This Wednesday, June 8th, Montreal duo Blue Hawaii – comprised of Braids’ Raphaelle “Ra” Standell-Preston and Alex “Agor” Kerby (also known as Alexander Cowan) – will be bringing their dreamy, synth-heavy, often-ethereal, and always danceable brand of electropop to Johnny Brenda’s. The band are touring behind their My Bestfriend’s House EP, which dropped this February. I recently got a chance to chat with both Ra and Agor from the road, and the two told me about both what they’ve been up to recently and what you can expect of their headlining gig at our favorite local, mini–Rock N’ Roll ballroom Wednesday night.
Izzy: I just realized that the last time I spoke to the band was in early 2013, just prior to the release of your debut LP, Untogether. I realize this is a big question, but what have been some of the highlights of Blue Hawaii over the past nine years?
Ra: Wow! That is a big question, but I’ll try to be concise; could probably write a series of short stories for this question. Ultimately what has stood out to me most is the resilience and strength that our friendship has had throughout the years. We used to be a couple – hence the record Untogether, we took time off, recollected ourselves, and have been devoted friends ever since, through thick and thin. We’ve worked hard for it. Ag is my best friend and I’m so happy he’s in my life and that I get the opportunity to see him change and evolve and to get deep writing music and lit up performing it.
A lot has changed since 2013 in the world and in our lives, and to witness it together is quite profound, to be honest. Also, writing this after 6 hours of sleep over the last three days of shows… So, you’re catchin’ me on a more emotional wave 😉
Izzy: How would you characterize your relationship and process of working together, in terms of writing music, recording music, and even just going about things like time on the road together?
Ra: Haha, well I would describe it as turbo pack! We are learning how to channel the turtle a bit more; we are so speedy in every aspect of our lives together, which makes it fun, but sometimes so hectic! So, we’re trying to work on a little less hectic but to still have vigour and that good kind of intensity with how we create and perform and travel and party and talk, etc., etc.
Izzy: You recently released the My Bestfriend’s House EP. How would you characterize this batch of songs, possibly in relation to your previous releases? What kinds of things were inspiring you at the time they were conceived?
Ra: We wanted to make a follow-up to Under 1 House because Under 1 House was so darn fun to make. My Bestfriend’s House was also great but a bit more challenging in that we were channeling memories of celebratory moments instead of living them, given we wrote it in the pandemic. And we had to do a lot of it remotely. But I’m so proud of it. I friggen’ love both records. We also wrote a couple of the tracks with our dear friend Edwin de Goeij who plays keys and is a crazy talented force. You’ll be hearing his name a lot soon. Eddie on the keys baby!
Izzy: Have you had any favorite reactions to the new music so far?
Ra: Montreal and New York were almost like transcendent experiences. I felt so connected with the fans, especially in the first 3-4 rows. Just so much love and joy and celebration. It was beautiful. I appreciate our fans so deeply. I have so much respect for them and so much love and energy to share with them. We sing to each other, we signal each other to do different dance moves, omg it’s just wonderful! It’s such a gift to play for people again.
Izzy: Do you currently have a favorite track off of the EP, whether one you’re most proud of or one that you’re most excited to play live?
Agor: I love playing “L.O.V.E.” live because it has these great belted vocal parts which get the audience going every time. It’s like this perfect formula: maybe cut the bass a little, throw a reverb on Ra’s mic just before she rips a big note, and the audience immediately starts screaming and cheering, every time!
Izzy: You’ve released a lot of really cool music videos over the years that have a knack for blending the very intimate with the very epic. What is it that inspires the visual elements of Blue Hawaii? And can we expect more videos in the near future?
Agor: One thing that makes us different is we make all the videos ourselves, with pretty much zero budget. It’s just a fun thing to do, and sometimes we get some nice results. I suppose it doesn’t matter if they are a bit lo-fi sometimes because something special happens when you put music to film – I feel like we’d be missing out if we never made videos. I’d love to see every one of our songs with videos behind it. Not sure if we have any plans to make any soon though – it’s tough with me living in Berlin and Ra in Montreal, so when we do get time together we focus on making music or playing shows.
Izzy: You have a number of upcoming live dates, including a June 8th stop at Johnny Brenda’s, which is probably the best room in the city. What can be expected of the live experience this time around?
Agor: Expect to dance and move! We love bringing down the house and giving people a memorable, fun, and positive time. Our live show is very unique. It’s like a live dance act with diva vocals, blurring the lines between party and concert. It’s goal is to be really entertaining, fun, and groovy. It ends up having a lot of improvised moments so it’s always a bit different, and lately we’ve been playing a few slower/R&B unreleased tracks in our set, so you might catch some of those too.
Izzy: Finally, what’s next for you? How are you hoping and planning to spend the remainder of 2022, after this run of dates wraps, whether relating to Blue Hawaii or some other projects?
Agor: We are touring a little more in August doing some Canadian festivals, and my other band from Germany, Das Beat, will be playing some shows – we have a date in NYC on Aug 31! So, lots of music and travelling and enjoying the sun and water and picnics and parties where we can.
*Get your tickets here.