A Day With HALA, The Dream Pop Brainchild of Detroit’s Ian Ruhala

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The first time I heard HALA, I was dancing on a rooftop in the sunset with some of my closest friends. It’s a fitting atmosphere for HALA. Their mellow and dreamy lo-fi sound is one that you can’t help but sway to and their lyrics are smart, captivating us all with tales of love and loss. HALA is made up of Ian Ruhala, a 21 year-old singer-songwriter from Detroit, Michigan, and backed by Jake LeMond on bass, Austin Blicher on guitar, and John Kick on drums. Much like the hazy tunes of Bane’s World, slightly in the realm of Michael Seyer, HALA thrives on DIY-style bedroom pop.

I had the opportunity to photograph and tag along with HALA and his bandmates on July 9th, as they trekked around Queens in search of the perfect thrifted find and the most savory of burritos. Burritos, they tell me, are kind of a recurring theme on their summer tour.

When I first met up with them, I was greeted by four kind boys with sleepless nights in their eyes and warm smiles on their faces. We walked in the New York summer heat, stopping in a couple of thrift stores. John Kick found an iconic Nick Jonas shirt in one such store, which he proceeded to wear later during their set at Trans-Pecos.

We then stopped in a record store and Ian Ruhala picked up an Emitt Rhodes vinyl. Next, on a quest for food, we stopped in a Mexican restaurant at which Jack LeMond requested I do his makeup for the show. He wanted to try something new and I, all too familiar with the toxic masculinity that often permeates from within many male musicians, was honored by the request.

Getting a glimpse into tour life has always fascinated me. Uncomfortable sleeping situations and vexatious encounters balanced with pouring your heart out every night on a stage and traveling to a new place almost every day seems chaotic and yet incredibly gratifying and worth it, HALA tells me. Music makes them feel alive and it’s enough to make up for every sleepless night, cold shower, and all the long hours spent in a packed car. Their positivity, good nature and mutual respect for everyone they interacted with was absolutely refreshing.

Later at Trans Pecos, I met up with HALA again. Having been to many shows at this particular venue, I was accustomed with the typical crowd size. However, the turn out was higher than usual and when HALA began their set, the energy around me turned electric. People were jumping about, making the floor boards quake beneath us. People were dancing, twisting, singing their hearts out. Live, HALA is mesmerizing, and their presence on stage is magnetic: You can’t help but feel peachy and have a good time.

HALA’s new single “Sorry” is out now on Spotify, YouTube, Soundcloud, and Bandcamp.