Local Noise: Blue Halo Effect

Blue Halo Effect is a collaboration between two prominent New Jersey musicians, both of whom spent time in various Jersey bands as well as touring with national artists. They found they not only shared a musical vision, but actually lived in close proximity, leading to the formation of the project.

Keyboardist/guitarist David “Squiggy” Biglin started out in the club scene with bands such as Chayne, Abstracts (who appeared on the infamous Dirt Club album), Joey And The Works, and No Heroes. He soon progressed to doing studio work for artists such as Laura Branigan and Quarterflash, and even played sax for David Ruffin and Eddie Kendrick of The Temptations. More recently, he’s toured the world with Art Garfunkel, Annie Haslam of Renaissance, and Leslie West, and collaborated with Steve Howe of Yes on several projects.

Michael D’Agostino handles lead vocals for the band, and plays drums and keyboards. He’s well respected in the jazz world, having played with artists such as Stanley Jordan, Janice Pendarvis, Kermit Driscoll, Vernon Reid, Carlos Alomar and Bill Evans. He was a member of King Chubby, with Mark Egan, No Gravity, The KMA Allstars, and The Kind. He’s done drum programming for artists as diverse as Herbie Hancock, Third World, Yoko Ono and KISS, and composed music for Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive and The X-Files.

I caught up with David and Michael to see what the new project is about and what plans they have for it.

How did you get together?

David Biglin: After expressing mutual admiration for each other’s work online, we discovered that we lived 15 minutes apart and began a musical partnership in 2009.

Have you played live with Blue Halo?

DB: We’ve played a few live shows, including recent performances at The Art Factory’s “Winterfest” in Paterson, NJ, and Valerie Ghent’s “The Songwriter’s Beat,” an ASCAP supported event in NYC which features a selection of songwriters each month.

How would you describe your music?

DB: We like the idea of space, not just in an astronomical sense, but also in terms of real space in our music. Besides the linear space—the rests, air and phrasing—we’ve made a conscious effort to avoid getting too dense sonically. We’d love it if people could find the time to sit down and listen to the whole CD in headphones or on a nice fat system, the way albums were listened to in the heyday of rock music, basically the late ‘60s and ‘70s. We still think of our CD as an “album.” It’s vocal music, but we started it off with an instrumental because we thought it set the right mood.

What artists have influenced Blue Halo Effect?

DB: When we started working together, we discovered a mutual admiration for things like Pink Floyd, The Blue Nile and David Bowie’s Low and Heroes period, particularly the ambient stuff. Artsy, but not fartsy, if that makes sense. We both wanted to leave some rough edges and not let things get too produced or slick, with some raw elements intact as a foil to all of the pretty stuff. We specifically left out some of the instrumentation that might seem obvious. We both wanted our songs to have a cinematic feel. Leaving a lot of air and open space was very important to us.

Any particular songs that are favorites of fans or yourself?

DB: I like the way our recording of “Again (She Loves Him)” turned out. The only other person that played on the CD, besides us, was Sarah Larson, who played French horn beautifully on “Again” and “Hallowed Ground.” The bridge reminds me a little of Rodgers & Hammerstein; it makes me feel like we’re getting deeper into that old-school, traditional songwriter thing, and we’re making a conscious effort to have that experience.

Michael D’Agostino: I’m partial to “Half Alive,” as it resonates with some of the challenges I’ve experienced in recent years, but I’m guessing that what I’ve been through isn’t very different than any of the shit that everybody goes through. It’s been a hell of a few years, but we got some good songs out of it.

What are your goals, musically and professionally?

DB: We’d like to see some of our songs licensed for use in film and TV. That seems to be the most likely road to the other kind of offers we’d like, which would be to play some proper shows or do a tour with someone that’s a good fit. We recently did an interesting shoot with photographer Bob Skinner; his stuff is really cool and we were very lucky to get him. We really connected with Bob and are excited to incorporate his unique visual sense into our presentation.

What we’re really looking forward to, though, is recording some of our new songs with a full band. We recorded the first CD ourselves, and one of the biggest challenges was achieving a live, human feel with just the two of us available for tracking of the rhythm section. We didn’t want to play to a rigid click; everything was recorded live, in free time, so it could breathe. It took a lot of experimenting and a few tricks to figure out how to track each song. Of course, Michael was always on drums, but he’s also the lead singer, which poses some real logistical problems when tracking. It’s only going to get better with the right musicians on board.

Where does the name of the band come from?

DB: It’s not a literal reference to any of the usual meanings associated with “halo effect.” It’s more of a nod to some of our favorite works and artists, by way of a feeling more than anything else. Stanley Kubrick, Dali, Magritte, iconic ‘70s imagery of eclipses, or those great album covers by Hipgnosis.

You can find out more about Blue Halo effect at bluehaloeffect.com, facebook.com/bluehaloeffect and reverbnation.com/bluehaloeffect. The album is available via CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon, and other digital retail outlets.