Hawai Finally Found Their Sound With Help From Cold War Kids Producer

Considering the majority of indie outfit Hawai started jamming together in middle school, it’s a relief that the south county-based twenty somethings are finally releasing an EP that truly captures their sound.
Their debut effort, Working All Night, is comprised of four tracks filled with rich vocals and gleaming guitar lines. With the help of producer Lars Stalfors (whose extensive credits include Cold War Kids, Deap Vally and The Mars Volta) and airplay on KROQ, their new EP is shaping up to be the catalyst they needed to cultivate their sound and head for greater shores. Working All Night is set to be released June 17 on Antler Records. The five-piece will swing through tonight at the Wayfarer with Charlie Hilton and Clean Spill.

The band has been through a progression of names, transitioning from their youthful Greystone to J. Thoven and finally to their current moniker, Hawai. Front man Jake Pappas says that this is the name that’s going to stick, because it represents both their sound and state of mind. The singer/guitarist also shares that producer Stalfors was a factor in the new name, but more importantly, in polishing and focusing their sound. The first time the band met with Stalfors, he churned out one of their tracks in less than an hour. Pappas jokingly recalls how taken aback the group was with his speed.

“He pieced everything together and we had this whole song that was only missing lyrics and a few added parts. He did it in forty-five minutes,” Pappas says. “We were all joking around at the time, telling him, ‘What the heck? Aren’t you supposed to slave over this and have it be a little more emotional?’ He really taught us that you can sit down and write a song and feel good about it without agonizing over it.”

They recorded at the Cold War Kids’ studio in San Pedro, where the band continued to gel with the seasoned producer. Stalfors introduced Hawai to Cold War Kids bassist Matt Maust, who created the album art for Working All Night. Maust was given free reign over the project, with the band sharing a few images for inspiration and simply requesting that the visuals align with their sound. Maust ran with the request and began the multi-layered process of creating the album art, which was filmed and used as the music video for the song “Fault.”

“It’s a good representation of the EP as a whole,” Pappas said. “Working All Night was strongly represented in how Matt and the director Sean Flynn created the video. They shot over ten hours of non-stop art. Matt said he’s never sweat more in his life that when doing that shoot.”

The constant, yet beautiful motion of the video is evocative of the group’s EP. The lead track, “In My Head,” is edgy yet ethereal, layered with light harmonies and glistening synths. “All Night” was inspired by Pappas’ then unborn child and is an emotional take on pursuing a dream, and eventually grew into the band’s anthem. All of Pappas lyrics are relatable, though he shares some are based on his immediate life while others are fictional narratives. Either way, he views making music and songwriting as a cathartic way to connect. With a sharpened sound and new identity, Hawai are finding their footing and headed in the right direction. 

“We’re really happy with the EP, we’ve got a cohesive sound and Lars really helped us with that,” Pappas says. “I feel like with music and poetry, there’s something about keeping it to yourself and not sharing it with anyone. To take these songs and put them out there for everyone to hear can be pretty gnarly. But I try to tap into that and use it. I want people to be able to connect, with our sound and our lyrics.”

Hawai perform with Charlie Hilton and Clean Spill at They Wayfarer on Thursday, May 19. Doors at 8 pm. $8 Cover. 21 and over. For full details, click here.

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