Strap On Halo

Strap On Halo

Profile:
Discography:
2009: Cherry Flavored Quick Fix – CD & digital EP
2011: The Dead Don't Lie – CD & digital album
2012: Vault – retrospective compilation CD album
2012: Gloomy Sunday – CD & digital single (+ limited edition Triptych Coffin Box Set and Digipack packages)
2013: Ode to Krampus – digital single
2014: Haunted – CD & digital EP

Strap On Halo are a gothic rock trio residing in Seattle, Washington (originally formed in Omaha, NE) whose blend of American deathrock and ‘traditional goth’ is driven by howling, swirling guitars (Seán Rial), gloom-laden bass (Marc Rhön Jones) and wailing female vocals (Layla Reyna). Although often compared to the likes of Faith and the Muse, Mephisto Walz, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Switchblade Symphony and Christ vs. Warhol, rather than citing a list of other bands, Strap On Halo themselves refer instead to influences ranging from Halloween and classic horror movie imagery to current events, insisting that their influences “are really all around us”. The band see no need for cataloguing their musical inspirations when others can easily connect those dots, pointing out that their influences are “visual, auditory and emotional”.

Seán Rial first dreamed up the name ‘Strap On Halo’ as a teenager, eventually getting the chance to put it to use when he founded an earlier incarnation of the group in 1994, imploding around 1997. Strap On Halo today, however, is to all intents and purposes, an entirely new band.

Despite the false start, over the years Seán continued to foster the idea of one day resurrecting the Strap On Halo project. It was not until vocalist Layla Reyna moved to Omaha from San Antonio, Texas in 2005, followed later by bassist Marc Jones from Seattle, Washington (by way of Louisville, Kentucky) that the current band gradually began to take form. Both Layla and Marc independently made contact with Seán via the internet; each in their turn having discovered that the guitarist was at the centre of nearly all musical activity emanating from within the local goth scene. By the time Marc got in touch in 2008, Seán and Layla had already established their creative partnership: “We asked him [Marc] a series of silly questions to gauge what kind of person he might be”, says Layla. “We then eventually had him come over; we jammed for about four to five hours and it was decided he would be our bass player.” Most importantly, all three became the best of friends – a pivotal dynamic underpinning the creative energy within the band.

The new trio’s first release was ‘Cherry Flavored Quick Fix’ EP; a four-song EP recorded and produced over one weekend at the Mattress Factory in Chicago, Illinois with drummer-turned-producer Martin Atkins (formerly of Public Image Ltd., Killing Joke, NIN and Ministry, and founder of Pigface), having been written within a few months of getting the offer from Atkins to produce the band. ‘Cherry Flavored Quick Fix’ was self-released on 13 October 2009, and less than a fortnight later the band played their first live show in Omaha on 24 October. Positive response to the EP meanwhile enabled Layla to put together the band’s first tour; The Quick Fix Tour hit the road in the summer of 2010, and over the next two weeks took in New Orleans, Texas, Florida and Nebraska. It was to mark the beginning of the band’s love affair with the road. On 10 June 2011, the band released their début full-length album, ‘The Dead Don’t Lie’. The album was produced, mixed and mastered by Mick Shearman of NightPorter and Raymond Ross of Ankst; collaborations initially born from an international musical collective who had worked together on a cover of Bowie’s ‘Everyone Says Hi’ to raise money and awareness for the Sophie Lancaster Foundation. Shearman and Ross’s subsequent involvement in the production of ‘The Dead Don’t Lie’ came about when the original mix of the album had come back as “utter crap”, leaving Strap On Halo with a promotional tour looming and only a substandard product to sell. The band turned to Shearman and Ross, who in turn saved the situation from almost certain disaster.

Kitty Lectro, a regular collaborator with Raymond Ross, had meanwhile approached Strap On Halo about remixing one of their songs. Being fans of Kitty’s the band immediately agreed, and her remix of ‘It’s All Over’ (from the previous EP) in turn found its way onto ‘The Dead Don’t Lie’. Kitty has since continued to work with and support the band. Coinciding with the album’s release, the band embarked on the five-week Memento Mori US Tour, which also featured The Hiram Key from the UK on selected dates.

The band's Waking Sleep Tour in July 2012 took them across the West Coast of the US and into Texas, while in September they joined The Spiritual Bat for the American Midwest leg of the Italian band’s Cruel Machine Tour. The compilation album ‘Vault’ meanwhile gathered all of the tracks from Strap On Halo’s previous two releases, together with a ‘pre-album’ demo version of ‘You And Your Ghost’, as a limited edition CD especially for sale on tour. The band’s final show for the year was in Jacksonville, Florida, where they appeared at the first annual Age of Decay Festival on 22 September, on a bill with Ex-Voto and Lestat, among others.

In December 2012, Strap On Halo released their cover of ‘Gloomy Sunday’ as a single; mixed, mastered and produced once more by Raymond Ross, and accompanied by remixes of the album tracks ‘Monsters’ and ‘Only In Death’ from both Kitty Lectro and Ankst, respectively. The decision to take on the notorious “Hungarian suicide song” came about when Seán and Layla were watching a movie that featured ‘Gloomy Sunday’ in different phases of a female character’s life. “Every time she sang, it moved me so much [that] I insisted we do it”, Layla says. “We aren’t much for covers, and although it’s been done by so many, I think we made it our own”.

Another important point of difference for the single’s release is its distinctive packaging, consisting of Triptych Coffin box sets and digipacks. A graphic designer and collector of coffins, Layla spent several months working out all of the details and materials required. Each individual package is hand-made to order; an assembly process of cutting, gluing and taping that takes approximately 28 days per item to complete.

In June 2013 the band set out on their fourth promotional tour of the US – the Dark Unity Tour supporting False Icons, led by John Bechdel of Ministry, Prong, Killing Joke and Fear Factory. They also played a number of shows alongside darkwave/romantic electro duo The New Void from Cincinnati, and formed strong relationships with both bands in the process. It was also during 2013 that Strap On Halo began recording sessions for their next EP, and meanwhile released ‘Ode to Krampus’ as a one-off internet-only single, just ahead of Christmas that year.

The five-song ‘Haunted’ EP followed in February 2014, while the next month saw Strap On Halo embark on the Near Dark US Tour, in tandem with UK gothic rock band The Last Cry, organised and promoted in collaboration with DJ Martin ‘Oldgoth’ Coles of Thirteen13 (UK). In the making for over a year-and-a-half beforehand, the Near Dark Tour is fondly regarded by those involved as one of the best road-trips ever, and resulted in a number of lasting bonds being forged across continents. Fundamental to the internal culture of the band, Layla describes their outlook and philosophy towards touring:

“We've been fortunate to tour with some amazing people and musicians. They are friends and we keep them all as close as we can. The scene is hard enough. Having one another other to ask for help or help out benefits everyone ... Touring is really important to us. I suppose we feel that without touring, what's the point? We're new and if we don't get out there to meet others in the scene doing the same thing it’s just a waste. The Spiritual Bat and The Last Cry are very much of the same philosophy. Get out and do it. You can't wait for something to just happen.”

At the time of writing, we can confirm that the band is preparing for a new release.
Sites:
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Artist

Strap On Halo Discography

Albums

none Strap On Halo The Dead Don't Lie(CD, MiniAlbum, Ltd) Not On Label (Strap On Halo Self-released) none US 2011 Sell This Version
none Strap On Halo Prayers For The Living(CD, Album) Not On Label (Strap On Halo Self-Released) none US 2016 Sell This Version

Singles & EPs

none Strap On Halo Cherry Flavored Quick Fix(CD, EP, Ltd) Not On Label (Strap On Halo Self-released) none US 2009 Sell This Version
Strap On Halo Gloomy Sunday (Single) Not On Label (Strap On Halo Self-released) US 2012 Sell This Version
none Strap On Halo Ode To Krampus(File, FLAC, MP3, Single) Not On Label (Strap On Halo Self-released) none US 2013
(Strap On Halo Self-released) Strap On Halo Haunted(CD, EP) Not On Label (Strap On Halo Self-released) USA & Canada 2014 Sell This Version

Compilations

none Strap On Halo Vault(CD, Ltd, Comp) Not On Label (Strap On Halo Self-released) none US 2012 Sell This Version