Interview: Half Past Two Is Way Past Ska

Categories: interview
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You could probably call Half Past Two the band that Aaron Barrett of Reel Big Fish built. Notwithstanding the fact that members of the band have been together since they were members of the Los Alamitos High School marching band, ska veteran Barrett has been instrumental in their development. He produced their debut EP Closet Polar Bear, invited them to open for Reel Big Fish at the House of Blues in Anaheim, then invited them on tour.

It was the push that Half Past Two deserved; they've since nabbed an Orange County Music Awards nomination for Best Alternative Band, radio airplay and performed at the best venues in Orange County. With various lineup changes (apparently, Half Past Two graduates are really serious about school -- one decided to study in a seminary, another in Thailand, and one got a masters in Psychology), 2010 has been a year of writing new material and playing revolving door with band members, says guitarist Tyler Moore. Read about his idea of Mike Ness and a perfect world after the jump.
OC Weekly: How did you guys get together?
Tyler Moore: The band's roots can be traced back to Los Alamitos High School.  We initially formed as a ska cover band with a rhythm section and half the marching band as a horn section.  After reaching our apex with a headlining slot in the high school's talent show, we decided to get serious and ended up cutting the horns down to a more manageable foursome.  Our singer at the time was pretty much the show choir darling, so I suppose you could say we were a product of the music program at LAHS. 
That incarnation of the band did a bunch of backyard parties, some girl's sweet 16, and by a chance encounter bumped into Aaron Barrett of Reel Big Fish across the street from the school at Volcano Burger.  He had some downtime from touring towards the end of 2007 and produced our first EP with the same engineer that does RBF's stuff in Orange.

Why ska?
Having done ska since high school, it feels natural at this point.  We realized a little time ago that we would have had a much steeper climb in the local scene if we were just a rock band trying to get a name out for ourselves.  Big fish in a little pond, and the ska scene is a pretty small pond.  That isn't to say that any particular member is into ska 100 percent of the time.  I met the drummer in a metalcore band in college, the other guitarist had a pop punk band before this one.  Our sax player's background is jazz, so we all have different backgrounds that are sometimes more apparent in our sound but when we come together for Half Past Two we know the material is going to have some sort up upbeat and horns.

Do you think you represent an OC scene?

I'm not sure if it's because high school marching bands act as a catalyst for ska bands of any kind, but there always seems to be a presence of way underage (younger than 18) kids at shows.  They're a lot more supportive of the less traditional (third-wave or ska/punk) stuff, but the problem is that eventually they go to school and move away.  With the older crowd that actually remembers the OC ska scene from it's heyday in the mid-'90s, they're usually into more traditional stuff and dismiss newer sounds as some sort of sacrilege.  The Orange County scene has always felt scattered to me, and I feel like there is a lot more cohesion or at least familiar faces out in Riverside and San Diego.
About a year and a half ago we tried to organize a free once a month ska show called JavaSka in the parking lot of an It's A Grind in Anaheim.  Geographically it wasn't too far from Riverside and it was pretty close to the things going on in Fullerton and Pomona.  Our intention was to give smaller local bands a place to play, without having to sell presale tickets or get attitude from the venue.  It ran for about a year and ended up getting us in touch with a lot of local bands that we've shared a lot of shows with since then.  On a few occasions we would get LA and San Diego bands to come out and to expose them to more Orange County based audiences.  We kinda reached a critical mass when some of the kids started vandalizing property outside of the It's A Grind and we had less time to organize the shows because we ourselves were playing out at other venues so often.  Some people talked to us about taking over, but it never really materialized.

What are your favorite venues in OC?
I personally love playing Chain Reaction.  I come from this weird little niche scene in high school that didn't like the radio and would get all our music from each other.  Chain was always sort of the centerpiece of that scene, so if I can go back and play there now it feels really good.  It seems kind of self-centered but I feel like be playing there now I'm on the other side of that, my band is that well kept secret passed around amongst friends.

Who are your favorite local bands?
Failed To Victory, Maxwell Smart (though technically they're from the Valley), Starpool, The Bombpops, Suburban Legends, Operation Danger, The Sound Archives

If you could ask another local band a question, what would it be?
I'd ask Mike Ness (Social Distortion) for a hug, and in a perfect world he'd say yes.

Half Past Two perform with Deal's Gone Bad at  Aladdin Jr., 296 W. Second St., Pomona on Sat., May 22,  7 p.m.   



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