ABOVE: BRAD HALE, AKA SOMBEAR. IMAGE COURTESY OF SHERVIN LAINEZ
Brad Hale wants to get personal with you. The Minneapolis native’s side project, Sombear, is a musical journal of sorts: his tracks delve into the intricacies of his thoughts, feelings, and personality, all bolstered by some key ’90s-pop influences.
This isn’t Hale’s first musical rodeo: he is currently one-third of the band Now, Now and has remixed tracks for a variety of artists including Tegan & Sara. The Sombear project has allowed Hale to experiment with digital pop and R&B tones, playing on the themes of nostalgia and youth. His debut album, Love You In The Dark, is out July 23 via Chris Walla’s Trans Records.
In the meantime, we’re excited to premiere Sombear’s dark, sexy video for the track “Love You In The Dark”—which Hale also directed, filmed, and edited (and which even finds him doing some color-guard flag-twirling). We spoke with Brad Hale about working with Chris Walla, his love for Eiffel 65, and how music has been cathartic.
ILANA KAPLAN: Your name, Sombear, is it the obvious double entendre of “somber”? I was going back and forth with myself trying to figure out if I was just seeing it that way or if that’s how it was supposed to be perceived.
BRAD HALE: That’s kind of where it came from. I have this weird obsession with Scandinavian culture. When I first came up with the name in my head, it was kind of like a Scandinavian word. I don’t really know. I’ve been thinking a lot about that. It’s the subconscious reason why I chose the name. It was that wordplay.
KAPLAN: You recorded your record on Chris Walla’s label. How did you two start working together?
HALE: I’m in another band called Now, Now, and they’re also on that label. That’s kind of how the connection started. We got in touch with him a few years ago before we ever started working with him. He’s been a mentor for us.
KAPLAN: I actually interviewed you with Now, Now. Did Cacie and Jess help out at all on your solo record?
HALE: Cacie helped me out a little bit. She helped me write words on one of the songs and she sang a little bit on “Love You In The Dark.”
KAPLAN: What’s the video about for “Love You In The Dark?”
HALE: What I like about music videos is something not super narrative-driven, but more visually striking. So, I kind of wanted to start with that. The song itself is about me having a hard time feeling like I can be in a relationship. I wanted it to be dark, calm, and sneaky in a way. I drew from past inspirations. Do you know in marching band, where they have color guards? There’s actually a little sequence in there where I do that. It’s something I was really into when I was in high school. It’s really visually-based. It just gives you a feeling when you watch it. That’s how I approach music, too.
KAPLAN: I feel like “Love You In The Dark” is such a sexy song. It’s addictive, and you find something different in it every time.
HALE: I really wanted it to feel like that, but it’s funny because it’s not about anything sexy. It’s kind of longing to be sexy in a way, if that makes sense, but not really achieving it. It’s longing to make you horny.
KAPLAN: [laughs] You’re really into pop and electro music, especially when you were growing up. Who were some artists that drove this project?
HALE: In middle school and high school, I was super into *NSYNC, Britney Spears, and Daft Punk’s Discovery record. Also, embarrassingly, the Eiffel 65 record. The band that sang “Blue.” It was so, so good. I don’t really like that song, but every other song on the record I really liked.
KAPLAN: I feel like people thought of them as a one-hit wonder.
HALE: It’s true, but I don’t know. There’s something about that record. I still listen to it all the time.
KAPLAN: Will this project result in a tour for you when the LP comes out?
HALE: I’m not sure—this project is kind of weird for me, because it’s a side project. We’re just building it from nothing right now. It’s hard to say what I’m going to do with it because of the Now, Now stuff going on. We’re in the middle of writing a new record. It depends on how people receive it, I guess: if it makes sense to warrant it going on tour. I would love to play some shows. Everything about this project is so scary and new for me. It’s something I’ve never, never done before. It’s the first time I’m sharing just myself with the world. Everything about it is super exciting, but I’m such a scared person that it makes me nervous.
KAPLAN: I think in any case it’s scary to share something so personal with the world, but I would imagine it’s really liberating.
HALE: That’s what I wanted from this record. I’m a shy and introverted person. It’s really hard for me to share myself with people. I was using this record as a push to just get myself over that. I think the way that I use “pop” is really important. I think “pop” is a real confident genre. That’s something I use to conquer that fear.
KAPLAN: Does this record encompass this love and sexuality feeling for you?
HALE: It’s about a bunch of stuff, but the root of it is super personal. It’s about being scared of the future and not achieving what I set out to achieve in my life. It’s about feeling anxious about it. I’m using this record as a step in that direction to get to where I want to be, whether it’s in my musical career or in my personal life. That’s one way to interpret it.
KAPLAN: It sounds like this record is a session of musical therapy, which I like.
HALE: Exactly. The whole process was a way for me to assess myself. I assessed myself through assessing others. When I first starting writing it, the record started out about other people. Eventually I used those songs to compare myself to see if I was the person I wanted to be.
SOMBEAR’S DEBUT RECORD LOVE YOU IN THE DARK IS OUT JULY 23 VIA TRANS RECORDS. FOR MORE ON THE ARTIST, VISIT HIS FACEBOOK PAGE.