Neil Halstead spent his early 20s at the helm of Slowdive, one of the U.K.'s signature shoegaze bands and a touchstone for current young groups such as Wild Nothing, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and Beach Fossils (who recently released a cover of Slowdive's "Alison"). According to Halstead, Slowdive "was more about the atmosphere and playing loud guitars," and it wasn't until after Slowdive disbanded in 1995 that he became interested in traditional songwriting as opposed to My Bloody Valentine-inspired waves of sound.
"When Slowdive first finished, I was traveling in Israel and I was staying in a hostel. I remember telling someone I was a musician and they gave me a guitar, and I had this realization that I really couldn't play acoustic guitar," Halstead, 41, says on the phone from London. "I had grown up playing electric guitar with effects pedals and stuff. I was never one of those guys that sat down at a party and was able to play you Dylan songs. It kind of spurred me on to realize that it would be nice to be able to sit down with an acoustic guitar and play a song. It was kind of a turning point for me."