Heels & Picks: Elona readies ‘Things to Break’
BY ERIN SMITH / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Erika Elona is one of those people. You know the type — they tell you they’re a singer, yet when they open their mouth to sing, you can’t believe the voice coming out of their body.
Petite in stature and frame, she stands 4’11” and wields a voice like a Mack truck, delivering her vocals like she’s singing them for the last time, every time, and you can hear the emotion in her voice. Lyrically, there’s a lot of heartbreak and life lessons learned, but she always has a keen eye for pointing out the truths in her experiences. Keepin’ it real, as they say.
I’ve spent more time with Erika lately, both in the studio (where I contributed backup vocals to her upcoming album alongside local talents Candy Diaz, Hanale Bishop and Matty McIntire) and on stage. We currently perform together every Friday in Waikiki from 6:15 to 9 p.m. at the Pacific Beach Hotel.
I first met Erika a few years ago. I can’t recall exactly where, but we gravitate towards the same indie-rock circles and I encountered her on several occasions when my band, The Throwdowns, came to Oahu from Maui to perform. Over the years I’ve watched her evolved from a tomboy to an elegant, fierce, feminine artist, an evolution I am very familiar with.
As we’re right on the cusp of her debut album, “Things to Break,” being released to the listening public, I thought it was time to check in and talk about style, music, her album and her Kickstarter campaign that has been supported by the likes of Rob Thomas from Matchbox Twenty.
ERIN SMITH: Best outfit ever worn onstage?
ERIKA ELONA: I really liked the outfit I wore opening up for Matchbox Twenty at the Blaisdell — just a white knit top with a light blue tie-dyed maxi skirt with impossibly high slits up the sides. Felt appropriate, yet still sexy and comfortable!
ES: Worst outfit ever worn onstage?
EE: Well, in eighth grade Christmas talent show I played guitar while wearing a Santa hat with candy canes hanging from the rim. Not my most fashionable moment.
ES: What’s your current style inspiration?
EE: Right now I’m realizing how much I love colors, patterns and flowy fabric and silhouettes. I can’t get enough of the tribal thing going on and I’m really loving the maxi skirts!!! (They’re just crotchless yoga pants!)
ES: How as your style evolved?
EE: When I started performing around Oahu I was a little uncomfortable with my femininity and didn’t like to dress up very much. I would mostly wear old jeans and V-neck shirts and slippers because I was not very confident in dressing myself.
Since working on my album I’ve tried to make an effort to make sure that my appearance and attire reflects the kind of love and dedication I give to my music and I’ve been forcing myself to take a little more time and effort with the way I dress at shows. It’s a learning process but on the bright side I can say I’m going shopping for “research purposes.”
ES: How does your style evolution reflect your sound evolution?
EE: I think when I started on the Hawaii music scene my sound was very stripped down and laid back and my T-shirts and jeans that I used to wear reflected that. After working on an album and adding a whole new dimension to my music I feel like I’ve been slowly getting more comfortable with adding new dimensions to my look and I’ve started to wear dresses and heels on stage, even though I thought I never would in a million years!
ES: Most practical tour outfit?
EE: I think that a selection of colorful, tribal/ethnic maxi-skirts (I CANT get enough of them) are comfortable, practical, yet still stylish and feminine and the patterns and color reflect my eclectic personality.
EE: Oh man, studio is shorts, a comfortable T-shirt, my favorite American Apparel hoodie, no makeup and hair up in a topknot. Bonus points if I don’t put my contacts in and just wear my thick glasses!
ES: Best makeup and hair tips for stage?
EE: I like to keep my makeup simple, although occasionally I love me a bold lip color. I’ve been blessed with the superpower of pulling off most crazy shades of lipstick so I like to have fun with that. I’m definitely for long wear lipstick over lip gloss on stage; I HATE getting lip gloss all over my mic, plus my hair sometimes gets stuck in my lip gloss! No bueno.
My hair is almost untamable — if I can get it to submit to me, great. If I can’t, then a French braid is happening.
ES: Falsh eyelashes. Can or no can?
EE: No can. I love the way they look on other people, but when I wear them I feel very self-conscious and paranoid that they’re falling off and people are staring!
ES: Favorite local hair and makeup artist for special occasions or when you can barter/sweet talk/afford it?
EE: I haven’t really had the opportunity to work with very many makeup artists, but the few times I have it’s mostly been with the beautiful Lorena Morallo. She has worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood and here locally as well. I was lucky enough to have her do my makeup for my performance at the Na Hoku Hanohano awards earlier this year and I couldn’t even recognize myself! She’s also a great friend of mine and a great cook and a complete sweetheart. Love her!
ES: Wardrobe malfunctions onstage, had any? (I have LOL!;)
EE: All I can think of really is wearing light colored V-necks shirts while performing in hot, sweaty dive bars and having major armpit sweat showing. Luckily, I’ve gotten better at identifying what shirts and colors are the worst (GREY IS THE WORST) and I’ve also been wearing a lot more flowy, loose fitting things, so that helps.
ES: Inspirational style icons for your personal style?
EE: I love the effortless sexiness of Brigitte Bardot and how she made anything look stunning, yet still easy. I also really dig Nicole Richie and her bohemian, modern day hippie vibe.
ES: You recently opened up for Matchbox Twenty at Blaisedell. Tell us about that!
EE: It was probably one of the greatest nights in my entire life! I was so incredibly nervous to even have this opportunity and then Rob Thomas (came) up with the most genuine warm smile and said, “Hi I’m Rob! You must be Erika!” (He) thanked me for being there and it made me so happy.
All of the band and their whole crew were friendly and warm and supportive and it made me just affirm that I am on the right track to pursuing my dream. I got through my set and the audience was so appreciative and supportive and helped me conquer my nerves and I loved it! The band put on an amazing show and I just had these flashbacks of me jamming out to their first album when I was in fifth grade, and now I’m backstage hanging out and having a beer! Absolutely surreal and a night that will always be special to me.
ES: Can you fill our readers in on your Kickstarter campaign? What are you funding, and where can people go to be involved in supporting your music?
EE: I’m funding the printing/pressing/promotion of my debut full-length album, called “Things to Break.” It’s already been recorded and was done at Soul Sound studios under the production of Shawn Livingston Moseley.
I have a variety of different backer rewards at all donation levels and would LOVE if you checked it out and shared it with your friends and fam. There’s more info (here) and there’s a stream of my first single, “Anchor,” so check it out! Muchos mahalos!
Erin Smith is a singer and guitarist who performs as a solo artist and with Maui-based Na Hoku Hanohano Award-nominated band The Throwdowns. Born in Canada, she moved to Hawaii in 2004 and now resides in Kailua. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.