Artopia: Nashville Trippers

Traditional country meets psychedelia? Hallways says it can work.

Hallways is a band with identity issues.But the Seattle five-piece is fully up-front about its growing pains and its journey toward a unified sound. Starting out as a duo in love, singer-songwriter Grant Burton and his girlfriend, vocalist/keyboard player Stephanie Parrish, wrote most of the tracks on their 2008 debut release Ghosts as simple love songs. It was as though they never intended to become a band at all. The mostly slow country ballads are like an update on the dynamic between June Carter and Johnny Cash: Heartache, heartbreak, and redemption are the guiding principles, and the sparse instrumentation puts the jaded romanticism of their lyrics at the forefront.As Hallways gained momentum, however, Burton and Parrish added Shane Herrell (bass), Brian Papenfuss (drums), and Kimo Muraki (lap steel, sax, banjo). Members old and new now say they're working out the kinks in Hallways' expanded sound."A lot of the songs we play, those two wrote before it was a fleshed-out band," Papenfuss says during a recent sit-down. "Now that it's a band, we vibe on more rock-inspired music...more in the vein of Pink Floyd."That's more than a stone's throw away from the psychedelic alt-country on Ghosts, but interestingly enough, the music of Pink Floyd was a key turning point for the band. Last month, Hallways practically won the lottery by being asked to open for celebrated Scottish rock band the Vaselines. Their set at Neumos was full of hauntingly beautiful ballads, yet the most memorable moment came during their bombastic cover of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb.""We want to have this fiery energy on stage," Parrish says. "We don't want to be stuck in some really acoustic, romantic kind of place.""And that's great, that's where you guys started," Papenfuss interjects."But I think we want to move beyond that," Parrish finishes.While Ghosts' actual release party has yet to occur, the songwriters already feel as though they've outgrown its sentiments. But certain songs, like the eerily passionate "Manson Motel" and "Roses," deserve to be heard by local audiences and beyond. The band isn't about to stop playing them, but you can expect more upbeat rockers at their Artopia show."My songwriting has never been pinned down to one style," Burton says. "It's a collective of country, alt-rock, Southern, whatever genre you want to put it in. We don't want to be one thing."Parrish picks up the theme: "One of the best compliments we've gotten is that one of our fans said that we have this interesting, sort of unclassifiable sound, and we're not really sure where it's going to go." Then she adds with a laugh, "But we also had a fan say, 'You guys are really a country band, you just won't accept it.'"

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