Detroit “lo-fi/punk/rock basement” artist Ian Ruhala, aka HALA, has been creating a real buzz in the U.S. over the past 2 years. With a number of releases already under his belt, Spoonfed – out on Balaclava and Citrus City Records – almost feels like his first. POND spoke to HALA about his journey from A-Z, hometown music scene and the real meaning behind latest album.
You’ve been making music since mid-2014. How has the journey been from “lo-fi Neil Diamond reverb rock” to Spoonfed?
A lot has changed since the early days of HALA. In the beginning, I was recording in the storage room of my parents’ house with only one microphone and a 1/4-inch-to-USB cable that came in some First Act recording kit. Now, my gear collection is actually quite nice, and I feel like my knowledge of the recording process has grown as well.
Besides the likes of M. Ward and Mac DeMarco, who are your main influences?
I love The Kinks, this record by Thee Oh Sees called ‘Castlemania, and Sonny & The Sunsets. That is probably some of my favourite music as of right now, but it is constantly changing.
You like to do stuff DIY. Did you shoot the video for Club Soda yourself?
I did shoot the video for Club Soda. My buddy, Chad-Michael, was over at The Holden House (where my live-show bandmates and I live in Detroit), and one morning I asked him if he would help me out with making a video for this single. We spent an hour or so shooting ideas back and forth, and then we pretty much had it filmed, edited, and ready to send to the label by dinner time.
You recently played a fundraiser in Oxford. How would you describe the Detroit music scene?
Oxford is my hometown. I went to high school there, and did really all of my ‘growing up’ in that town. It is a nice place. It is easy to get into trouble there, because of the small-town feel it has. The fundraiser was for Mission: Embrace, which is a suicide awareness/prevention program. It was a great event, and I am glad that I could be apart of it. Detroit is about 40-minutes away from Oxford, and the music scene there I would say, is pretty interesting. A lot of metal, and a lot of pop-punk, but there are a lot of bands I really enjoy. Gray/Bliss, Five Pound Snap, Honeybabe, Taxon Clade, and The Hentchmen are probably some of my favourite bands from the area, definitely worth checking out.
So, tell us about your album.
Spoonfed is my newest record, and it is out on Balaclava Records. Although this technically isn’t my first ‘album,’ it feels that way because I have never put in as much effort into recording and creating something like this, until this release. It is the first time I have ever had more than just the front album cover to show, the first time I have ever mastered any of my music, and it was the first time that I really demoed my songs extensively before making the final recording. I recorded the entire album, over the span of a month, in an attic. I had just moved to Detroit, and at that time I was living in this weird/old attic, all during the middle of winter. I don’t know why, but all the pieces seemed to come together. Despite it being extremely cold, and not eating or leaving very much during the process, I was able to get ‘Spoonfed’ exactly how I wanted/dreamed.
What is the meaning behind Spoonfed?
Spoonfed is about not giving into the things you are fed/told while growing up. People might tell you to give up, or that you can’t do something, and that should just be fuel for you to make something that proves them wrong.
How did your relationship with Balaclava Records come about?
Fernando at the label reached out to me in February 2015. This was prior to my release ‘Young Alumni,’ and he said that he really liked the tunes, and wanted to plan a Brazilian tour around the new music. It seemed a little too good to be true, so I reached out to a couple of bands that had done something similar with the label and was like, “holy shit, these guys aren’t playing around!” Rafael and Fernando are really great, nice guys. I am really lucky that they found my music.
Lastly, what are your aspirations for 2016?
I believe we are going back to Brazil in August, which will be amazing. I am also working out some U.S. dates with a couple of bands right now, so hopefully that all works out. I want to stay busy if I can. I crave the Rock N’ Roll life.
Spoonfed is out now on Balaclava and limited edition seafoam green cassette on Citrus City Records.