Kawehi is a bit of an anomaly. She embraces postmodern methods of putting out pop music (She’s a big fan of fan-funding and is most famous for her fan-requested covers of tunes by the likes of Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, and The Supremes), but also embraces highly “academic,” socio-political thinking as a primary influence… something that very few musicians in the realm of the “popular” would seem to have any clue about… (Much of her most recent musical work would seem to fit exceptionally cozily with Haraway…) PHILTHY actually first met Kawehi last June. The Honolulu-born, Lawrence, Kansas-residing one-woman master-of-looping and electronic singer/songwriter was on the verge of releasing her latest EP, Robot Heart, an album about a lady robot craving both the delights and traumas of the human experience and that was funded by an overwhelmingly successful Kickstarter campaign. At the time she was also preparing to kick off a string of live dates, beginning with a night at our very own Kung Fu Necktie and also the nearby Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware. We spent most of our chat discussing her love of fan-funding and how Science Fiction can often be the perfect genre for analyzing the current state of the world we actually live in.
I got a chance to catch up with Kawehi on opening night of her current tour, which began January 9th at Bright Music Hall in Boston on her birthday, and which will have her making a stop at Boot & Saddle this coming Wednesday, January 14th. I wish her a happy birthday and she giggles, “Thank you, I’m celebrating my 21st [laughs].” I ask her what have been her musical highlights since we last spoke and she tells me that her accessibly avant-garde video for “Anthem;” which has her performing the Robot Heart song [that blends ‘90s R&B with sonic postmodernism], accompanied by numerous heads of her own in boxes, covering all of the song’s accompaniments; was one of her favorite things she’s done in the past year: “It turned out really great and people really enjoyed it. It was a cool way to push the new EP.” However, keeping in-line with the last time we spoke, Kawehi seems to always be most excited about the next step in her sounds. She tells me that she’s very excited about the sequel of sorts to Robot Heart, which is Evolution, an EP about her feminine robot’s transition into the life of a human. She tells me that this EP is a conclusion to her last, both in sounds and themes: “We just finished a Kickstarter for the next EP, which is out in March. It’s sort of similar to Robot Heart, but a little more organic, instead of fully electronic. It’s about humanity and the human condition and what she likes about being a person.”
Kawehi tells me about her affinity for Sci-Fi art, which seems to serve as her biggest inspiration. And her tastes in Sci-Fi would endearingly seem to run the full gamut from that which is considered “high-art” to that generally regarded as cheap entertainment: “I love William Burroughs. He would be about at the top of my list for literature, but I’m really into things like Firefly and Star Trek.” She also tells me that another huge inspiration is her time on the road, playing shows and meeting fans.
“It was great to go back home to Hawaii and I sold out my own hometown and I really can’t ask for anything more. And I always have fun on the East Coast. New York was like the first place I ever sold out, which was really exciting. I spend a good hour and a half to two hours after shows hanging out and meeting everyone and saying, ‘What’s up?’ I mean, they’re the reason I’m able to do all of this.”
She’ll currently be on tour through the end of February and seems quite anxious to meet new fans and reacquaint herself with old ones, but when I ask Kawehi what she’s most excited for in 2015, she again confesses that she’s most enthusiastic about what’s next for her: “2015 will basically just be more traveling, more touring, and making new shit. That’s the ultimate thing. I mean, I love touring and being on the road, but my favorite thing is to just keep making new shit and that’s what I hope to be able to keep doing and hopefully be able to do it without having to live in a cardboard box [laughs].”