Scene+Heard: Getting to know Amanda Frazier
BY SABRINA VELAZQUEZ / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Well, it’s 2012. Another year for new experiences, resolutions and music. Over the holiday I was sitting around my apartment thinking about what I wanted to focus on for my first blog post of the year, and since most of us see a new year as a fresh start and a chance to get back on track, I thought I’d spend my first post on looking ahead and writing about a fresh voice on the scene.
‘First Friday at Ong King’
With Amanda Frazier, Art of Whimsy and Yuki Stehman
» Where: Ong King, 184 N. King St.
While Amanda Frazier isn’t exactly new (she’s been playing music for years), she is relatively new to my ears — and maybe to yours as well.
It’s true that with any music scene, once you become a part of it, those involved become your family. You are always welcoming new members to the fold, and that’s how I met Frazier. A friend brought her to one of my shows in Honolulu, and I had no idea she was a singer-songwriter and lead singer of alternative band AfterEverAfter. Months later, I heard her music online and absolutely loved her voice.
Born in Kawaguchi, Japan, Frazier moved to Aiea when she was two years old.
“I’m the oldest of six,” she said. “I guess that is an interesting thing about me.”
Actually, after talking to her, there are a lot of interesting things about this 26-year old. Her first language was Japanese and has been singing songs since before she could form full sentences. She comes from a fairly musical family — her brother Andrew plays with AfterEverAfter, too. Frazier is a graduate of Chapman University with a degree in business marketing who decided to move back to Hawaii after working for two years in California so she could be with her family and watch her younger siblings grow up.
And just like lots of other struggling musicians, she’s got a full-time job, family and a music career to juggle. Oh, and she’s one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Pretty interesting, right?
If you haven’t heard Frazier’s voice and songs, you are missing out. She crafts hopeful pop tunes about love, faith, humanity, personal struggle and resolve, but it’s her voice that captured my ears first. If you are a fan of Michelle Branch (one of Frazier’s influences) or any artist of that genre, Frazier’s solo acoustic music is for you.
She doesn’t try hard to be anything but herself in her music. It’s straight up, no frills, a girl and her guitar. Not typical, per se, but just really good.
Frazier’s band, AfterEverAfter, was named after a selection from a Scholastic book list and serves as her more upbeat, alternative rock musical outlet. AfterEverAfter is comprised of John Jarman on drums, Chaz Umamoto on electric guitar and backing vocals, Lopaka Holmberg on keys, Andrew Frazier on bass and backing vocals, and Amanda Frazier on acoustic guitar and lead vocals. Formed a year ago by a group of friends with a common goal to have fun and make music together, they are slowly climbing the ranks as a new musical voice in Hawaii’s ever evolving music scene.
I spoke with Frazier this week about music and her plans for the New Year.
Sabrina Velazquez: You have one of the prettiest voices I’ve heard in the local music scene. It reminds me of a cross between Michelle Branch and Hayley Williams from Paramore. When did you begin singing and playing music?
Amanda Frazier: I think I have always loved to sing. As I grew up, singing along to the radio or making up songs was one of the things my friends and I loved to do. In junior high, I came across the idea of being able to play an instrument so that I would have music to sing along to. In high school I picked up the guitar and learned the basics from friends and dabbled in writing original music.
But it wasn’t until college that I stepped out of my shell and began playing in front of others. This (was) the time period when I also began writing more and more original music.
One of my biggest influences from the beginning was Michelle Branch. Seeing her with her acoustic guitar on TV for the first time, I thought to myself, “I wanna do that too!” So I started listening to her music and it really inspired me. Another influence of mine is a band called Over the Rhine. I (love) listening to all kinds of music and allow everything to give me inspiration, from … other musicians, life experiences, ideas/theories, life lessons (and) friends.
SV: Tell me about AfterEverAfter. There is a definitely difference in the style of the music from your own solo project. How did you all come together and why the name AfterEverAfter?
AF: While jamming one day at practice, we started writing a new song together which was pretty alternative/pop/indie rock, and we realized that we had fun being a full band and collaborating. We continued on that route and decided to start a separate entity as a band.
The members of this band are a little different than the guys that back me up on my acoustic music, and they play different instruments. We got our name from a scholastic book list, (but) the meaning is really up for interpretation. We’ve been together for over a year now, but yes, we’re fairly new!
SV: Is it nice to have an outlet for your own music and being a part of the band?
AF: It’s so much fun having my acoustic music and also having AfterEverAfter, because they are so different!
With my acoustic music, it’s music that I write and then my friends add their own expert musical skills to it and enhance it to a whole other level. They add melodies with their instruments that really make my song something it could never be if I were on my own. Before we all got together, I’d play solo, and after a while, I just got bored. When I play music with my friends, it makes playing my own songs fun again. It’s like having a jam session every time.
With AfterEverAfter, I get to sing more alternative songs, and rock out which I can’t really do with my acoustic music, which is super chill. All of the guys I play and perform with and I have similar yet different interests in music. Also, the guys are much more knowledgeable than I am in music theory. Together, we all have such different outlooks and opinions, but our personalities mesh so well that we’re able to collaborate and write cohesively. I love them!
We’ve all agreed that at the end of the day, we are playing music together because we love it, and that will be our heart above all.
SV: I’ve been enjoying listening to your songs. Your lyrics definitely have a sense hopefulness to them. How does songwriting work for you as a solo artist and as a band?
AF: You bring up an interesting point. In my acoustic song writing, I generally try to keep hope alive. Even in a song like “Nonbeliever,” which (was) written in the midst of heartbreak, I want to give a message that there is hope, that even when things are hard at the moment, they will not be forever.
In my song “If You Fall,” it talks about the reality that we will fall, but that we have friends around us that will go through those times with us. My songs are sometimes influenced by my own life experiences or situations, but sometimes I write about an idea I get, or a situation that I imagine.
For AfterEverAfter, I mostly write lyrics, but there are times when another band member will contribute a chorus or lines or ideas to work with. We each have our strengths when it comes to songwriting and we all work together towards the end result.
SV: I’ve interviewed a lot of local artists that are more a part of the Chinatown scene in Honolulu. It seems like there is another completely different set of musicians who have created their own niche as well — bands like AfterEverAfter, Virgin Mary, etc. Tell me a little about being a part of the Hawaii music scene and what your experience has been like so far.
AF: I love the Hawaii music scene because everyone is so supportive of each other. The reason we are able to play as many shows as we do is the people we’ve become friends with. Bands are always inviting each other to play shows together.
Being a new band on the scene, it was so awesome to have friends invite us to play with them. We’ve also played a bunch of charity events. We’ve played both acoustic and band shows in Chinatown, but are not exclusive to the area. We go here and there, just depending on where our friends are hosting the next show.
SV: Any recording plans?
AF: AfterEverAfter has a single called “Falling” on an upcoming compilation CD by Aumakua Records with other local bands coming out this year. We’ve done some demo recording so far and would like to re-record eventually.
For my acoustic music, we plan on recording in 2012. My goal is to put together a full length CD, mostly to have something for my fans to take home with them.
SV: You seem like a real musical go-getter. Tell me your ultimate musical goals and how they keep you going?
AF: One particular goal is to record an album. That’s number one on my radar as I’ve often thought of it, but only now have the friends to help me accomplish my dream. Another goal is to make music videos to the songs once they’re recorded. I think it’s just been a dream of mine since I was a kid. I’d often be singing and imagining myself in a music video.
I’d also love to open for some of my favorite musicians like Michelle Branch, or even Over the Rhine! With full-time school, and now, a full-time career, it’s been difficult to make time to dedicate to my music, but more and more recently I’ve been putting more attention to it, and I’m realizing that it really is a passion and love of mine — this is what keeps me going and moving forward.
SV: What’s in store for you as a solo artist and for the band this year?
AF: I hope to record and start planning a tour of some sort either for later this year or maybe for 2013. We have many friends up the west coast and would love to travel from California up to Washington playing shows and sharing our music.
SV: Describe yourself in one word.
Sabrina Velazquez is a 2011 Na Hoku Hanohano Award-nominated singer/songwriter and self-proclaimed “music nerd” who was born and raised in Honolulu. Now based in Portland, Oregon, Velazquez posts every Monday on The Pulse.