Heels & Picks: The kids are all right
BY ERIN SMITH / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Is it just me, or are there more kid rock bands on Oahu than Spam musubi?
Don’t get me wrong – I love it. In particular, I love the young rocker girls and am all about encouraging them to kick booty in whatever they choose to do. We need strong girls who excel in fields primarily dominated by men, like music.
These days you can catch Crimson Apple, a band of young sisters and a friend. They don’t exactly fall into the kid category — the oldest member is in her 20s — but they do have an 11-year-old drummer named Faith Benson, whom I adore.
Then there is The Bitten with singer Iliahi Robbs, who has the vocal clarity and power of Paramore’s Hayley Williams. There are my punk rock minis, Random Weirdos, who I coach/mentor out of Kailua Music School alongside Aaron Carey, and there are a few more bands of young rockers forming out of KMS as we speak. Paranoid Addiction is one I’ve got my eye on, with a singer that I’ve coached named Darvin Duffield bringing the rock ‘n’ roll, Joan Jett swag.
One of the kid-based bands you may have heard of is Chaotic Five. Led by guitarist Kalliyan Davis, 14, this group of kids has played all over Oahu and on the mainland cranking out classic and modern rock covers. Kalliyan has some chops on guitar and is head-turning with her petite stature and shred-tastic playing.
Kalliyan launched her debut solo EP, “Ascend,” with an EP release party at Crossroads at Hawaiian Brian’s on May 17. Upon listening, I can tell she is inspired by the classic rock she played in Chaotic Five. The songs are heavy, more in the direction of the harder side of modern rock, touched by the ideals of classic rock.
I touched base with Kalliyan via email to talk about her new EP, inspirations, background and thoughts on being a young woman in rock.
HONOLULU STAR ADVERTISER: Who produced the EP and how many songs are on it?
KALLIYAN DAVIS: My friend Talor Monahan produced the EP. There are four songs: “Turning My Back,” “Whispers,” “Broken” and “Ascend.”
SA: Who plays the instruments on the EP?
KD: I play rhythm and lead guitar and sing. Talor (Monahan) plays bass and drums.
SA: How does being a solo artist differ from being in Chaotic Five?
KD: Being a solo artist gives me more freedom to write about whatever I want. I can compose music and write lyrics that I feel.
On the other hand, if I write music for Chaotic Five, I have to make sure that all the band members like the material. It also takes longer to record because the band members have to go into the studio on their own free time.
SA: What does the title “Ascend” mean to you?
KD: Ascend means “to rise.” I like to envision myself rising above all the negative actions that people may throw at me. They can watch me ascend!
SA: What is coming up for you after the release of the EP?
KD: I’m going to concentrate on selling my CD’s and start working on more music during my summer break.
SA: Where can fans get a copy of the album?
KD: They can message me on my Facebook page and we can mail the signed EP to them. They can purchase a digital copy on iTunes, Amazon or Google at $0.99 per song.
SA: What instruments do you play, which one is your primary instrument and at what age did you start to play?
KD: I started with piano at the age of 5. My parents bought a cheap upright piano for my sister and me. Then I was introduced to acoustic guitar when I was 7.
When I was 8, my parents bought me my very first electric guitar, a mini red Ibanez. You can see a pattern: my parents always started me off with cheap instruments, and then I worked my way up to earn more quality equipment.
I would say that piano is still my main instrument. I am more skilled in piano, but that doesn’t mean I like guitar any less. I think piano recitals are much more nerve-wracking than performing guitar and singing on stage.
SA: How long have you been performing?
KD: I’ve been performing piano since I was 6 and guitar since I was 9.
SA: Who are your inspirations?
KD: Some of my inspirations are Synyster Gates from Avenged Sevenfold, Kirk Hammett from Metallica and Matthew Bellamy from Muse.
SA: What is your favorite show that you have played?
KD: My favorite show I’ve played so far was at Whisky A Go Go in Hollywood. It was an amazing feeling to know I stood on the same stage as bands like Guns N’ Roses.
SA: How do you think being a girl who plays music differs from being a boy who plays?
KD: I think people have different first impressions when they look at a girl playing music. I think it’s common to take a girl less seriously at first. I hope to break that barrier by working hard, being humble and proving that girls can do almost anything they set their minds on.
SA: How important are role models to you and who are some of yours?
KD: Role models are very important to me because they give me a basis of how to present myself in front of an audience. I love to watch/listen to musicians who put lots of hard work into their music and presentation and still remain humble. I really respect those types of people.
Some of my role models are closer to me than you might imagine – my family. My parents and sister encourage me to work hard because they work hard themselves. Also, as I said earlier, I look up to musicians who are hardworking and humble. I hope to match their fame one day.
To quote a famous saying, “work until your idols become your rivals.”
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.