Halfro
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Halfro

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2009 | SELF

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2009
Band Hip Hop R&B

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To see Philly-based hip-hop quartet Halfro play live is to partake in one of the most fun and rare experiences a live show-lover can have: a young band with impeccable execution that gives its always-eclectic audience a raucous party while showing no sign of stagnation. When the band drops their debut self-released EP Squalor at Saturday’s album release show at 3rd and Girard, audiences will get to hear that energy dropped straight into a lively, sometimes-existential-always-rollicking record that successfully captures a great deal of their live show’s immense power.



Album opener “So Close” is emblematic of the heights reached throughout Squalor’s emphatic seven tracks. A flourish of horns leads into a strong drum-bass-keys charge, settling into an airtight groove under emcee/singer David Patrick’s silky boasts-meet-introspection vocals; the rest of the song alternates between these orchestral and metronomic polarities, also employing soft shimmers of background vocals and emphatic crooning over an unrelentingly-metronomic instrumental.

All of these hallmarks, accompanied by opening sets from The Bul Bey and Verbatum Jones (both of whom have guest verses on album standout “Change of Tide”), will be on full display Saturday night. You’ll want to bring your dancing shoes to this one.

Halfro releases Squalor with a show at 3rd and Girard on Saturday. The Bul Bey, Verbatum Jones, and DJ Tanktop will also perform. Tickets are $5 at the door. Click here for more information on the show. - The Key


Comparing Halfro to its most obvious progenitor would be way too simple. A band with keys, bass, drums, and an emcee? Pulling out covers amidst originals with seamless transition? A groove-laden party at every show? And they’re from Philly?

As you might expect, the comparison is not lost on the young quartet, originally founded as Chocolate Milk (both names originating from their having two white and two black members). “The Roots have always been my favorite artist – I have the tattoo to prove it,” says Luke, the group’s bassist. “I heard them when I was a close-minded, pain-in-the-ass thirteen-year-old who only liked metal. Hearing how they could form hip-hop using live instruments blew my mind. That’s all I’ve wanted to do since,”

Fortunately for Luke and his bandmates, Halfro doesn’t need to do a lot of justifying. The raucous energy of their sets speaks for itself.



Humbly originating with high school jam sessions between keyboardist Andrew (aka Bach), drummer Justin, and singer/emcee Dave (aka Mutt), Halfro’s flight was more of a mile-relay than a sprint. “In high school, I had a little recording “studio” in my bedroom at my mom’s house in Harrisburg. My friends and I would sit up there ALL THE TIME and make funny raps and beats and all that,” says Andrew. “Dave and Justin were involved in all this stuff, and the three of us started taking it more seriously as time passed. When the three of us shipped off to Temple University, we met Luke and started forming the sound we have now.”

Those early days have translated into a constant grind to play shows, connect, and be seen. They have steadily worked towards bigger and bigger venues throughout the mid-Atlantic, and that momentum shows few signs of slowing down.

“When we first started, it was just the drunk people at house parties. Then, we were able to play better venues and we had some people come, but for the most part we played for the bartenders.” says Justin of the band’s early days.

“Since we’ve started playing shows, I believe that our audience has grown and we have developed genuine friendships from fans that consistently come out and show love. A lot of times people just go by the popularity or buzz of the artists they follow, and less about their actual craft or live show,” adds Dave.

Their sound is a fresh take on something familiar, but their influences run the gamut, making their way into this explosive foursome in idiosyncratic ways. “Luke and I both really dig metal – well, more “hardcore” I guess, but not the scream stuff – but that comes out more in our energy at shows,” says Andrew.



About a week ago, The Key ran a story about folk-comedy trio Wilbur that mentioned a “Friendsgiving” show in which Wilbur brought the house down alongside a few acts of various genres, including Halfro. The term “Friendsgiving” only begins to do justice to that sentiment. Halfro’s presence in that line-up only solidified that vibe, getting a room packed with people to get down in patchwork-perfect synchronicity and feel the band’s everlasting pulse through every muscle fibre.

“It’s just dope to me when I see rappers rapping their asses off on stage with a band who is both killing it musically and having a damn good time. I want people to get that feeling when they see us play,” explains Andrew

Live hip-hop, particularly when manifest in full-band setup, has the power to bring every type of person together. Self-righteous rockists who disregard the turntable/sampler/drum machine template of most contemporary popular music will consistently get behind a hip-hop group with obvious proficiency. Poptimists on the other side of the spectrum won’t justifiably hate on an act whose talent and comprehensive understanding of the pop landscape shines through with every note. People looking to party will always know a good time when they see it. Ultimately, Halfro has nothing to worry about. In a city known worldwide for awe-inspiring live hip-hop and soul, the torch that they carry will always shine bright. - The Key


Local indie hip-hop act Halfro have a sound that’s quite refreshing. They’re a full band that plays passionate, melodic music in a genre that rarely focuses on bands, but rather solo acts. Recently, they stripped down Jay-Z’s “Somewhere in America”, from this year’s Magna Carta Holy Grail, and gave it a poetry club type makeover. Halfro will open for Nappy Roots tomorrow night at Voltage Lounge. Get tickets here. - The Key


The narrow upstairs bar and stage at 3rd and Girard may not be the most intuitive of places to stop in for a weekend concert, but those who packed the room on Saturday night for hip-hop quartet Halfro‘s album release show were rewarded for their time.


The evening took on a celebratory tone as openers The Bul Bey and Verbatum Jones individually toasted the headliners for the debut of Squalor, Halfro’s first full-length release, during their own tight and evocative opening sets. By the time Halfro came on with supporting musicians in tow (including Wilbur‘s Kieran Kriss on guitar), the mood was already set for a great night. Fortunately, the band more than delivered on expectation, bringing the house down with every snare crack, sax wail, and agile 16-bar statement. Check out photos from the show, as well as a video of Halfro, Bey, and Verb performing Squalor cut “Change of Tide, below. - The Key


David Patrick, Andrew Aulenbach, Curtis Arnett and Justin Davis sit on different couches, fidgeting. This is their first interview as Chocolate Milk, a privilege earned via a combination of their own hard work and by winning a recent Grammy U Live! event at the Legendary Dobbs.

They met at freshman orientation at Temple University three years ago. Vocalist Patrick and keyboard player Aulenbach performed a ukulele and rap hybrid that impressed sax player Arnett and bass guitarist Luke Reitz, who is currently studying in Ecuador. They jammed together a couple times with drummer Davis, who Aulenbach and Patrick knew from high school, and Chocolate Milk was born.



Since then, the band has made an indelible mark on the area, playing wild live shows everywhere from house parties to the Liacouras Center, where they opened for both Wale and JUMP cover stars Chiddy Bang.

“No matter where we’re playing, we always try to be on point with our live show,” says Patrick.

“Thankfully,” adds Aulenbach, “we play often enough that sometimes we can go a while without practicing.”



Patrick describes their sound as something like Mark Ronson or N.E.R.D. but he shies away from stating too many influences.

“Once you start dropping a bunch of names, people get distracted and try to tie you to them,” continues Patrick. “I think I can be honest and say that there really isn’t another group out there doing what we’re doing right now.”

Chocolate Milk’s hazy, heavily jazz-influenced brand of hip hop is certainly not en vogue right now but it’s the kind of music you hear and forgot you needed. Musically, the group writes and performs the kind of sonic jams that Q-Tip had to construct with old records back in the day. But don’t even get the idea in your head that they won’t sonically force you to move at their shows.

“When we’re doing a show, especially a house show, I think I subconsciously want to be the center of attention” says Patrick. “Performing is absolutely a high. Even when we’re on a bill with people like our friends Stinky Smelly, we’re inspired by them. We’re also driven to be better, as well.”

Despite being a hip hop-centric band, the collective influences of the group come from decidedly un-hip hop places.

“I’ve been playing drums at my church since I was 12-years old,” Davis offers. “I didn’t even really get into rap music until I got to college.”

“I picked up the sax 11 or 12 years ago when my mom made me pick out an instrument in elementary school,” says Arnett. “Once you listen to Coltrane for the first time, everything else sort of pales in comparison.”

They’ve released music on the Internet for as long as they’ve been together but Chocolate Milk is now putting the finishing touches on their first proper album, So Far To Go. It should drop any day now.

“The whole thing has been a really, really long process,” says Aulenbach, who also handles production and engineering. “I love experimenting with sounds. I’ll take records from the basement of Repo Records just to find the little sounds I want. I have recordings of Justin’s drums from years ago that I’ll just throw into a song.” - Jump Philly


Discography

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Bio

Halfro formed in Philadelphia in 2009 originally under the name Chocolate Milk. Their sound blends classic, gritty, hip-hop rhythms with floating melodies, and honest lyrics. Writing and performing their songs with real instruments, Halfro is one just a few true bands in hip-hop today. 

In 2014, Halfro released their debut album, Squalor to raving reviews. The album is available for free streaming here: http://halfromusic.bandcamp.com/ The band has been touring the Mid-Atlantic to support the release. Select performances include headlining The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn, opening for BadBadNotGood at a sold out show at Milkboy in Philadelphia, and a recent live performance on WXPN's The Key Studio Sessions. 

The core of Halfro is David Patrick (frontman, vocalist) Andrew Aulenbach (keys), Justin Davis (drums), and Luke Ritz (bass). For larger shows, and whenever possible, Halfro is accompanied by a three-piece horn section lead by Bobby Davis on the alto sax.