Hoofless are a local trio consisting of Halee Jean (cello, vocals), Michael Nebeker (violin) and David Payne (drums). The trio makes long, dronebased compositions that sound as much like Arvo Pärt or Ben Johnston as they do Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Om. Atop these slow builds and dissonant clusters sits Jean’s distinctive and passionate voice, often screaming her lyrics in a raspy tone.
Though they seem progressive, Hoofless’ pieces are never written out. “We adhere to a general structure with very specific parts, but each part is subject to change at any time, either by choice or accident,” says Jean. “It’s the process of music-making rather than the product that concerns us, and the only way to fully appreciate the process of Hoofless is to be present at a live show.”
As such, Hoofless’ live performances are an electrifying experience. At a recent performance at Diabolical Records, the band donned plastic animal masks and played one continuous set. Jean’s cello loops built on top of each other in both harmonious and grating ways, accompanied by Nebeker’s sliding violin and Payne’s sometimes-subtle and sometimes-booming drumming.
For Hoofless, the DIY community—and by extension, the DIY Festival—offers an important space for these live excursions. “Authentic and caring communities void of judgment or monetary gain at the expense of creativity,” says Jean, are something that Hoofless thrive on. Especially in the current poptimist, capital- searching industry, esoteric bands like Hoofless depend on underground and driven communities for support.
Further, Hoofless hope to provide for these spaces just as much as they benefit from them. “We more or less wear our hearts on our sleeves in front of people, not only in order to get it off our chests but to allow a space for emotional vulnerability,” Jean says. The intimacy of acoustic instruments, Jean’s arresting vocals and the almost sacred quality of Hoofless’ music allow audiences to become enveloped in the sound and performance rather than merely to observe casually. Catch Hoofless’ live performance at the festival at the SLUG Mag Stage on Saturday, Aug. 12, at 1 p.m. –Connor Lockie