The Green’s latest album, Hawai‘i ’13, opens with a chant.
“From the times of ancient Hawai‘i and even up to present day, chanting has been a part of our culture,” says JP Kennedy, guitarist, vocalist, and one of the band’s five songwriters. “It’s a way to start something important. When we chant, we ask for blessings, knowledge, and guidance so that we can be ‘pono’ or righteous in whatever we do.”
The chant of “He Mele No Ku‘u Hawai‘i” prepares the album’s listener as much as the band. Hawai‘i ’13 dances through roots reggae, soul, and R&B. The album charts a journey through Hawaiian life and music in 2013, reflecting The Green’s musical upbringing as much as their vision for the future of Hawai‘i and its musical output. Following The Green’s usual modus operandi, the album was written by the group’s five separate songwriters (Kennedy, guitarist-vocalist Zion Thompson, vocalist Caleb Keolanui, keyboardist-vocalist Ikaika Antone, and bassist/multi-instrumentalist Brad Watanabe); the band’s four singers (Kennedy, Thompson, Keolanui and Antone) take turns on lead vocals, sometimes trading off with each other within a song. Once you listen to this record, there is little doubt that the chant served its purpose, as the results show the band has been righteous in their hard work.
The Green formed on O‘ahu, Hawai‘i, in 2009. The group began as a vehicle for six different members of Hawai‘i’s tight-knit music scene to record a few songs and have a bit of fun along the way. Their self-titled debut album, released in 2010, earned both critical and commercial acclaim, and was awarded iTunes Best Reggae Album of the Year.
Afterwards, the band jumped on a plane to the mainland and started a heavy touring cycle. On the strength of their debut album, The Green struck a record deal with ground-breaking independent reggae label Easy Star Records to record their sophomore album, Ways & Means. Ways & Means hit #1 on the iTunes and Billboard Reggae charts and the band embarked on more intense touring; supporting acts like Rebelution, Iration, SOJA and Damian Marley. They also played at acclaimed festivals including Vans Warped Tour, Wakarusa, Sierra Nevada World Music Festival and California Roots Festival.
Despite all the time spent away from home, Hawai‘i never left the band’s day-to-day life on the road. In almost every state, the band met Hawaiian ex-pats, driven away from their home state for reasons both economic and social. The Green’s concerts became a place where Hawaiian natives could gather and for one night, share a bit of Aloha spirit from the Pacific islands they call home.
“Hawaiians living on the mainland will come to our shows and say ‘I haven’t been home in years! You remind me so much of home,’” says multi-instrumentalist-songwriter Brad “BW” Watanabe. “I feel like that’s our service in some way.”
In early 2013, The Green retreated to Hurley Studios in Costa Mesa, CA, to record their third album with Danny Kalb (Ben Harper, Beck, Jack Johnson), the band’s first outside producer/engineer, at the helm. In addition, the group brought in Joe Tomino, drummer from Dub Trio (who also double as Matisyahu’s backing band), to handle the drums for the sessions.
“We were worried about it because we always recorded everything ourselves,” Kennedy admits. “But when we added Danny Kalb to the mix, and Joe on the drums, they just brought so much to the sound of the songs.”
The addition of an outside ear helped sharpen the band’s direction, and the 13 tracks on Hawai‘i ’13 sound focused and pointed, despite the group’s many different songwriters. “All of us contribute to the creation of a song,” says guitarist-vocalist Zion Thompson, “whether it’s lyrics or music, it’s always collaborative.”
“Everyone respects each other’s opinions,” Thompson continues. “Everyone has their place and everyone makes room for it to work.”
The album’s songs span soulful lover’s rock (“Striking Up A Love,” “Take Me On”), heavy roots workouts (“Good One,” “Forgive Me”), smooth R&B ballads (“Chocolates & Roses”), roots reggae-pop hybrids (“Power in the Words,” “Good Vibe Killah”), and herb anthems (“Hold Me Tight”).
The Green hit all the right notes with their first two albums, but the band members are still coming to grips with the personal toll of success. Bands from the mainland may be used to touring from state to state, but that’s no small step for a group from a small island in the South Pacific. “While I face a dozen spotlights, you’re crying at home,” goes “Something About It,” one of the lead singles from Hawai‘i ’13. “Sit by the phone. You think I’m alone, wishing I could be there. But the music’s got me traveling on.”
The Green struck the reggae community hard with their debut in 2010. Their sophomore LP Ways & Means solidified their status as a force in reggae music. With Hawai‘i ’13, the band aims higher. The album collects 13 stellar tracks by a group with an insatiable urge to push their music onto the global stage. Some songs punch and some songs sway, but ultimately they all blend to form a new shade of Green.
This is not a sequel. This is what happens when the sun dips down, that swollen moon comes up, the sea water ripples and cools, and the Pacific Coast Highway still feels warm on your bare feet with a little of that leftover sunlight trapped in the blacktop. This is the last hiss of the last popped bottle cap, when the bubbling depths of a golden Corona swallow that last sliver of lime. This is where the story continues, with the top down, the wind spraying loose sand from your hair. This is what happens when you don't go home with the sun… and you follow the moon.
"We can't sit on the beach with an acoustic guitar forever!" proclaims Cisco Adler. "This is not a one-trick pony."
His other half, Aaron Smith (a.k.a. Shwayze), closes his eyes and nods and offers, "We've already got that beach-time summer vibe, chilling during the day. Now we want some stuff for the clubs that bangs your ears out and you can dance to it. This is definitely an evolution from the first one."
That first one, the self-titled Shwayze, ushered the unlikely duo to unlikely heights. A string of multiple hits ("Buzzin'," "Corona and Lime") fueled by millions of Internet plays carried them to top ten album sales, landed them a coveted slot on the Vans Warped Tour, and turned them into reality television stars on MTV. In a wound-up world, Shwayze was a life-lesson in laid back lassitude, a coast-to-coast call to make every day a lazy day. And if success always breeds a bit of contempt, Let It Beat comes out swinging.
"It's like, 'All right, here it is!'" Shwayze says, laughing as he describes the challenge posed on the opening track, "Livin' It Up." "You guys said we couldn't make another one. You thought we were gonna make the same thing. You didn't think we were deep enough! Well here it is. And don't be mad when your girl leaves with us."
Featuring contributions from New Orleans hip-hop duo The Knux, Shwayze's lifelong hero Snoop Dogg, Ric Ocasek from the Cars, and Darryl Jenifer, bassist for legendary D.C. punk band Bad Brains, Let It Beat is a fearless experiment held together by the controlled yet casual guidance of Adler's production.
"I made a conscious effort to beef the drums up and make it thump," he says. "The last record had one pace, I wanted this one to have more dynamics and go up and down like a rollercoaster ride. It's about letting your heart beat and letting the blood pump through your body. It's about not stopping the flow. Let it all flow and it will all turn out right.
The first single, "Get U Home," is an unapologetic ode to lust satisfaction… before you leave the club: "Take me in the bathroom/Take my clothes off/Make love to me up against the dirty wall/'Cause I can't wait to get you home." Let It Beat is never shy, never afraid to extol its own brand of virtue, it never apologizes, and, of course, you're always welcome to join.
"I'm definitely endorsing that behavior!" announces Adler, referring to the whole "dirty wall" scenario in "Get U Home." "None of it is fantasy. We just live it and tell the story."
"Our music is our lifestyle," Shwayze says. "We're not faking it."
Shwayze was a juggernaut, an unexpected triumph from two beachcombing purveyors of pleasure and sunlight. It tapped into the hidden hedonist in us all, freeing indulgence from guilt for at least the length of a record. Let It Beat extends that day into night. It's nothing less than a celebration of life. For every sarcastic wink, there's that genuine gleaming grin at the thought of the next thrill. Let It Beat is not a fantasy; it's an invitation to a better reality.
"I've been a musician before I was anything else," Adler says. "I was screaming for people to just listen to the music. But then at some point, I had to look inside and tell myself to just keep doing it and it eventually it's gonna show people itself. That's when it started working, amazingly enough. When you just let everything flow, it's gonna flow in the right direction. When you start trying to control the flow, that's when you dam it up."
"It's all a dream come true," adds Shwayze. "We just want to keep on living the dream and keep on living it up."
Born Kimie (pronounced Kimi-ay) Kauikeolani Miner, in Hawaii, this 25 year old singer/songwriter has developed an eclectic musical style all her own. Her parents, of Hawaiian and Portugese decent, noticed her unmistakable talent at a very young age. "I fell in love with music as a child and it naturally just became apart of my life. It is my mother, my brother, my best friend, and my first love. No matter where I am in my life, I know I can always turn to music."
A self taught guitarist and song writer, Kimie grew as a musical artist while boarding at Kamehameha Schools in Honolulu, HI. "India.Arie inspired me to pick up a guitar when I was 14 years old and write from my heart. Other artists like Laur