Local band expands its lineup for hard-hitting new album

2nd Half is both a brand-new band and one of the Cleveland music scene's veteran groups. The band was started by singer-guitarist Ed Gandolf and drummer Drew Scalero back in the mid-'90s; by the time the group released ita first album, Now It's Real, in 2003, they were the only members. In 2006, Gandolf and Scalero released Left Behind and played live shows with electronic augmentation and projections to keep things interesting.

But between that release and their new one, Neverville (which they'll celebrate this weekend with a show at Peabody's), they expanded and became a "real" band, adding bassist Mike Bernot and guitarist Matt Majoros. The eight-track album features songs like "Invincible" and "Memory of You" that combine strong, smooth, mid-tempo, almost pop-like melodies with propulsive, heavy music. Gandolf's sleek vocals give the songs accessibility, and the band's hard-driving music and the tracks' layered sound gives them heft. The bristling, uptempo "One Night Alone" adds some pop-punk feel to the mix.

"We have a harder sound now," says Bernot. "Prior to having us in the band, they streamlined it by having a lot of programming. They still had the dynamic of a band, but they didn't have the energy because one guy was stuck behind the drums and the other was behind a mic. They got a decent buzz for being a two-piece."

But there were clearly limitations to that format. Through a practice facility they shared with Bernot's brother, Jim, Gandolf and Scalero hooked up with Bernot and Majoros in the summer of 2007. Shortly after, they began recording what was intended to be an EP with songs the original duo had written. But the band was writing new material and decided to keep recording. After finishing eight tunes in their practice place with Jim Bernot engineering, they sent the songs to old friend Ben Schigel, of Spider Studios, for mixing.

"We let him work at his own pace," says Bernot. "Being a friend of ours, we wanted to make it a pleasant process without deadlines. We just wanted to get it out by end of year."

With a new record and a full lineup, the band's plan is to start playing regionally as much as possible and to get their music out via the Internet and hopefully some soundtrack or videogame placements.

"We're all in agreement that we just want to come to whatever level is next," says Bernot. "Our plan is to send this to a couple of different cities to see if we can get any kind of buzz. We'd like to get to nearby cities like Pittsburgh; a Dayton-Cincinnati weekend would be good. Having full-time jobs during week, we have to be strategic about our planning. The Internet has been a valuable resource to get our music to people who might not have heard it. Someone in England found us and asked to use a song of ours on a sampler. It makes everything more accessible and exposes people to more culture."

But Bernot says the band's heart is in Cleveland, and he strongly believes in and supports the local music scene. He attended college in Dayton but opted to return home after graduating.

"People who persist in the face of adversity, pursue what they want to pursue — that's what I feel Cleveland is all about," he says. "It's why I came back. We love Cleveland; we love the other bands around here. It can be almost cutthroat at times because people are so passionate about their music."

He mentions Ohio Sky, who practice in the room next door, as well as Audiblethread, Rosella and Chimaira, as bands he considers to be friends. He's a big fan of Forged in Flame.

"There's so much that's offered around here," he says. "The Grog Shop brings good national indie touring bands; so does the Beachland. Peabody's has some really good heavier acts. Everybody's trying, despite how things are with the economy."

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