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The Darkness and Reconstruction of Haelos

We spoke to the band about their new record 'Full Circle,' and how they came to be.

Photo by Dave Ma

The rise of London trio HÆLOS is the kind of rapid ascension people attribute to internet buzz: a band puts a single online, blogs catch on, and there's a bunch of hype before there are even enough songs written to even make up a debut album, let alone the idea of there already being an album waiting and ready for release. The reality behind HÆLOS was that there were a lot more trials and life experience before its three members—Lotti Benardout, Arthur Delaney, and Dom Goldsmith—found their way here. There were past projects' records shelved, years of singing on other people's tracks or touring with other people's groups. As much as there was an immediate spark the first time the three gathered and sang on a track together, the ignition that occurred there had been a slow-building one. Rooted in the sort of searching, listless years of endless parties and failed projects that define plenty of people's (and artists') lives, but not the sort of meandering growing-pain process we associate with a band that seems to appear out of nowhere and suddenly garners blog buzz. But HÆLOS are deserving of that either way—they appeared suddenly, but also fully-formed, with an identity and world immediately their own.


The group essentially formed upon the release of “Dust,” their first track together, in October 2014. A year and a half later, they released their full-length debut Full Circle. It's a work full of cold atmospherics that capture a set of contrasts. It's dense, immersive music that evokes the feeling of loneliness that only comes with a solitary walk in the early hours of the morning, when you may have no real place to come from or to go to. It's deeply interior music, the kind of electronic record that marks the passage of time in its creators' lives, and can send the listener down similar pathways. And at the same time, on standouts like “Pray” or “Pale,” the music and melodies burst out into colossal shimmers that grasp at something more ineffable, more cosmic, beyond the banalities of human experience of just another misspent Saturday night. (This contrast, between the personal and the ethereal, comes across as core to HÆLOS' intent.) It's a strong debut, the kind of cohesive work that demands the front-to-back listening experience and begs to make a moment in your own life feel more cinematic than it should. Though they've already got material for a second album, the group will be spending a chunk of this year on the road, continuing that transition from studio project to fully functioning band.

Noisey: So, origin story stuff. Dom, you were working on separate projects with Arthur and Lotti, and then at some point you realized it made sense to combine and form a trio?


Dom: Yeah, so there were similarities emerging and more than anything, [it came from] picturing what it could be like if the two converged. There was a night where Lotti and I got pretty wasted and [fake drunk voice] “Why doesn't it, man? Why don't we work together?” The first collaboration as the trio, we wrote “Dust,” and at that point we had the boundaries about what instruments we were gonna play, what synthesizers we'd use on it. The foundations, the vocal sound.

Lotti: We had quite a few tracks on either side. When we did come together, I don't think anyone knew what that first session was going to be, and then that energy in the room that we all kind of instantly felt and decide to move on, it was nice to have the backbone to a few other tracks and put them together quite quickly.

Arthur: The speed at which that track came together…in a weird way it felt like we'd sort of leveled out what was missing in the other person's technique or style or anything like that. Our vocals meshed really well. That cemented it. We just cracked on from there, really.

After you released “Dust” in 2014, blogs caught on immediately. Given that context, was this whole process—getting to know each other at the same time that you're working on a debut album—overwhelming?

Arthur: I remember months there being very stressful, but at the same time we knew we were really onto the right thing. In a weird way, again, it was that balance, that tension—


Lotti: I think we put that pressure on ourselves for sure, we had a real desire to complete a whole album and not just come out with one, two tracks and see what happened. We really wanted to lock ourselves away and complete a whole album. I think that, tied to being in windowless rooms and studios, late nights, emotions run high and when you've all got such a vested interest and desire to achieve something, and we've all worked so hard and come off the back of projects that have not gotten to where we want them to get to, we all really wanted to put our heads down and make this work. And I think we've come out with an album that we're all super proud of. The arguments, anything that happened to get there now, was worth it.

Dom: In hindsight, we've been given the opportunity to do something we love doing every day. Rather than squander that opportunity, having maybe squandered previous opportunities in the past, we're just like really enjoying making this our entire universe.

How did you guys settle on the name Full Circle?
Arthur: I think, in life, from what we can perceive—we really liked the idea that things move in cycles and you arrive back at places that you feel you've been before but with new perspective. I think we've all experienced the downside of a hedonistic party scene, the disintegration of self, and trying to rebuild yourself after that. When you're in the right place in your life, there are serendipitous events or signs and stuff like that, that tell you you're in the right place. It feels like this record was a tying up of loose ends. It felt like a return for all three of us, from the end of our last projects, the beginning of a new one. But we also wanted it to be elemental, the sun coming up and going down at the end of the day and then coming up again.


Dom: You know, the universe is full of things that don't end, in terms of orbits and stuff like that. That was quite attractive to us. Linking to Alan Watts, whose words we were kindly allowed to use as a voice on the beginning of the album, the essential thing he talked about is that we've missed the point of life. There is no meaningful end to it. It's a journey. It's right now. That's something that is definitely linking with our name as well.

Lotti: That track, particularly, on the album was quite funny. That was one of the first tracks of the project, got totally forgotten about, and it was almost at the end of the writing of the whole album where it got brought back up. It talks about a lot of those themes on the record. When the decision came about what it was going to be called, that was almost a unanimous….

Arthur: It was like it had always been called that.

You've spoken about the relationship between destruction and reconstruction—in your process as songwriters, and as themes in your work. Was that sort of a conscious interest from the start, based on how you describe the sort of personal dissolution in partying in London and what came out of that?
Lotti: In terms of process, yeah, definitely, when we're writing—everything's happening at once. You're throwing all these ideas in, the production's happening, it's getting mixed, lyrics are coming. Looking back at how we wrote this album, it would start with a spark that would be something we'd all get excited about, and then we'd try to have everybody in the room being on the same page with the track. I think there were times when that can be quite difficult. Someone would turn up the next morning and put their hand up and say, “Guys, that bit's not right”—I could say that and Dom says “That's my favorite bit.” Those moments of tension and struggle between us that, in the end, we've decided to work in a way where we made a decision like, you know what, if one person isn't feeling it, we have to try and make it better or work through that. By doing that, by the end of it, we always came up with something that we all preferred. It never felt like a compromise. It just ties into the themes of the record, the lyrics, the production sounds, the whole thing.


Arthur: If you're an artist and you're in touch with yourself and your work, themes from your own life are obviously going to come out in the music. We've all got strong creative sides, but also incredibly strong destructive sides. That's something where, you can look around at humans and say, this is a place where we all feel like we have this in our lives. Destruction can sometimes be really creative because it means you have to rebuild and look at things fresh.

Lotti: Sometimes, also, we'd leave those parts and go back to them in other songs. For us, I think it was a really good, democratic way to work. It wasn't like one person was like, “No, I'm putting my foot down.” And also to have that safety, those boundaries, to feel safe enough to say, “Guys, I know we've been jamming on this for the last 10 hours, but, sorry.”

Dom: Sometimes if you've got a song in front of you, and you solo maybe the drum parts. And then you listen to that while you've been struggling with a vocal, you look at that like, “Listen to the rhythm there. Maybe the vocal melody is the right tune, but let's change the syllables a little bit.” It's having that sense to go back to constituent parts. At the end of the day, nothing's wasted, as Lotti said. Sometimes we'll write four songs out of one song. There'll be four different ideas there at the end, like there's one person and he's got four different personalities.


Arthur: That really informed our vocal parts in the tracks, the way they sit. We like vocals that become part of the music, almost like another instrument. In order to get to those melodies…they're not always the most melodic ones. They're the most embedded in the track. That was a difficult learning curve for us—starting out and getting into that headspace with vocals. Often you write a melody and you're like, well, “What the fuck? This is really melodic, how can you not like this?” Weirdly, when the melody is bang-on, the lyrics come out really easy and they flow out—

Dom: The phonetics of the gobbledegook that we've assigned to the melodies, you can pull words out of it.

Lotti: I think that's because it comes from the most honest place, from your subconscious, those words.

Dom: All of us come from being 13 or 14 and just trying to write songs. On a basic level, songs that had to work with a single accompaniment to a vocal. That's where you bring it back to. This process it working both ways—we finish a song, and then we work out how to play it live. And now we're working out how to play a song live in different ways.

You had to undergo a bit of a shift to play this stuff live, I imagine.
Dom: It was a case of…well, we're a studio band. Everything started in the studio. We got signed before we ever played live. It was a case of interpreting our record and working out how to do that in the most honest way. We weren't too precious about it sounding exactly the same. We wanted to play electronic music live, and that needed more people—particularly when you've got two lazy people just singing. [everybody laughs] We use a sampler because some of the synthesizers we've done the record on are extremely fragile. They go out of tune, or are rarely in tune. That's used to do some of the rare synths, bits and bobs.

Lotti: It's still evolving, the live show. We're also thinking about other ways we can do it, now that we've sort of realized it in this way. We're also considering doing a more stripped-back version. I interpreting the record different ways and having that human element to the performance was really important for us.

Arthur: Exactly, as Lotti said, a lot of bands in our area or genre, just…I think modern audiences are fine with people pressing play, and twisting some filters and stuff. We all come from a background of playing live music, and I think that energy you get between a band trying to nail it…you can't recreate that by just going out and playing to a track. We really wanted to bring that to the forefront and give people that live experience. They're paying money to come see you, if they want to listen to the record they can listen to it at home. [laughs] We really wanted to, just as a personal challenge, to actually really see if we could do it in a live way.

Dom: It was important for us to avoid having an Apple logo glowing on stage. There are some wicked electronic bands out there who use Ableton live to the fullest of their potential. Bands like Caribou.

Arthur: We'll do it. It'll be our Dylan electric moment. All the purists will walk out.