Scene+Heard: ‘Alternative HI’ set for release

Mar. 19, 2012 | 0 Comments

<i>Just a handful of the bands featured on the Alternative HI compilation, Photo: courtesy Brandon Apeles</i>

Just a handful of the bands featured on the compilation. (Courtesy Brandon Apeles)

BY SABRINA VELAZQUEZ / Special to the Star-Advertiser

Last summer, producer/engineer Shawn Livingston Moseley approached his friend and local band manager/promoter, Brandon Apeles, with a straightforward idea — create a musical compilation of bands from Hawaii’s alternative music scene.

After countless hours of meetings, prep work, recording, mixing, and mastering, the project, aptly called “Alternative HI” is set for release tomorrow, March 20, with distribution via Mountain Apple Company. (Pre-order the album on iTunes; follow the project on Facebook.)

As Apeles and Moseley started the project they developed the following criteria for the album:

» All the material had to be original.
» Aside from solo artists with guest musicians, all bands had to remain together and actively perform in the local scene.
» The songs selected for the album would be done by the producers.
» There would be a rigorous pre-production schedule with the bands and their material to assure they were up to an international level of quality in line with top artists in the alternative genre.
» Although singles would be fully produced, recorded, mixed and mastered at the expense of ‘Aumakua Records, participating artists would retain the rights to the master recordings.

As a result, the compilation features 18 songs by 18 local alternative bands, hand-picked by Apeles and Moseley. Artists include Sing The Body, Disaster Kit, The Intire Project, Erika Elona, Kelli Heath, Johnny Helm, Rabbit & The Propers, Hollow Spheres, Prevail, Manra, Owaila, Sex Puppet, Kevin Jones, After Ever After, Mano Kane, Saving Cadence and Mike Love.

I was also asked to participate in this project and feel lucky to have been a part of the album. Not only did it give a chance for me to have an original song recorded, but I got to meet so many new artists. It brought us all closer together to form a more bonded music community. And as someone who has had the opportunity to work with both Moseley and Apeles, it seems fitting that they would put this project together, not just because of their love for Hawaii’s music scene, but also for their talents and efforts done thus far.

In the studio, Moseley brings a level of expertise, positivity and artistry to his process that encourages each artist to give their best performance. Originally from Hawaii, Moseley, a child piano prodigy/composer, moved to the mainland to pursue his musical career. He then shifted his focus to producer/engineer, having worked with such artists as Elliot Smith, Metallica and Dave Matthews. After moving back to Hawaii in 2006, he opened Soul Sound Studios in 2008. Since then, he has produced and engineered over 30 records, with multiple Na Hoku nominations and awards. He’s the real deal.

As the manager of numerous artists from Sing The Body to Erika Elona, Johnny Helm and the Intire Project, Apeles is deeply rooted in Hawaii’s dynamic alternative music landscape. He was key in choosing the bands that would deliver the best snapshot of the current scene, as well as offer promotional support for the project. With these two guys on board, I was just like the rest of the bands involved and jumped at the chance to join in. It was all about doing something different for the love of the music and the love of Hawaii.

I caught up with Apeles and Moseley this week to talk about the album and what it feels like to see this dream project come together.

Sabrina Velazquez: This project was a labor of love for you and Shawn to put this compilation together. Talk a little about that and how did you choose the bands for this project?

Brandon Apeles: It’s something I have always wanted to do and when I got the call from Moseley who brought up the idea to me I thought it was a dream. I never imagined it would actually happen and forget about how big it has become.

<i>Brandon Apeles, Courtesy photo<i/>

Brandon Apeles. (Courtesy photo)

I basically had full creative control in picking each band and the song they would do. Certain ones I left up to the bands but I knew songs like “Overrated Town” and “Penniless” I just had to have. I picked band that I have always been a fan of and some new I discovered from going to live shows. Some bands declined and some just couldn’t get (things) together in time. I feel it all worked out for the best with the 18 that finally made the cut.

SV: The bands on the project come from different levels of experience and sound. How was it to work with 18 different bands at these various levels? And as a producer, what was the main goal/sound you tried to reach with each band?

Shawn Livingston Moseley: When I go to a family party, I’m always the uncle that hangs out with the keiki after I say hello to their folks, disappearing the formal scene to hit the slides and play. Children, like musicians, are one of the purest sources of inspiration, no matter how much they do or do not know. As a producer, I like teaching that it is not “I” but “we” (who) will make music better, make things right.

This record has built an ‘ohana of artist that is unlike anything I have ever seen in the music industry to date, and any goal I might have had in the early days of starting this album has been absorbed by the art of all those involved and is so much more than I could have ever dreamed.

<i>Moseley (left) with bassist Max Benoit, Courtesy photo</i>

Moseley (left) with bassist Max Benoit. (Courtesy photo)

SV: Is there a theme to the project at all or some sort of cohesiveness that you can comment on?

SLM: At first the only theme was to bring the underground music scene together and illustrate through a compilation how deeply rich the alternative music scene here is. Having extensively traveled and produced records throughout the world I learned that no matter what the genre of music, you can trace the cultural influence imbedded in the songs based on where the songwriters and artist are from, and where they were most inspired to write them.

In Hawaii, love songs are deeply poetic, allowing the listener to access their meaning’s on so many levels that often takes a lifetime and then some to fully understand, even for the songwriter. This record is clearly about love and its poetry and I would be a fool if I tried to define how and why that love is conveyed, but I can honestly say that I cannot deny its presence in every song on the album. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s not a collection of slow dances because sometimes love hurts.

SV: What does it feel like to now have the compilation picked-up by Mountain Apple and be released this month?

BA: Still doesn’t feel real. We had a little meeting/get together a couple weeks ago and it was surreal. So much positive energy in one room. Got me emotional. I am forever in debt to Moseley and all the bands that participated.

The fact that Jon De Mello and the Mountain Apple team are so into the project overwhelms me. I think this is something that can out Hawaii music out there to the masses.

SLM: Three things come to mind — a dam about to break, a bee buzzing on a fertile flower (and) a waterfall that has formed and falling gracefully over the rocks below.

SV: Any release show/shows to tell fans?

BA: We are in the planning stages for a huge “Alternative HI” concert. In the meantime the bands are still doing their regular shows around town. “Alternative HI” artists also will be performing at a few BAMP shows coming up as special guests for The Shins, Jimmy Cliff, Meiko, Justin Nozuka, Switchfoot and more.

SV: What do you hope listeners take away with them after hearing the album?

BA: I hope they can feel all the love, pain & emotion that were put into every track. Not only are the artists talented but they gave everything they had to this. I think its time for Hawaii to recognize the alternative scene.

This project is a dream come true and something I have worked at for a very long time. Thank you again to Shawn Livingston Moseley for making it a reality. I do this all for the love of the music and as a tribute to my mother who always believed in me and my music career and my only sadness it that she did not live long enough to see it finally come true.
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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.

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