Half Waif is the musical brainchild of one Nandi Rose Plunkett. Like her self-referencing musical alias suggests, Nandi’s relentless pursuit of a place to plant her roots while possessing many homes is a recurring theme observed through her art. Her wandering spirit has seen her settle across the United States from Massachusetts, to Ohio, and finally to her current dwelling in Brooklyn, New York. Her genetic origins can be traced back even further across the globe. Born to an Indian refugee mother and a father or Irish and Swiss descent, Nandi’s multi-cultural lineage has always been a deep source of inspiration and longing that incited in her both feelings of nostalgia and the desire to seek out new experiences. Besides her penchant for connecting with the world, Nandi developed an admiration for music at an early age when she discovered the eclectic music of Joni Mitchell, Tori Amos, and Loreena McKennitt. This love for otherworldly songstresses inspired her to pursue a formal education in music where she formed an admiration for the works of Olivier Messian and Claude Debussy. Nandi is also a member of the group Pinegrove alongside Half Waif’s other two current members, Zack Levine and Adan Carlo. To date, Half Waif have released 2 albums and 3 EPS, ‘Kotekan’ in 2014, ‘Probable Deaths’ last May. a split 7″ with Deerhoof, The Future Joys EP in 2013, and most recently, on February 24th, the ‘form/a’ EP on Cascine. The EP is a profound exploration of themes very close to Nandi including self-discovery, emotions, relationships, life, death, and the pursuit of a home. We had the opportunity to chat with Nandi about these concepts, her latest musical opus, and the driving forces behind her craft.
What does “home” mean to you?
I literally breathed a sigh of relief just reading this question. So I think that in itself is an answer for you.
In a few words, can you describe the differences you’ve experienced residing in Massachusetts, Ohio, and in Brooklyn?
Each one has been so special in its own way. Western Massachusetts is leafy and beautiful, very quaint New England. Williamstown has a lot of cultural institutions, like Williams College and the Clark Art Institute and the Williamstown Theater Festival, so it has this interesting mix of being tucked away in the middle of nowhere yet having access to a lot of cool art. Gambier, OH, where Kenyon College is, is an even smaller town. It’s pretty much just the college, up on a hill, surrounded by cornfields. That was the perfect place for me to study, hyper-focused with a strong emphasis on community. I really found who I was there. Then Brooklyn is in another world from those two places – faster paced, full of excitement, my brain bursting open with the number of things I want to see and do. I’m equally at home amidst cities and mountains, and I thank these three places for that.
‘form/a’ is a very confessional release. How would you describe the effects on your physical and mental self in opening yourself up to your listeners in such a personal manner?
I have to say, I didn’t really mean to be so confessional! I used to write lyrics in a more inscrutable way, like painting with words, creating imagery that didn’t necessarily state what I was feeling. But I’m kind of moving away from that, toward more direct storytelling. I think part of that is because, I’m a really nervous person in social situations – I get nervous to perform, I get nervous about what people are thinking about me. I’m confident in a lot of ways, but there’s also this part of me that is constantly circling around itself, unsure and restless. So being direct and open and honest has been one way for me to deal with that – if I’m just being 100% myself, there’s no hiding or wondering if I’m doing the right thing. It’s just real. And it’s easier to be me than to be anything else. Plus I’m having so much fun discovering who I am through this process. I’ve always been a late bloomer, and it feels like now, in my very late 20s, I’m finally figuring some key piece out.
What is your favourite track on ‘form/a’?
My favorite track is “Night Heat.” The way I recorded and made the beat in that track was pretty unique, very organic and awkward, and that just feels like the most me. Also I get to play this part of the doe-eyed ingénue, singing a sappy love song, but underneath it all is this dark undercurrent of messy reality. I had a lot of fun playing with that contrast.
Can you describe your thought process when writing music?
Ideas come to me in spurts usually. Like yesterday, I was walking in the park listening to Julien Baker, and some combination of her voice, the sun in the trees, the feeling of the air on my arms, and the space of solitude made this specific energy flow through me. Like suddenly, in those situations, I feel like I’m in a movie, out of real time. It’s kind of hard to explain, but it’s a certain state of mind that sends me to writing, either some poetry to turn into lyrics, or a chord progression that I can layer words over.
Can you share one of your fondest memories of human interaction?
I think about my grandmother, who’s 95 and lives in England. I wasn’t able to see her that often growing up, since she’s so far away, so I savor every visit. Sitting on the couch, stroking her soft hands, her skin as translucent as thin milk. I love holding my Granny’s hands and feeling close to her, to her life.
When was a time when you felt most connected with the environment?
My family has a cabin way up north in Maine, on a lake. My absolute favorite activity to do up there is just sit on the edge of the dock alone for hours, watching the water, the bald eagles, the loons, the colors of the sky shifting. My legs stop their restless shaking and I get to be swallowed up in earth.
What is a thought that always brings you solace in restless times?
Ha speaking of restless legs… I try to think about my ancestors, where I come from. Being a part of a longer lineage makes me feel less alone. It feels comforting to be a part of a bigger story.
What is the last book, film, or music you experienced that moved you to tears?
This is embarrassing but I watched Lilo and Stich on a plane last week and cried. That part where Stitch goes “I’m lost!” That gets me every time. Everyone wants to feel like they belong. That’s a theme that resonates with me deeply.
In a few words, how would you reflect on Love?
I am lucky to be in love and I am full of love for the people in my life and the planet we inhabit.
The eternal mystery – my curious mind wants to possess it, but I know that it will always possess me instead.
Part two of the mystery – I don’t want to know how this ends, but in the grand scope of things, I know.
Some folks suggest that other people’s dreams are a bore but we beg to differ. Can you share one of your favourite or most intriguing dreams?
I keep track of my dreams for the most part. They’re a great source of inspiration for lyrics! Last night I had a dream that my mom and I were in London, and the city was divided into non-magical and magical sections. We hopped on a bus bound for a neighborhood in the magic section, a place called Obo Scana. We never got there, but that name stuck with me.
Do you have plans to release a music video to promote ‘form/a’? Can you share anything specific?
Yes! There’s a music video that will be released very soon. I shared some stills on Instagram – much of it was shot outside in about 10 degree weather. That’s the last time I come up with a concept that shoots outdoors in the winter!
What is your favourite music video?
The video for Mitski’s song “Happy” sticks with me, for its beauty and its horror. As a throwback, I’ll say I was obsessed with the video for “Ironic” by Alanis Morrissette.
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