Invitingly warm, intense, grungy and rugged, the indie-band Omni of Halos arrives as a happy burst of noisy alt-rock, based on solid guitar-driven melodies but then topped with the rich sound of pedal steel! The band hails from Gothenburg, Sweden, as a five-piece band with lo-fi garage-rock tendencies alternating with quite heavy alt-rock soundscapes. As they put it, they like to combine beauty and darkness.
Starting out as a solo project of guitarist/singer Henrik Hjelt Röstberg, who used to be in Division of Laura Lee, the Care Free EP quickly grew from a simple bedroom project to something much bigger, requiring the aid of various former bandmates – from several early Swedish indie and punk bands. Omni of Halos was formed in late 2020, and shortly after their formation they entered Welfare Sounds Studio with Per Stålberg (Division of Laura Lee, Pablo Matisse, etc.). Equipped with a stack of riffs and a desire to explore what the studio surroundings would provide them as a recording unit, they came away from this first session having captured experimental and vibrant music that inspired them to continue down the same path. In quick succession Omni of Halos found their sound, weaving blasting guitars with distinct, unorthodox pedal steel guitar melodies. A sound that producer and engineer John Agnello (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr, Kurt Vile) further enhanced when he took on the opportunity to put the final touches on the recordings by mixing ten tracks at his studio in Raleigh, North Carolina.
“We just wanted to play massive indie rock with no limitations or influences,” says singer, guitarist and songwriter Henrik Hjelt Röstberg. “The EP came out of the angst of not writing anything for 20 years. After I started, it all went out of control. I recorded some demos, shared them with former bandmates, and we soon decided to form a band and do a proper studio recording.”
The EP was recorded and produced by Division of Laura Lee- member Per Stålberg in Welfare Studios. For the mixing , Henrik reached out to his old friend John Agnello, known for his work with Dinosaur JR, Sonic Youth, Kurt Vile, to name a few. “I met John when I lived in NYC and worked in the local tattoo scene there in the early 2000s. We had mutual friends, and he lived down the street from one of the tattoo shops I worked at. He was one of the guys that regularly would hang out in the local coffee shop or at one of the neighborhood bars. John is a friendly and outgoing dude, and we share the same interests in music, so it didn’t take long for us to become friends”.
The meeting between John Agnello and Omni of Halos sparked what then became a friendship as the synergy between him and the band was something that extended beyond these first mixes. After working on the ten tracks they continued working on more new music and that would then lead to Agnello crossing the pond, setting up in Sweden with the band to continue working. The recordings continued at the legendary Swedish studio Svenska Grammofonstudion and the result of that is will soon be released as the debut album.
And so to the music! just the four tracks here, kicking off with You Suck, featured in the video below. It’s good fun, hypnotically grungy stuff, with more than a hint of Neil Young with Crazy Horse, and even a touch of Hawkwind maybe? As the video shows, the pedal steel is right up there, and it works! – while the band is laying down a solid grunge platform of rhythm and noise, the pedal steel floats above it all to provide real melody. As a further twist, I think Henrik looks and sounds uncannily like Roy Wood in his The Move days!
If I’m honest, I think the production of the track Care Free is a little muddy, there’s sections where it feels like the percussion is overdone? Still nice interplay between pedal steel and lead guitar though, over that heavyweight base. Out of Control is much better, although Henrik’s vocals are a touch thin at times. No Sleep brings the EP to a strong close, a darker song that still features lots of melodies. My personal favourite of the four, I’m looking forward to hearing how the forthcoming album might sound!
Care Free is now available on all streaming platforms, released by Lövely Records. The artwork for the EP and singles are made by Viagra Boys’ frontman Sebastian Murphy.