On stage at the Reverb last Friday, for Canadian Music Week: Dan Thiel, Helen Garcia, Oliver Pavo and Brian Kobayakawa

Photo Nick Chan

half full rising to the brim

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A third-year RTA student sings about ex-boyfriends and grandmothers with her electric-guitar-absent band, half full.

By Erin Kobayashi

Onstage, Garcia and her band mates have a total ying yang aura. Classical guitarist Ollie Pavo, acoustic guitarist Dan Thiel, drummer Fulvio Bolletta and bassist Brian Kobayakawa sit calmly while performing at one of Canadian Music Week’s most hyped showcases on Friday, March 1, at the Reverb.

Helen Garcia’s glass shattering vocal projection adds to the punk-like performance. She’s bending and jumping to the band’s hybrid beats matched with relationship-driven lyrics about everything from ex-boyfriends to grandmothers.

The band covered the Beatles’ song Revolution which made many of the audience members swing their hips and bob their heads. Garcia sang like she owned the song, standing on the speakers while the band added a bluesy inspired backup sound.

It’s difficult to not focus only on Garcia, a third-year radio and television arts student, especially if you’re standing in the back of the room. The petite Portuguese vocalist popped up and down over the hairlines of the rest of the band throughout their set but Garcia insists that she does not want her band to turn into “Helen Garcia and half full.”

“If we have to do music videos, it’s going to be all of us or none of us,” Garcia says of the band’s strict press policy, which includes everyone being in photos and contributing to interviews in order to avoid problems that bands such as Blondie or No Doubt faced, where media concentration has been solely on the female lead singer.

“Hopefully the music will speak for itself. It won’t be just her singing with some generic music in the background. It’ll be a good voice with a good band,” Pavao says. “It’s fine if she’s the most instantly recognizable person. I wouldn’t be jealous or anything like that. It’s unavoidable.”

Half full (not capitalized for aesthetic purposes) was not exactly thinking of their name in the traditional philosophical sense of optimism/ pessimism but more in an alcoholic sense.

“We were at a bar trying to find names for the band, looking through dictionaries. We had a glass and it was half full of beer,” Garcia says.

Simple enough, but sound-wise, the band is a complicated force to be heard. Weaving in and out of acoustic-rock-blues-jazz-funk songs, the band prides itself on using no electric guitars in its music.

In the auditioning process, after original acoustic guitarist and half full founding member Rich Loewenberger left the band to pursue a solo career, half full not only found a new acoustic player (Thiel), but also a jazz-trained bassist (Kobayakawa).

“I just showed up for a speed metal audition and I was like, ‘what the hell is this?’” deadpans Thiel of the band’s signature category-free sound.

With hard work and practice, the newly reconstructed band played their first show in Novemeber at Jeff Healey’s bar (178 Bathurst), eventually jamming with the owner. Despite that honour, half full refuses to dwell on past success. They’re focusing on how to get a bigger fan base and a record contract.

One of the two-year-old band’s greatest accomplishments came when the band played at the Portuguese Day Celebrations festival. “It was older Portuguese people. Personally I was imagining what it would be like if people were there just for us. And it was incredible, just being in front of that many people,” Pavao says.

If half full keeps getting the hyped up exposure they received during Canadian Music Week, Pavao’s dream of performing for a large audience will definitely become a reality.

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