1. HAWAI is a band not a state. (Noun)
2. From Southern California, Orange County to be exact. (Preposition)
3. Makes sun-kissed alternative music that feels alive. (Verb)
4. Here’s the story so far… (Bio)
Behind every band there’s a longtime bond.
HAWAI began to attract national attention by landing multiple tracks on the Hype Machine charts and signing to Antler Records in 2016. However, their musical union can actually be traced back to when Jake Pappas [vocals, guitar], Jesse Dorman [drums], and Jared Slaybaugh [bass, vocals] first started jamming together as young teenagers in their native Orange County. Countless gigs would follow as they sharpened their chops. Eventually forming their original band J. Thoven and adding Matt Gillen [keyboards, synth] to the fold, the boys commenced work on a proper EP in 2015.
A certain revelation encouraged by producer Lars Stalfors [Cold War Kids, Deap Vally] would evolve both their style and name…
“Lars really broke down the DNA of a song,” says Jake. “Our music was a bit schizophrenic in the past with J. Thoven. It was more folk rock. Lars showed us you can still be creative and take pride in musicianship, while adhering to a traditional structure. It was eye-opening. We took our ideas and turned them into fully fleshed out songs. We thought, ‘If we’re going to reinvent ourselves, now is the time for a name change.’ We wanted something recognizable and memorable that would evoke emotions when you hear it. HAWAI stuck. We just dropped the ‘i’ to make it our own.”
With Lars at the production helm, the band cut their Working All Night EP [Antler Records] in Southern California. The first single and opener “In My Head” would stir up a local buzz, even gaining spins on KROQ. With its lush guitars, energetic beat, cinematic production, and unshakable refrain, it’s liable to stay stuck in your head for long after one listen.
“The song itself has a little bit of aggression to it,” the frontman goes on. “It’s from a particular time period really marked by a lot of frustration. Lyrically, it tells a fictitious narrative of this person with a superficial and artificial definition of love—that cliché of hearts and sex. Love is a much a deeper thing. It’s this selfish perspective of love.”
Elsewhere on the EP, “Fault” glides between a clean guitar hum and an expansive vocal line. Coming to life on-screen, its music video features Cold War Kids bassist Matt Maust actually creating the Working All Night cover. Meanwhile, the song “All Night” mirrors the musicians’ tireless commitment to their own art.
“When I moved to L.A., my wife and I were expecting our first child,” recalls Jake. “Working more heavily in music was going to be my general focus. When you find out you’re having a kid, your focus becomes directed elsewhere. It was really written for my unborn son saying, ‘I will work as much as I can to provide for you.’ On a larger level, it’s reflective of the band’s commitment to music. We’re willing to work as hard as we can for it.”
Underneath the beachy gusts of guitars and keys, shimmering soul, and iridescent hooks, HAWAI’s island houses an inspiring message.
“I want to make an impact in terms of what the lyrics are about,” Jakes leaves off. “It’s important to convey something that can help people. There’s a power within music. It can be a healthy tool to use. We treasure that.”