The War on Drugs’ Charlie Hall makes his mark with ‘Invisible Ink’

Hall Invisible Ink
An ‘Invisible Ink’ album release party is set for Solar Myth on May 25.
Quinn Lamont Luke

Charlie Hall has been an influential player on the Philly music scene for most of his career. Along with being the longtime drummer for Grammy-winning locals The War on Drugs, Hall has produced projects that touch on everything from noise pop to avant-garde jazz.

But with his newly released solo album debut, ‘Invisible Ink’, Hall has created something deeply personal—and all the more intriguing, with a freer, more open sound and like nothing else he’s ever produced on vinyl.

An ‘Invisible Ink’ album release party is set for Solar Myth on May 25.

Hall recently sat down with Metro to talk about how he got to Philly in the first place, where he and The War on Drugs are going next, and what lies below the surface of all that ‘Invisible Ink’.

You arrived in Philadelphia in 2003 and met War on Drugs’ Adam Granduciel when he was still in The Capitol Years. What was that moment about, and what did you like about the local music community enough to stay?

2003 was a special time in Philly. I moved here from San Francisco and immediately fell in with this gaggle of musicians that were hyper-creative, supportive of each other, propping each other up. There were so many great bills at the Khyber with The Capitol Years, National Eye, Bigger Lovers. There was the whole Dr Dog, The Teeth, Man Man, Make a Rising, mewithoutyou scene. There was Buried Beds, Like Moving Insects, and The Spinto Band. Then there was Mazarin, Espers, Birds of Maya, and that more sort of psych-folk world. Ars Nova Workshop had begun presenting new and outside music as well as other jazz-adjacent music.

It was a really beautiful time, and there was lots of cross pollination and sharing of ideas (and band members). Remember also, this is a time pre-streaming and all that. People were huddling around each other’s record players blowing each other’s minds and going to shows as a means of discovery and inspiration. This built a community.

How does that community — then and now — feed into ‘Invisible Ink’?

I do think the sense of community that I felt immediately upon arrival really appealed to my own penchant for bringing people together. It’s cool that you mention the breadth and boundlessness of a lot of the really cool creative stuff that is happening in Philly today, because I think it’s one of the things that makes it really special and cool, that inclusivity — especially folks like Nazir Ebo and Flanafi, to name a couple. The wide cast of characters on ‘Invisible Ink’ includes folks from both Philly and also from around the world, and people that themselves are drenched in a wide variety of genres.

Music is certainly the connective tissue of all of these relationships, and it’s really humbling to me that all these incredible musicians would put their spirit into these songs to help me bring this whole thing to fruition. To now have a document of all these friendships is what I am most grateful for.

When did you start conceiving ‘Invisible Ink’?

I never really thought I would do something like this, but Quinn Lamont Luke, who co-produced the record with me (with whom I’ve been playing music for over 20 years in Tommy Guerrero’s band) said “Charlie, you’ve been helping other people make music your whole life. I want to hear YOUR music.” Dave (Hartley, from The War on Drugs) has also been on me about this for years. The two of them really encouraged me to simply try. As basic as it sounds, the first step to writing music, and looking within to find one’s own voice is to simply try.

‘Invisible Ink’ is spare, meditative, atmospheric. Are you a mellow, introspective guy, or are you more neurotic and this album acts as a tonic?

I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily chill, but I certainly wouldn’t say I’m neurotic. I think it’s a bit of a false dichotomy. I do think that maybe my music is a reflection of my general desire for things to be harmonious and warm — in life and in music. I guess my intention is for one to participate in any number of ways…as an active, deep listen, or as a companion to another activity like writing or daydreaming, or just as something to grease the proverbial lens of whatever’s going on in life.