the Bandcamp page and it made me realize, they were released before on my favorite label Forged Artifacts, one of the coolest labels out there. They are releasing their new album together with the help of Royal Oakie Records. I had to also share the full bio as it was well written and you know I have a soft spot for such bios. The new album is looking very promising, the physical copies look so yummy and I would get them instantly, but the shipping rates to the EU are insane. Maybe I would get a few tapes in our distro, let me know on our social media if you were interested in getting them in Europe.

If you enjoyed alt-country and psychedelic rock, this song is just for you. I am really enjoying it and cannot wait to share with you the full album once it will be out. We have some time, so in the meantime go and support the band, and the labels and just enjoy this.

You can find more music from the band on Spotify or Bandcamp.

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