HAWAI Open Up About Their Vulnerable New EP: "I Wanted to Go Explore the Unknown and Be Comfortable with the Process"
SoCal four piece HAWAI are ending 2017 on a high note with the release of their brand new EP, Hide in the Ocean. A more blunt and vulnerable release than the band's 2016 EP, Working All Night, Hide in the Ocean not only finds HAWAI at their strongest lyrically, but sonically, the band was able to explore their sound quite a bit more this time around, too. Both thematically and literally, the new EP finds the band stepping out into the great unknown, and the result is some of their best work to date.
With Hide in the Ocean out now, HAWAI are looking forward to a busy new year, which includes hitting the road to play these new songs. Learn more about the band's creative process behind the new EP and how their personal lives played into this release below, and pick up Hide in the Ocean NOW! Stream the album now HERE.
Interview by Dom Vigil
Can you tell us a little bit about HAWAI for those who aren’t familiar?
HAWAI is four friends from Southern California. We're huge fans of Taco Bell. We'll never turn down a hang somewhere outside with a cold beer. We have tattoos we regret. And we all have the same haircut.
You guys formed in 2015, but you’ve known each other for quite some time. What made it the right time to start this project? What goals did you want to accomplish with it?
We've been playing music with each other since we were kids. Jesse (drums), Jared (bass), and I first formed a band when we were 12-14 years old called Greystone. It was an instrumental band because none of us wanted to sing. Since then, we've had a few different projects, I started singing, we added members, and naturally evolved our sound over the years. I think what made the timing of HAWAI right was that we were all in a place of wanting to put more into the music then ever before. It was always a pursuit, but this project felt a tad bit more serious then the others. We took song-writing more seriously, and I guess just grew up a bit with age. We weren't fourteen anymore playing out of our parents garage. I think if we had one goal going into this project, it was to simply be intentional about everything we do.
You’re just releasing your new EP, Hide in the Ocean. How do you feel you’ve grown with this album and since the release of your first EP, Working All Night last year?
There's been a lot of change since our last EP. Two babies have been added to the family. Matt (keyboard) got married to his longtime lover. So we've grown a lot in that way. But musically, Hide in the Ocean feels a lot more clear and to the point. Lyrically, I didn't hide behind metaphors and stories that only make sense to me. I jumped out into the open a little bit more this time around to tell a story more directly. I still use fictional narratives in my lyrics, but I was more conscious about keeping them simple and understandable.
Musically or lyrically, was there anything you wanted to explore on Hide in the Ocean that you haven’t been able to do in the past?
Ya big time! There's a lot of synth in this record. Synths we didn't use last time. And we kept things relatively minimal in comparison to our old habits of writing. And lyrically, I found it really soothing to not overthink it. Lyrics are strange sometimes. They can come in an instant, subconsciously almost. Or I can slave over them for weeks. I always prefer them to come first before too much instrumentation is added. We worked with Frederik Thaae on this EP and he was always really good about making sure I didn't get carried away with adding too many parts before finishing the lyrics.
You’ve mentioned before that Hide in the Ocean is about an awakening of sorts. What inspired this theme and the songs on the EP?
I think having two kids and turning 30 definitely woke me up a bit. Life had officially changed, and it felt as though I didn't know anything anymore. I grew up with this thought that I had the majority of things figured out. I knew what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go, and I only had myself to worry about. But it kind of feels like life started over this past year. So I tried to convey those feelings through this metaphor of "hiding in the ocean". I've always lived in California, so the beach is very much a part of our life. But being so familiar with something and then taking a step back to see how complex it really is, is basically how I was feeling. I didn't want to assume anything anymore. I wanted to go explore the unknown and be comfortable with the process. The theme of "hiding" came from the first song I wrote for this EP titled "I'm Not Dead". There's a line where I say "Come with me to the ocean, let's hide in the ocean". And at the time I didn't really know why I wrote that or what it even meant. But as I dived deeper, I realized this was something I wanted to expand on and get clarity on. I realized this invitation of hiding in the ocean was my way of needing company in this gigantic unknown place. So throughout the rest of the EP, you'll see this theme pop up.
You recently released your single, “Alive,” which definitely touches on the themes of the EP. Can you tell us a little bit about this song?
Alive was unintentionally the counterpart to "I'm Not Dead". I enjoy writing about regret and failure that then resolves into a realization that you're being a dumb ass. I think as humans, the only way we ever learn is by messing up. Nobody wants to be friends with that one guy that never does anything wrong and has a perfect job and never struggled to get anything. That guy sucks. So I guess I'm just drawn to writing about the realities of life. Alive is about the deeper feelings of living, not just merely breathing and existing. In today's culture, it's so easy to wake up and blend-in throughout the day. To be carbon-copies of those around us. For us, life has taken some big turns and we're much more conscious of the things that don't matter like they used to. "Alive" is the idea of somehow shading the B.S. and digging into the real stuff.
Were there any challenges you faced when writing and recording the EP?
Our song Circle K (Back to You) was a big challenge for some reason. We went into the whole thing with a handful of options for the EP, and Circle K (Back to You) was one of the first songs that we knew was going to make it onto the record. But for some reason, the lyrics weren't feeling right. I think I wrote 5 different variations of completely different lyrics for this song. It feels great now, but in the moment this song was killing me!
What were some of the highlights of working on the EP?
Working with Frederik was always great! He's one of the most lovable humans I know. You like him 2 seconds into meeting him. So from the moment we started working on the EP, it was always fun and exciting. Never a dull moment. And he's very efficient, so often times I'd get there in the morning, we'd start an idea I had, and by 6 o'clock we'd have a finished song. Other highlights: working with our friends Saam Richard and Buckley on the photos and artwork. They're incredibly creative and talented, and also some of the nicest people we know.
With Hide in the Ocean out now and the year coming to an end soon, what plans do you have for 2018? What can fans expect?
We plan to have as many people exposed to it as we possibly can. We're planning on being on the road a lot to get this into the ears of anybody and everybody. Look out for us. We'll be in your city soon.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Drink lots of water and be nice. That's about all. Thanks for the conversation.