When Billy Hopeless and The Black Halos were breaking out in the early aughts, punk rock was thriving in Terminal City. Terminal City being the endearing nickname for their hometown of Vancouver, BC, named for its geographical positioning at the end of the line; the last stop before the Trans Canada Highway met the Pacific Ocean.
Terminal City was the place where punk rockers came to stay and revel in the groundswell of energy that was rising up from the mosh pits of underground venues, following in the footsteps of bands like Nomeansno and D.O.A. But The Black Halos stuck out from the get-go, dressed in their uniform all black, a young Hopeless leading the pack with his signature snarl and a sound that recalled late-70s NYC trash rock bands like Dead Boys and the New York Dolls.
The Halos called it quits in 2009, having earned their place in Vancouver’s storied punk history. After an unofficial reunion in 2016 for a Spanish tour and a short string of reunion shows just before the pandemic hit, the band returns this summer with the same old outlook on life and a brand new EP, Uncommonwealth. The album is a return to form for Hopeless and, like lions in a cage, the band is poised to roar and rampage their way back onto stage the first chance they get.
Hopeless held no punches when we checked in with him to talk about the band’s first single, “Uncommonwealth” and their forthcoming EP of the same name that will be released in July via new Toronto punk imprint, Cursed Blessings.
Congrats on the new EP. Can you tell us a bit about the conversations that took place when you and guitarists Rich Jones and Jay Milette started talking about getting the band back together?
Billy Hopeless: I put out a solo single and Richy played on it, which got us talking and rocking again. I had received a request for a Spanish tour (in 2016) and asked Rich if he wanted to come with me and we both decided we might as well do it as the Halos. That and a lot of drunken good times got us writing together again, and once Jay saw what a good time we were having, he decided to rejoin the party. Then we suckered in—oops, I mean enlisted—John Kerns from Age of Electric on bass and Danni Action from Midnight Towers on drums. This lineup slays, not only in having my original brothers back at my sides, but the rhythm section’s tighter than the government’s pockets.
If you could sum up the time between now and the last Halo’s album, We Are Not Alone, in a sentence or two, how would you put it?
BH: I thought it was dead but people kept telling us they missed us, and although we might not have wanted to admit it I guess we did too. I’m sure our livers are cursing this choice, but the world needs the Black Halos.
This new single, “Uncommonwealth,” is classic Halos, from the anthemic chorus to the ripper chord progressions and your raspy wails. Can you take a minute to describe the new EP?
BH: It’s truly raw, street animal punk rock with more hooks than a Cenobite convention. You got two originals and one cover of a killer song from the “delete cassette” bin at an old Sam the Record Man store Jay and Rich used to work at. There’s no ballads or brooders on this one; it’s a solid kick in the rocks. Al ‘Big Fan’ Nolan of Cursed Blessings Records says it’s the best we’ve done to date.
What place does punk occupy in the modern world? Do you think it’s high time for a punk revival in the mainstream, or could you care less about popularity?
BH: We’ve always danced drunkenly on the tight rope between rock and roll and punk, but also have a good understanding and love for a killer pop hook. We’ve been called glam punk, street punk, hard rock, glitter trash, ‘love those guys’, ‘hate those guys’, ‘hey guys, pack yer gear the bar’s closed’ — you name it, we call it the Black Halos.
When we started the band it was because no one in Vancouver was playing music like Ramones, the New York Dolls, Stooges, or the Stones. We’ve never cared if it’s trending or not, we’re writing for people like us that are into timeless music.
Things go out and back into style constantly and we’re always happy to win over new fans and still hold a solid fan base around the world. It’s pretty amazing, actually, and we thank everyone who held our torch until we got back together. You know, it may be outsider music but then ya find there’s a whole lot of other outsiders out there.
What’s the future for the Black Halos looking like? Should fans expect more shows, tours, and releases as the world starts to heal post-pandemic?
BH: We’re ready to go, the album’s ready to record, our life-long producer Jack Endino is back on board, so buckle up buttercup cuz it’s par for the course. We ain’t dead yet and though it’s never been a smooth glide and easy ride, we’re going breakneck as soon as we see the green light!
To sum it all up, how does it feel to be back at it, releasing new tunes, prepping for new shows, and gearing up for the next chapter of The Black Halos?
BH: To quote the Replacements, “I can’t hardly wait.”