A band from Livonia, Michigan, signed to 4AD. Really just an output for the sonic delusions of Warren Defever. HNIA's first releases—those that got them signed to 4AD—were dreamy soundscapes, almost goth at times. Since then, their releases have drifted towards whatever sound Defever was obsessing about at the time; in the last five years they've released an homage to the Beach Boys (Stars on ESP), and an R&B/soul album (Someday My Blues will Cover The Earth).
Defever formed His Name Is Alive in high school with Karen Oliver (vocals) and Damien Lang (drums). They made a bunch of cassettes, as high school bands will do, and were rejected by many labels before signed with UK indie label 4AD. Trey Many joined the band on drums for Mouth By Mouth; he and Oliver have since been the only other consistent members of HNIA.
While working on Stars on ESP, Defever hired a gospel choir for several of the tracks. After one of the rehearsals, one of the singers, Lovetta Pippen, asked Defever if he believed in UFOs. Pippen soon became part of the band, and Defever has shifted the songwriting to accommodate Pippen's voice; the last several albums have been been more coherent, if not more traditional.
Defever has also been involved with a great number of other projects; he helped found an artists' collective, Time Stereo, which releases live performances from HNIA and various odd Defever projects. He has done a number of one-shot collaborations, including ESP Summer, an album recorded with Ian Masters of Pale Saints. He's also produced many an album, including one for Liquorice, featuring Trey Many, Jenny Toomey (Tsunami, Simple Machines), and Dan Littleton (Ida).
I would recommend Stars on ESP to anyone listening to HNIA for the first time; it's my favorite album of theirs, and it's the first real departure from their original sound. Then, if you like the interludes and ethereal (i.e., typical 4AD) songs, go back and check out Mouth By Mouth and Home Is In Your Head. If you prefer the more "song" oriented songs, HNIA's later albums would probably meet your fancy.
Albums: (through 2001—all releases on 4AD unless noted)
Singles / EPs (through 2001):
A complete discography can be found at discogs.com.