The music behind the synth pop project Half Waif is the result of a time, special and particular circumstances.
Nandi Rose Plunkett writes, records and performs under the name of this project. Her music is deeply personal and engaging , reflecting her lifelong endeavor to reconcile a sense of place.
Raised in the bucolic cultural hub of Williamstown, Massachusetts, Nandi was the daughter of an Indian refugee mother and an American father of Irish/Swiss descent.
She was one of Williamstown’s only non-white residents. As a kid, she listened to a wide mix of music that included everything from Joni Mitchell and Tori Amos, to Celtic songstress Loreena McKennitt and traditional Indian bhajans.
In college, she studied classical singing and became enamored with the works of Olivier Messiaen and Claude Debussy.
Her output as Half Waif reflects these varying influences, resulting in a richly layered collage of blinking electronic soundscapes, echoes of Celtic melodies and the sad chord changes of 19th-century art music.
With two EPs and two albums and collaborations, Half Waif caught the attention of the worldwide music media, with the track ‘Turn Me Around’ from the album Probable Depths (2016) and It was also during this time that
Half Waif’s relationship with the New York based independent label Cascine began.
Half Waif’s latest work, the form/a EP was release this February, following a series of concerts in The UK and The United States with performances at SXSX festival.
The form/a EP is collection of tracks that expand on her exploration of home. She explains:
“there’s an inherent restlessness in the way that I write and think about sound. I’m the daughter of a refugee, and somewhere in me is this innate story of searching for a home.
As a result, I have many – a collection of places that I latch onto, that inspire me, that fuse themselves to me. I’m sentimental, nostalgic – yet constantly seeking what’s next, excavating the sound of my past and coloring it to make the sound of my future. I’m a child of divorce, fiercely loved but forced into independence at a young age; I rocket into relationships with the desire to find roots, commonality, to create stillness in the midst of public noise.
In this way, my songs are like the notes of a large scavenger hunt, clues pinned to trees I have known, or tucked under rocks on my path, urging the listener to keep looking a little deeper, because maybe they will find something special in the end.”
form/a was released as a limited-edition 12” in February 2017 on Half Waif’s new label home, Cascine.
The band is comprised of Nandi Rose Plunkett, Zack Levine and Adan Carlo, who participate in the cover art for form/a which was hand-stitched by Chilean artist, María Aparicio Puentes.
We are glad to introduce you with Nandi Rose Plunkett, the soul behind
Bizzarre: What would your superpower be and why?
Nandi: Ruler of Time, with the ability to stretch and condense time at my will. There are always those perfect days that go by too fast, and those horrible moments that seem to go on forever. Wouldn’t it be nice to hold time in your hands like putty and do what you want with it? And more specifically, there’s of course a part of me that wants to rush through the next four years and get to the moment when we have a competent, compassionate president.
B: What’s your idea of heaven?
N: My first thought is of a wide empty beach in the fog with cliffs surrounding it I think I’m remembering this beach in Northern California, just north of
San Francisco, that I stumbled upon last year. The colors were muted tropical – the dull aqua of the water, the faded orange-pink of the sky, shrouded in a mystical mist. And no one was there at all. I ran around it and spun in circles.
B: What one thing have you learnt from your parents?
N: My parents are both true goofs, and I think I’ve taken this from them – the ability to go off the rails a bit, to let loose, to speak in funny voices and push yourself to the limits of your sanity. Because it makes reality so much more interesting. They gave me a love of fantasy and adventure.
B: What song do you wish you’d written?
N: “Sail to the Moon” by Radiohead. The piano riff at the end of the phrases is amazing! And the way the main cadence resolves out of tension – classic Radiohead.
B: If you could say something to your 15 year old self, what would it be?
N: Don’t let the story of your youth define the way you form relationships as an adult.
B: What’s your reoccurring nightmare?
N: I often dream of violent animals – rats gnawing my legs, sharks chasing me out of the water, a Kodiak bear hunting me through a house (these are actual dreams recorded in a note on my phone).
B: What song will they play at your funeral?
N: This is weird to think about! I would want it to be celebratory. And one song that always gets me dancing is “September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire.
B: What five people would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?
N: Aziz Ansari, Annie Clark, Elizabeth I, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Kaija Saariaho
B: Who would you most like to apologise to and why?
N: Myself! I’m not that kind to myself a lot of the time. I’ve looked at myself in the mirror before and actually said, “I hate you. Everybody hates you.” Why would I do that? So I’m sorry, Self, for the negative energy I’ve injected into you, for the internal landscapes that I’ve burned. I want to cultivate sunshine and kindness now, because you’ve gotten me so far, and I know you are doing your very best.
B: About form/a, it is about your home, your family, how does it feel now to have kind of a soundtrack of your life?
N: I think that’s the constant goal – to make something that sounds like the running narrative inside my head. And with form/a, I think it’s the closest I’ve gotten! But of course my life is always shifting, so the music needs to shift to keep up with it. I have a small collection of new songs that I’m starting to arrange and record for the next full-length album now, and that will be the next installment in this unfurling soundtrack of my life.
B: Daughter of a refugee and growing in a country that is always on the radar for many problems concerning this fact, is it the perfect time for you to express yourself and stand for the values of a better society, what are your feelings about the actual America?
N: You’re right that it is an important time to stand up for what we believe in. It’s something we’ve thought a lot about as musicians – how can we use the literal platform we are given to enact or enable positive change? Refugees’ rights is obviously a cause that is very personal for me. On the tour that we’re on right now, we’re taking donations every night that will be donated to the International Refugees Assistance Project. We’re only a couple of nights into the tour, but already we’ve raised over $100. IRAP provides legal aid to refugees seeking settlement in the US and around the world. The recent shutting down of Trump’s proposed Muslim Ban 2.0 was very heartening, but it’s clear this administration is going to keep aggressively pushing their racist, xenophobic agenda. And we will keep fighting back in the ways we’re able.
B: The art of the EP is beautiful and unique, tell us about the collaboration with the artists you worked for this album.
N: This was the first time I’ve had album art with me on the cover. I’d always shied away from that, preferring to use more abstract art. But becauseform/a felt especially personal, I decided to pose for the cover. The inspiration for the imagery comes from the opening line of the song “Cerulean”: “my mood has no form / it sits on my chest, heavy and warm.” I wanted the art to be a visual representation of this feeling of something magnanimous sprouting from the chest. The photo was shot by our bass player, Adan. Then, after coming across the work of Chilean artist Maria Aparicio Puentes, who embroiders on top of black and white photography, I thought it would be a perfect collaboration. We’re all really happy with how it turned out!
B: Describe form/a in 5 different home objects.
1. A lamp whose base is a stone Buddha
2. A blue and purple shawl
3. A silver tea spoon
4. A set of steep, narrow stairs
5. A sign that says, in calligraphy, “You have arrived. You are home.”
These are all actual artifacts of the house where I grew up, emblazoned forever in my mind.
Half Waif - Frost Burn