An Interview With the LA-Based Electronic DUO, HALO CIRCUS!
Posted On 27 Mar 2018
Halo Circus are a highly acclaimed Los Angeles based electronic duo featuring star singer Allison Iraheta and producer Matthew Hager. Formerly a four piece rock band, Halo Circus have returned as a compelling synth-pop duo, with a sparkling new album Robots and Wranglers, mixed by Grammy Award winner Craig Bauer (Rihanna, Kanye West). The record is a concept album that sees the duo at the top of their game, seemingly right at home making a stylistic electronic record that feels like it was always there, right in the duo’s creative wheelhouse. Gone are the rock stylings of Bunny, replaced this time around with finely crafted synth-pop gems, clad with sometimes minimal, occasionally lush electronic arrangements. What remains in the fold is Iraheta’s recognizably dark vocals and introspective lyrical approach—hallmarks of the band and the kind of superstar traits that have won over fans nationwide. The album is already being hailed as “a cinematic, electronic work of fiction set in 2018.”
The recent flurry of attention surrounding Halo Circus has resulted in massive opportunities for the group. Allison Iraheta has lended her powerhouse vocals to various notable projects, including appearing on the recent NIN EP “Add Violence,” on the song “Less Than.” In addition, new FOX singing competition The Four—featuring Sean Combs, DJ Khaled, and Meghan Trainor—reached out to Allison to help work on the pilot, citing her as a trailblazing artist that is pushing the boundaries of music and the business of music. More recently, Allison performed at renowned industry giant Clive Davis’ Grammy party, in a duet with superstar Latin crossover artist Luis Fonsi on the track, “Echamela La Culpa.”
With the release of Robots and Wranglers arriving this Spring, Halo Circus’ future is lit with a newfound optimism. More at home as a duo than ever before, Iraheta and Hager have tapped into the reduced essence of their creativity and are ready for their formal arrival. Armed with a new album of inspiring electro-pop tracks, and one of the most supportive fan-bases in the country, they will be hitting the road this March on a nationwide tour.
Learn more about Halo Circus in the following All Access interview:
So what is one song that you are all loving right now? What is a song that you all disagree about loving right now?
Allison : I am loving the new N.E.R.D song “1000.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard “ASSE-MB -LIN” a riot” done that way. We disagree about Cardi B. I don’t like the song but I wish her the best, Matthew kind of likes the song but thinks her parents should pull her out of the business.
How has 2018 been treating you all so far? What is one musical goal that you have for this year?
Matthew: 2018 has been crunch time since it stared and this new album seems to be opening doors we couldn’t have imagined. We’d love to start playing radio festivals this year. That would be a dream.
Can you recall the moment when you all thought you could be in a band together? Was it hard to come up with a name that you all thought fit your sound and who you are? How did you pick this one?
Allison : The name Halo Circus for us reflected chaos and sacredness. It made sense with what we were trying to convey melodically and lyrically. We’ve always seen HC as an art project giving us the opportunity to do whatever we were feeling at the moment. The name Halo Circus makes that easier for us.
What has the growth been like for this band since first forming?
Matthew: The amount of support we’ve gotten both from fans and critics has been unbelievable. We’ve been an unconventional band from the very beginning. We’ve somehow managed to get a 35 city US Tour crowd funded, had the opportunity to write with a few heroes and amazingly our debut album was listed as a top album of the year. Our song “Band-Aid” was even named the #1 song of 2016 by Popdust. The truth is, in this climate, its a miracle to be sitting here discussing a new album. The odds and the money are against you and somehow I think we have just made our best record. Long story short? No complaints here. But if you want to buy us lunch, we’ll take it.
How do you think being from your hometown has influenced this group and the kind of music that you create?
Allison: Being from LA has it’s advantages and disadvantages. We all know that LA is the city where people come to be a “star” but it’s also where dreams love to die. The insistence of a fast paced and high anxiety way of life is very loud here. I grew up in South Central, then later in my teen years I was introduced the Beverly Hills way of living. I think people see me as a rebel in my generation. I’m not good at what “LA” is known for. Going on tour as Halo Circus gave me the opportunity to take in the beauty of small towns throughout the country. I think I’ve been able to use both perspectives to write and pull music from.
Matthew: I’m from Houston and I think it speaks loudly on this album. There’s a robot and a wrangler on the album. Listen closely. I’m the wrangler.
Let’s talk about your latest single “Narcissist.” What was the inspiration for it? How did you all go about writing it and putting it together?
Matthew : Narcissist was a reaction to the impact that social media had on us on our last tour. When we were driving through the country we noticed how everyone had one thing in common. Sell themselves as best they can. I think the era of celebrity is over and the age of the entrepreneur has sunk its ugly teeth into our souls. We don’t talk anymore, we shout. We don’t yearn anymore, we project.
I would love to know more about making your video for “Narcissist.” I read that you really enjoyed filming it. How creatively involved were you with the making of it? What 10 laws did you break making it?!
Matthew: It was impossible not to enjoy that shoot. It was terrifying at times, but one of my oldest friends was driving so it felt like we were all in it together. Christopher Rucinski directed it and came up with the original concept. He fell in love with the subversiveness behind the song and went nuts.
Allison: If I can remember, 1)Filming without a permit 2) Riding in a vehicle without seat belts 3) Public Nudity 4) Not coming to a complete stop 5) Reckless driving 6) Speeding 7)Public urination 8) Disturbing the peace 9) Attempting to bribe an officer 10) We may or may not have had an illegal immigrant involved in the shooting.
What does it feel like to be putting out your sophomore album, “Robots + Wranglers”? Did anything surprise about the overall process of putting this collection together? Were there any unexpected challenges?
Matthew: The album came suddenly and was written and recorded quickly. I think waiting 5 years to write new material had us bursting at the seams. We are different people now, hopefully better writers and the world is offering up subject matter for artists like never before. For us, this was an album that had to be made.
What has it been like transitioning from a four-piece rock band to a synth pop duo?
Allison: Halo Circus is an art project. We may have 12 people in the band next year, who knows. This is the language that is speaking to us now and the sounds that the lyrics seem to want to be a part of.
Allison, how do you think your experience on American Idol Season 8 has changed who you are as a musician today? What was it like being on the show? Would you change anything about your performances? Do you recommend that other aspiring artists try out for a singing competition as a way of breaking it into the business?
Allison: Idol gave me the knowledge of how much work it takes to be in the music business. It didn’t teach me how to be an artist because that isn’t what it does. Good or bad, it gave me the tools to be able to handle the rough edges of this business. Being on a show like that is like bootcamp for the soul. If you can handle that then there is a chance you can handle the ups and downs of doing what we do for a living.
What was it like working on the new FOX singing show, The Four?
Allison : It was a fun distraction. I thought it was cool that they were showcasing artists with real world experience. As much as I strongly believe artists should be hammering out their craft in clubs and in front of real human being who aren’t paid by corporations, the party seems to be on tv so I think its good to change it up a little and see what is possible with that format.
Where can our readers see you perform next? Do you have tour dates already lined for the year? What do you think makes for an ideal show for this group?
Matthew : If they are in the US, there’s a good chance they can see us this year. We start our tour in Denver on March 22 and from there we keep going. We’ve announced 24 dates and are about to announce a bunch more. We love playing clubs and we love seeing audiences double in size every time we swing through. We are like street performers. We’ll play anywhere that people want us and we’ll make sure they have a unique and great time.
How important do you think social media has been to this band? Do all you help to maintain all your sites or is one of you more into it all? Or do you rely on your PR/management team to handle it all?
Allison : Matthew is really good at it but we both are on top of it. We aren’t at a point where we rely on others (although that sounds like a great luxury). We feel at this time that we are still benefiting greatly from getting to know our fans one on one.
Who would you love to work with in the future? Who are some of your favorite artists right now? What do you think would be a dream collaboration for this group?
Matthew: One of the best experiences making this album was shutting off the phones, computers and even radios for the entire making of the album. Of course we are fans of other acts and many people inspired the album in theory, but we decided to throw caution to the wind and find out what the two of us sounded like with no concern for the outside world.
Allison: I love Santigold, Gorillaz, 21 Pilots and Julieta Venegas to name a few. Matthew is into Cage The Elephant, Kanye West, Foster The People and The National at the moment.
We are living in a trying time right now so I am curious how you think being in this band gives you the most joy in life today? Do you think that music being created today is going to reflect this challenging time?
Matthew : I’ve found you take joy where you can get it. I know I’m in the right place (and the right band) when I can have a day that crumbles me to my knees and I still hit the sheets with gratitude. If the joy left, I’d burn all the instruments and go be a monk.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs? What do you hope they take away from one of your shows?
Allison : I’d like to think our music is like a good book. Full of stories that can entertain and make you feel. Our goal is to always seek commonality. If you want to read more into our stories, there’s plenty there to keep you occupied.
Would you like to share anything else about yourselves or this band?
Allison: We don’t know shit. We don’t have the answers. We are trying to figure it all out just like everyone else is.