Still Ill Records’ online poster said it all: “One of the most important bands of our generation will be making their reunion.”
The band on point is Half the Battle. That youth crew that released a three-way split CD in 2006, and three years later a full-length album on vinyl that is also a milestone in the Philippine underground music scene. That youth crew that followed from that local trailblazing straight edge band, Feud.
The band’s milestone vinyl is “What We Have,” released by Just Another Day Records that also had a similar effect on local bands if not more.
According to knowledgeable people in the underground scene, Half the Battle’s influence among their peers can still be felt today. The music, overall positive message, and most importantly the concept of thinking and actually doing something (starting a band, writing a zine, having fun) rather than sitting all day resonated well with fans. The band challenged listeners to disagree — to which its members did to some degree — and to communicate, which is one of the most important things in the hardcore punk community.
Some bands that were inspired by Half the Battle include Random Violence, Value Lasts, and Clean Slate to name a few.
They even inspired an indie production outfit in the Sleeping Boy Collective to put up its own promotions according to Darwin Soneja, because “they were struck by the sense of community that was prevalent in the shows. It felt like a gathering of friends where everyone knew each other and we never felt unwelcome. Half the Battle and TakeFour Collective were at the center of all of that.”
“If you take a look at the lyrics of their song, ‘Guest List,’ it talks about making shows as accessible to everyone and that has been one of SBC’s guiding principles ever since,” Soneja said.
Evan “Easy” Morgan, vocalist for Half the Battle who is in town for a few days for two reunion shows with his former crew — first at the Cavite Hardcore Fest last Saturday, January 26, and then at Mow’s in Quezon City last Sunday, January 27 — is in disbelief over the “love.”
“Really,” he wondered about the accolades and impact of his old band. “Is this for real?”
He is even surprised to learn from me that this is the 10th anniversary of the release of “What We Have.” “I didn’t even know that and yet I am pleased to know that,” he put with a sheepish grin. “This is all news to me. These are just songs that we collected in 2004. Half the songs were off our demo. The rest were written between 2007 and 2009. I didn’t know that people consider our album, ‘influential.’ It is touching.”
It has also been more than seven years since Morgan left the Philippines with his family to move back to the United States. “I miss the Philippines,” he simply put. “And I want to see how the local underground scene is doing.”
The two reunion shows took four months to plan. The show in Cavite saw more than 200 people at the venue. Over at Mow’s on a Sunday evening, it is a smaller crowd, but no less rowdy.
“The reunion show was four months in the making,” bared Morgan. “It was great to see new faces in the scene. What I was afraid was these young kids being intimidated in forming bands. But no. To see these new bands and new faces is great. And to see old friends show up (in Cavite) is touching.”
It seems like yesterday that it was Morgan who was inspired. “Feud was a huge inspiration for me. They took a stand and whether you agree with their point of view is something. The Beauty of Doubt was also a huge inspiration for me,” he said.
When Morgan moved to Manila, aside from the recording studio he put up with his wife, he also played bass in her band.
“I wanted to do something on my own and Feud, who I listened to a lot, were on hiatus at that time. I was thinking then, ‘I gotta form my own band,’ ” Morgan said.
“At that time, I was always starting bands. I have been in bands since the mid-90s. I am here with this awesome guy, Papao (who played guitar for Half the Battle) who I worked with in the studio and we formed Half the Battle. My inspiration was there being a lot of records with one great song, and I wanted to record an album with great songs that mean a lot to me. I guess we accomplished that.
“But Half the Battle was the first band (including bassist Rommel and drummer Puso) that I started from scratch musically and lyrically.”
Songs such as “Take the Chance” encouraged people to turn their dreams into reality. “Purpose” was a stark reminder to continue to grind it out even when things didn’t go one’s way. “Higher Learning” was about looking for solutions other than violence. All 14 songs on “What We Have” were of the same voice and positively charged.
“What We Have” was released on compact disc by TakeFour Collective and Major Malfunction, and on vinyl by Just Another Day Records. The latter though left somewhat of a bitter taste in Morgan’s mouth. “I was promised 200 more records and I never got them,” he said. “I only got about 30.”
And that makes “What We Have” rare and in demand.
“One thing I want you to know is I meant everything on that record,” Morgan said. “There isn’t anything I sang back then that I don’t believe in today. I still believe in every word. I found that there is a lot to be sad about in the world. But everyone who is cynical and doesn’t want to step up will not be able to change things.”
“For sure, these are tough times we are living in. But hopefully, this ugliness is only temporary.”