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No Hawaii

'Snake My Charms' by the Swedish band No Hawaii is the different metal surprise of the year. Because it seldom happens that a band combines so incredibly many different styles and still manages to make it sound uniform and “logically”. These gentlemen really are a bunch of musical omnivores, as the mentioned influences of Tool, King Crimson, and Breach already suspect. No less than three of them - Smejks (guitar), Gustaf (Drums) and Biggus (vocals) - answered our questions in a thorough introduction of this promising band.

By: Jasper | Archive under different metal

Hi guys, how is No Hawaii doing these days?
We're doing great. There is a lot going on at the moment. We are currently rehearsing a lot for our upcoming shows (the release party in May and tours in Sweden, the UK and Europe) alongside writing new material for our next album. We've also recorded a video for 'Tunnel' which is currently being edited by Joni Huttunen. It's very 70's inspired, very Beat Club. We saw an early preview of it the other day and it looks really “far out”. We've also just started to receive reviews of our first album which is very interesting. It's a weird feeling getting fresh feedback for songs you've known for years. Some reviews have been so good it's almost scary, and some have been like “What? Three songs is one song? Why?”

Since this is our first time talking to you, could you please introduce No Hawaii; who are you and what do you stand for?
We are basically a bunch of idiots who enjoy playing music that we'd like to hear. We don't really collectively stand for anything, we have no agenda so to speak. Sure we have opinions about everything just like every other furless monkey, and maybe sometimes we touch on subjects we care about, lyrically or otherwise, like in 'Radio Magellanes' or 'A Lovely Breed'. Most things we agree on, some we don't, and we generally feel that those things have very little to do with how we create differences in the pressure in the air.

Looking at your names and faces it seems that most of you have different ethnic roots, is that right? Does this element make No Hawaii less typically Swedish, would you think?
Yes, that's right. Biggus and Smejks are crossbreeds between Pakistani and Swedish, Gonzo is from Chile, Gurra is from Hisingen Island (Sweden) and we're not quite sure about Erik. We suspect that there's some Celtic Druid in there. Whether or not it makes us less Swedish? No. That has little to do with ethnicity. For example, Smejks and Gurra are probably equally Swedish, culturally speaking. Hell, in many ways Gurra is waaaay more ghetto than Smejks.

I was very glad to receive your debut album 'Snake My Charms'! I also have your first EP, but I must say it could not prepare me well enough for the progression you guys made, well done! What is the biggest difference between the approach on the EP and the new album?
Thank you! That warmed our hearts. I'd say the biggest difference would be motivation. When we recorded 'Bruce Lee In Your Brain' we still lacked direction on certain levels. The bassplayer, Tore, we played with back then was less motivated. Personally I (Smejks) wasn't that involved myself, but when people are moving in different directions you are bound to have friction, which is never good when trying to maintain a good feeling. The recording of 'Bruce Lee In Your Brain' was probably what triggered him (Tore) to leave the band. We're still good friends and he's having a great time with Zabaione (Tore's current band) these days.

Another big difference is that we took our sweet time making 'Snake My Charms', writing without stress, giving the songs the time they would need (some were probably written like three years ago) buying as much studio-time as we could afford (Gurra had just successfully sued the evil company he'd been working for, giving us all a loan for the recordings, which were quite cheap since Carlos Sepulveda took mercy on us and produced it for chickenfeed). Since it took us so long I think we had time to really mature, figure out exactly what we were doing, and how to overcome egoistic squabbles about how to end a song, what fill to use or which note to bend. What's important is not whose ideas we stick with, it's about what's best for the song. Additionally we also let Carlos Sepúlveda act as producer on this album and some changes were made that in retrospect were very good choices. 'Radio Magellanes' was utter crap compared to the final version that we left the studio with. Short answer: We grew.

There are a lot of various different influences and contrasting sounds on the album, sometimes even within the songs (like 'Radio Magallanes' for example). How did you come up with all those different twists and turns, did you write those pieces separately, or did you work with a “one songs at the time”-approach?
We usually work on several songs at once, quite often in pairs. We build songs like we're playing with Lego. We start jamming on a riff and try to get the feel of where it's headed, once we think we know what it wants we try to connect it to something else that feels natural, or unnatural, depending on the vibe. So we bring all these different modules in to the room and try to connect them in all kinds of weird ways and as we progress we find ourselves moving the parts around to almost every possible state until it just feels right. I think that during the process we suddenly start to conceive some strange ideas as normal, having played it enough times to adapt to it. At least this is true for songs like 'Magellanes'. Other times someone has pretty much the whole idea made up from the start, but everything you put in to the No Hawaii-machine ends up mutated and deformed (but better) and sometimes we just start playing and a few minutes later we have a new song (like 'Unleash The Kuru').

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Another striking feature of the album is despite all the different sounds, it still fits perfectly into the whole album, and it never sounds too “wacky” in a Mr. Bungle kind of way. Did your producer Mr. Sepulveda have much to do with that?
People have always said that everything we do is so diverse, but still has the same underlying feel, like no matter if we play beard-rock, d-beat or doom-surf, it still always sounds No Hawaii. I think it's much due to us having played so long together, having made up this alternative reality in which every sequence of notes and rhythms are perpetually do-able. We've never sacked an idea because it wasn't “No Hawaii”. The only valid reason to scrap ideas is if it doesn't sound good or doesn't makes us feel anything. But yes, I think Carlos Sepulveda had a very good insight into what makes us No Hawaii. You could tell he was really in to the same feel of the songs, and he did a great job amplifying that on the album.

Is No Hawaii your first band? Or did you perhaps all have other bands, and did you take those influence to No Hawaii?
We've been playing together for ages. Erik joined three years ago but it feels like we've been playing with him just as long. He played with Mindfall before joining us. Sure we had bands prior to No Hawaii but nothing too serious. Though most of us have projects alongside NH: Gonzo is or has been playing with Terrorstat, Black Shirt for the Extincion Of Mankind, Magellan Radio and more, Gurra's got Aphrolynx, some blues band and has The Sons Of Quagmie with Smejks who is playing with Uncanny Valley and has an unnamed project with Biggus. We think it's important to try completely different things and have other vents for our creativity. It helps you evolve faster.

What about the band name, it sounds a bit surreal to me; is No Hawaii a sort of ironic jest towards Sweden and its climate?
Hahaha! We don't even know anymore.

In my review I wrote a list of band names that all ran through my head at different times while listening to the record: Poison The Well, Burst, A Perfect Circle, Enslaved, The Mars Volta, Impure Wilhelmina, Yakuza. Not to say that you actually copied their work, but small pieces of it reminded me of them. Would you recognize any of those bands as an influence or kindred spirit?
We all love Mars Volta, Burst and A Perfect Circle, the others we don't really know about. We share a lot of our favorite bands like Breach, Tool, King Crimson, Neurosis, Kyuss, Devo, Primus etc. But we generally like everything that's made by people who love what they do, be it 30's swing, sludge or afrofunk, But yes, we'd readily make babies with everyone mentioned above.

If you had to agree on one band (of any genre, or timezone) as your favorite with the whole band; would there be arguments, and which band would you eventually agree on?
We have this discussion pretty much every other Friday. There would be arguments, cussing and insults. I think we agreed on The Mars Volta around the time of 'Amputechture', but it depends on what point of view you have. What do we like to listen to the most? Who has had the biggest impact? What blew our minds the most? But I think the finalists would be King Crimson, Led Zeppelin, Tool, Funkadelic, or ...something.

No doubt being part of a certain underground scene in Sweden, could you perhaps recommend any lesser known bands to the Dutch audience?
Absolutely. Walk Through Fire rehearse in the same house as us, and we are very close friends. They sound like if Neurosis had a baby with Abandon, and that baby took Tom Waits balls and shoved them up Zombie Nick Drake's rectum. Zabaione get down to business in the same house as well, they are fucking genius. Check them out. The Process is one angry bunch of as Gurra would put it "Mud'fuckers". Also Kautchuk from Umeå if you like the Melvins or Tomahawk. Be sure to look up Den Stora Vilan, Äcklet, Moloken, Digression Assassins, Militanta Jazzmusiker and Uran.

What are your immediate future plans?
Our album is coming out in June, so we'll playing a lot. Release party, the UK and European tours and some short tours in Sweden. Other than that we will probably continue writing new stuff in between.

And when will you guys be touring The Netherlands?
Hopefully in September. We did two gigs in the Netherlands last year in October. Bliksem in Den Helder, and Exit in Rotterdam. Rotterdam was one of our best nights if I remember correctly.

Thanks a lot for your time, and see you soon over here!
Thank you! Yeah, we will hopefully see you in September!

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