Hometown: Orange County, California
Latest Release: Their single “Alive” from their upcoming EP, “Hide in the Ocean.”
If You Like: The Killers, Arcade Fire, Caveman
FYI: None of the band members have ever actually been to Hawaii.
Merging alt-rock guitars with new wave synthesizers and gorgeous pop melodies, HAWAI are one of music’s most exciting new bands. They’ve already racked up millions of streams online and become hometown heroes with steady play on legendary Los Angeles alternative rock radio station KROQ.
Though their band name references the 50th state, HAWAI actually hail from Orange County, California. Asked where their name came from, singer and guitarist Jake Pappas says, “We were all sitting around one day banging our heads against the wall coming up with band names when Matt (Gillen, keyboards) said, ‘Hey guys, should we all move to Hawaii?’ We looked at each other, and at the same time said, ‘Let’s be called Hawaii.’ We dropped an ‘I’ for obvious reasons, and it stuck.”
The group actually met through their mothers. Jake explains, “I met Jesse (Dorman, drums) from his mom knowing my mom. And Jesse’s mom knew Jared’s (Slaybaugh, bass) mom. Then Jesse introduced me to Jared.” They began playing together in a junior high school band called Greystone. Things got serious for them after Jake moved back from living in Nashville in 2012, and then Matt Gillen came into the fold.
The band takes inspiration from a variety of influences, as Jake says, “We are always searching for something new or old and get excited when we find gold.” The sunny climate and roaring waves of their native Southern California is another factor. “Someone once said that you need to live somewhere with harsh weather in order to get the most out of writing. There’s a lot of truth in that,” Jake says, “but California has something special about it. Sometimes I’ll be walking through my neighborhood when the weather is damn near perfect, and I’ll need to hurry home to finish an idea that pops in my head.”
With a new EP ready to drop, HAWAI are looking forward to touring throughout 2018. “We’re really excited to see how everyone responds to the new music,” says Jake, who cites New York as his favorite place to play on tour. When asked what the best part of playing live is, Jake says, “Anytime we look out into the crowd and people are singing along is a great moment.”
See HAWAI live, check out their tour dates and find a show near you.