Disregarding the Elvis Presley musical…“Blue Hawaii” would seem to reference some utopia/dystopia… That, combined with the fact that the band’s upcoming, sophomore effort, is titled Untogether, should make them a musical wet dream for existentialists and social scientists. Montreal male/female duo Raph (whom you may know as a member of Braids) and Agor, better known as Blue Hawaii, came together in 2010, courtesy of Arbutus Records. That year saw the release of their debut EP, Blooming Summer. Inspired by a trip to Central America, the album’s sound reflected its title. However, Untogether, which was literally recorded in separation, has the band exploring things a little less sunny. The release echoes of the cold practicality of postmodernism and would seem to deconstruct the human experience from above… At times it sounds profoundly mystical… but in a space age kind of way. The album is being released courtesy of Arbutus this Tuesday, March 5th, and the band has a slew of upcoming live dates on SXSW and supporting both Doldrums and Purity Ring. I recently got a chance to chat with the playfully enthusiastic Raph about what you can look forward to from Blue Hawaii in 2013.
Izzy: How would you compare Untogether to your debut? What can fans expect of the evolution of your sound? I quite like the notion of calling the album “Untogether.”
Raph: I wonder where the word “fans” came from. It’s a very nice word – fans. Comparing the two albums – I would say that Blooming Summer is seeing a sunrise and Untogether is realizing that the sun must surely set. Just like one matures as they get older, our sound has matured along with the band’s progression through time. The albums are very different and made by two people, yes, with the same names as before, but who have changed a lot during that time. Sorry if my answers are kind of weird, I’m a little tipsy right now and very much enjoying the feeling of rambling.
Izzy: What are Blue Hawaii’s biggest influences and inspirations, whether musical or not?
Raph: I know that, for Agor, he takes a lot of inspiration from music that he listens to, especially lately. He’ll listen to something and be so touched by it, or see a performance and talk about it for weeks. Others’ art really resonates in Agor. I’m speaking a little bit for him right now but, just from observation, that is what I gather. For me, I don’t really listen to as much music as I maybe ‘should,’ but when I do listen to music, it has a lot of influence as to what I make, so I sometimes have to be really careful with what I listen to. Like, if I listen to Mariah Carey, then there is a 90% chance that the next vocal line I write will be Mariah-inspired, and I don’t exactly want Mariah-inspired music, so I tend to steer away from her. Music, for me, is a release and a way of making sense of the many conflicting emotions and thoughts that I have in a day. I guess I could say, very generally, that living, whatever that may entail, has the biggest influence over what I make. The look that someone gives me while serving me a coffee can inspire three songs. It just depends really.
Izzy: You’re signed to Arbutus Records. What are your thoughts on the label? I’m quite a fan.
Raph: Arbutus is Agor’s brother’s Sebastian’s label that both Agor and I worked for during its beginning stages. Seb and I had a lot of breakfast conversations about what Arbutus was going to be – I love the label, it feels like my nephew or niece. I can’t judge it, as I am very close to it but, if I were to judge it, smudged nose aside, I think that it is currently the best label in the whole world, with the best intentions and I am so fucking excited to see where it goes. Some of our friends have been taking on seemingly “bigger” opportunities because it seems like this amazing thing that they shouldn’t turn down, but I think in ten years they’re going to be like, “What the fuck was I doing?” — the things that resonate with you on your death bed are memories, not record sales, and I think that Arbutus is such a god-sent life experience. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Izzy: What can fans and potential fans expect of the live experience on your upcoming dates?
Raph: I am really proud of our live show. I feel like we have really begun to understand the energy that goes along with playing live. I think that people will feel a part of something very special when they see us live. I have begun to feel very inclusive and open when I play live. I used to close off, but Agor has really inspired me to be open to the energy of the audience. I feel like we go somewhere together.
Izzy: What are your plans and hopes for the rest of 2013… whether in relation to work or leisure?
Raph: A lot of music for both Blue Hawaii and Braids. I am really excited for the Doldrums and Purity Ring tours for Blue Hawaii. Both bands are full of our best friends. It’s going to be a wonderful experience! Also, Agor and I are going to tour Europe very soon. I love travelling with Agor. It’s very fun. He always learns the language much more quickly than I do – so I immensely enjoy watching him mingle with the locals. I really hope that both bands can go to Japan. That is my dream. Okay, I need to go to sleep now. Goodnight!