Off the Beat: HalfNoise’s ‘The Velvet Face’ shows that Zac Farro can succeed outside of Paramore

In Arts & Entertainment, Music
HalfNoise's "The Velvet Face" EP has a much different sound than his band Paramore, but its laid-back '60s inspired sound will interest their fans. (Courtesy of Congrats Records)

Twenty-six-year-old Zac Farro has already lived a lifetime as a musician, beginning as an original member of Paramore and now as its newest addition after his exit. His solo project HalfNoise delivers quirky and dance-worthy breakup tracks that feel straight from the ‘60s.

His new EP “The Velvet Face” is the first sign of a legendary reunion between Farro and his old bandmates. While HalfNoise’s music is much more laid back than that of Paramore’s, Farro’s unique work as a solo artist creates anticipation for the band’s return.

HalfNoise made its album debut late last year with “Sudden Feeling,” a collection of colorful electronic and retro beats, influenced by Tame Impala and Radiohead. Melancholy lyrics over lively ambient melodies create Farro’s solo sound, tailormade for indie fans.

“The Velvet Face” provides lighthearted tunes with a refreshingly candid voice. Like its impressionistic album artwork, the brightly colored portrait is contrasted by the flat expression on its face.

The release show for the EP on April 8 brought original Paramore members back together. Frontwoman Hayley Williams and guitarist Taylor York shared a stage for the first time in years at the Lucky Bamboo China Bistro in Nashville, Tenn. along with some of Farro’s other friends.

In Farro’s new music, heavy guitar riffs groove through “Scooby’s in the Back,” leading into a culmination of a psychedelic chorus filled with peculiar lyrics that seemingly go without meaning. Much like the Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus,” its incoherence doesn’t stop the track from being addictive.

“French Class” is the lead single on the EP and feels like part of a soundtrack from a warmly tinted Paris-set foreign film. Farro sings “cuz I can’t keep waiting for you, waiting for you” over energetic and dazed melodies along with the French language tied in to its lyrics.

“As U Wave” is a sweet ballad with its repetitive up-tempo guitar riff throughout a gloomy hymn catching the bittersweet feelings of saying goodbye. Williams adds mellow vocals to the song starting with the lyrics, “And dreaming was easier with you, but sometimes this life leaves you blue.” The remaining new songs “Someday” and “Velvet Face” feel similar to this dreamy feel.

During their time in Paramore, Farro would be found in the background playing drums, as Williams sang front and center while York played the guitar on the sidelines. During their recent reunion, it feels more like a collaborative and experimental jam session among good friends.

They started playing at venues in 2004 and worked their way up to Vans Warped Tour in 2006. Paramore began headlining its own shows when its 2007 punk album “Riot!” blew up with hit songs like “That’s What You Get” and “Misery Business.”

Farro and his brother Josh met Williams in 2004 in Franklin, Tenn. and formed Paramore together along with bassist Jeremy Davis and York. They made three successful records gaining a bigger following with every show, until the Farro brothers publicly left the band in 2010 under bad terms, including a public blog post describing Paramore as a “a manufactured product.” Paramore continued its rapid success without the two in its 2013 self-titled album.  

After their own high school drama of sorts and plenty of band member shake ups, Farro along with the faithful pair Williams and York have finished writing Paramore’s fifth album, expected to drop sometime in 2017.

Farro proves to be a lot more than Paramore’s old drummer with HalfNoise. And with York shredding his guitar in the background and Williams singing new tunes with Farro by his side in Nashville again, an exciting new Paramore era approaches, perhaps taking some of HalfNoise’s freshness in their own new sound.

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