2011: Year of the indie band

Dec. 30, 2010 | 0 Comments

Innovative funding is one reason for music explosion.

Portraits of singer-songwriter of Sabrina Velazquez at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. She was part of a showcase concert June 6th.

BY GARY CHUN / gchun@staradvertiser.com

If there were a pidgin word to describe what’s been percolating on the local independent music scene throughout 2010, it would be “whatevas.”

Freely adapting various genres and artistic attitudes to their liking, the musicians who hang out and support each other throughout the island are starting to develop their own interesting sound. With most of them in their 30s, their collective efforts will probably not hit the audience numbers other homegrown artists like Jake Shimabukuro or Bruno Mars have achieved thus far, but it won’t be for lack of trying.

One factor that has and will help the Hawaii musicians’ outreach is through the art project funding site Kickstarter. Sabrina Velazquez and Clones of the Queen have had their recordings (“The Hawk & the Hunter” and “Gate,” respectively) funded through large numbers of individual donors via the site, and Alex Kaiser and his 2.0 version of GRLFRNDS is in the midst of laying down tracks in Los Angeles.

FL Morris / fmorris@staradvertiser.com
"Clones of the Queen" perform, Ara Laylo, left, and Paul Bajcar.

Kaiser’s electro punk project is being produced and engineered by L.A. underground staple Manny Nieto, whose work with other national acts include Chokebore (a criminally underrated band that began here in the early 1990s), the Breeders and Omar Rodriguez Lopez of the Mars Volta. Nieto has been flying to and from Honolulu to also work on the next album by punky upstarts the Jump Offs and record one of the island’s more promising bands, Painted Highways.

Drummer Jack Tawil has been one of the consistent bright spots on the indie scene: an adaptive and talented percussionist who powerfully pushes the songs of Mike Pooley and Mark Howard of Painted Highways, as well as get downright groovy with the Soul Revival Sound System, fronted by singers Kitty Chow and Joe Kostas. Tawil was also a member of the now-defunct Linus band, and singer-keyboardist Jun Yoshimura has been saying he’ll be coming up with a new musical project to complement his art gallery duties.

FL Morris / fmorris@staradvertiser.com
The musical group "The Jump Offs" pose for photos in Chinatown.

Back to GRLFRNDS, former band members Ryan Miyashiro and Jake Achitoff are pursuing other projects: Achitoff with his solo work as Aesthete and as duo partner in Youth Sports, and the energetic Miyashiro with Vice Vicarious and also recently helping out with the music of Tokyo-Honolulu artist Maya Mamura. Two bands who aspire for larger audiences outside of the scene — and who appeared at November’s Band Camp concert bill — are Maui’s The Throwdowns and ska jesters Pimpbot, who will be releasing a new album in ’11.

Along the lines of promising singer-songwriter types like the aforementioned Sabrina, there’s Kamuela Kahoano, Kelli Heath, Candy Diaz and former Our Distance frontman Stephen Agustin.

Photo by Jamm Aquino / jaquino@staradvertiser.com
Local band The Throwdowns perform part of Band Camp 2010 on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010 at the Blaisdell Center.

Other bands to keep an eye on include electro duo Alt/Air (with a just released EP), Shopping List (who are planning to add another guitarist to the core trio of Gray Jennings, Toni Wong and Eric Pecoraro), the rollicking Narwhal and frontwoman Erica Westly, 8-bit electro solo act Circuit Creature, Persian Excursion and the always entertaining Rob Bidigare, power trio Falcon Lord, the Hollow Spheres and Mano Kane.

Photo by Jamm Aquino / jaquino@staradvertiser.com
Pimpbot performs as part of Band Camp 2010.

On the horizon are bands Theme Parks, the Behaviorists, the duo Wait for It, and singer-guitarist Zack Shimizu and his project Sing the Body.

And to complete the “whatevas” do-it-yourself ethic, the local hip-hop scene is threatening to come to the forefront, with consistent work from dependable artists like Creed Chameleon, Tassho Pearce and a new release from Fortilive Music called “I Vs. I,” with production help from !llmind, S1 and Focuz.

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