Alt-rock band Haela has growing base of fans, evolving sound

PHOTO PROVIDED The band Haela is comprised of Kira Crissinger, Shawn Khanna, Riley Feese, Aaron Banyas and Rob Crouse.

Though the band Haela has been performing together on the local and regional music scene for roughly the last five years, the group has only been playing in its current configuration for about a year. Once a two-man act, the alt-rock band has now expanded to a five-piece unit and has developed an evolving sound along the way.

Founded by Shawn Khanna (lead guitar) and Riley Feese (bass), of Coal Township, when they were both seniors in high school, the group took on a different dynamic when Milton native Kira Crissinger joined them to sing lead vocals a year-and-a-half ago. Shortly thereafter, Aaron Banyas (drums) and Rob Crouse (rhythm guitar) hopped onboard to complete the ensemble.

After stabilizing its lineup, the band released its first EP “My First Mistake” last March, and has been playing regularly in bars, clubs, wineries and festivals across the state ever since.

“The most exciting part (of this band) is watching our fanbase grow,” said Crissinger. “It’s amazing how much your music can connect with tons of awesome people that you would have never met otherwise. It allows us to book at larger venues and open for national (acts) more frequently, and without our fans we wouldn’t be able to keep climbing up the ladder.”

With a powerful vocalist like Crissinger, who has been singing since she was 9 years old and is a graduate of the Uptown Music Collective, the band’s current sound is often compared to the early material of Paramore by listeners. But that’s about to change.

As it prepares for its next album release, Haela is shifting from its harder alt-rock vibe and into a style that mixes in more electronics, while drawing influence from indie-pop and chillstep artists. Band members liken the new sound to that of Tame Impala, Jon Bellion, Jack Garett, Lorde and The Neighborhood.

“It seems to fit us better as musicians,” Crissinger said.

Typically, Crissinger and Khanna come up with the band’s original material, writing both individually and collaboratively. In their old songwriting proccess, they would start out with an acoustic guitar and vocal melody, then write lyrics, before arranging the music with the help and ideas of the other band members. With its new music, however, the band has been composing and arranging its instrumental tracks before adding the lyrics and melodies.

“The fact that we all take inspiration from different types of music makes our writing process somewhat of an adventure, since we each often have ideas the others wouldn’t have thought of,” said Khanna. “All of our influences come together to create the music we write and record.”

When headlining a gig, Haela typically plays two to three hours of original music with cover songs sprinkled in. But don’t expect this band to play any song as you would typically hear it.

“We often do perform covers live, however, the songs are usually rearranged, giving them their own twist,” Khanna said. “It’s rare for us to play a cover verbatim. We play covers to connect with more fans that might enjoy singing along throughout the show, and we play our originals hoping to gain fans who also connect with our art.”

Among the band’s bigger upcoming shows includes opening for Buckcherry on Oct. 20 at The Warf, 1869 North Old Trail, Hummels Warf. The group, which tries to get out for a gig at least once or twice a week, has many other shows lined up all the way into winter.

For more information on their music, visit or find the band’s music on all major streaming platforms, including Spotify, Apple Music and iTunes.