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Interviewed by
Courtney Sanders
Thursday 8th August, 2013 10:44AM

Eighties influenced garage pop band Haawaaiii formed in London back in 2010, and spent a couple of years writing and gigging there as well as in that other city most creative New Zealanders relocate to, Berlin. They've returned home and are currently working on an EP, due for release later this year. UnderTheRadar caught up with Hugh Smith to discuss the origins of Haawaaiii, meeting Jarvis Cocker and throwing demos at Jack White.

How did Haawaaiii form?

I relocated to London to pursue music and travel in 2010. I met up and formed the band with a good buddy Matt Silver. We then later got Gaz Morgan to play drums. Originally we were known as 'Hawaii' and then we decided to expand and increase our vowels to Haawaaiii. Easier for the web, and it looks cool! We went through a line up change, and I moved to Berlin to go solo for a bit before returning back to NZ to continue with Haawaaiii. We now have Andrew Altman playing drums and Joshua Lynn on bass guitar.

When you started did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to sound like, or was it a more organic process than that?

It has been a organic process. Originally I was making music influenced by 1980s pop/post punk with added drum machines and other electronic devices. In London we were influenced by garage and pop music and then in Berlin I was of course influenced by Berlin. So the music has definitely evolved through the process of travel, experience and new band members.

For people who haven't heard your music, how would you describe your sound?

I like to make up genres name. Sometimes we sound like fuzz pop, and other times we sound like dream punk.

Do you have any ongoing inspiration points or influences, whether they be musical or otherwise?

Yes for sure. I like to write songs that are about experiences and weird things. I express this through the melody, beat and tempo of the song. With the case of Haawaaiii, this involves having a well structured song that then flips it self out haha.

What are you working on at the moment?

We are experimenting with a new songs at the moment and getting use to playing as a new band. We have just a recorded a whole lot of new songs and re-recorded some songs I did while overseas. So yeah, we are getting excited about playing some shows and releasing new music.

We're streaming a single with this interview: tell us a little bit about writing and recording that one.

We recorded this song in London Last year. The song is called 'Dancing on a Needle'. The 'Needle' part refers to the metronome sounding guitar riff at the beginning. The song is about fragility, needles and girls dancing on a beach...

You've recently returned from London to Auckland: were you or Haawaaiii involved in the London music scene at all and if so what were your experiences like?

Yeah we were a bit. I guess we just did what anyone would do to get into the music scene, We just put ourselves out there and play lots random and sometimes bad shows. I use to spend my days riding all round London and giving out a demos to bands and venues and idols. We managed to meet Jarvis Cocker once and forced our demo into his hand and I once threw a CD at Jack White, he wasn't impressed. True story. We started off by playing a lot of house parties around east London and we were then approached by a few promoters who got us playing around London venues.

You're getting back involved in the Auckland music community: what are your thoughts on the state of it? Good venues? Auckland-based bands you're digging?

That's the one thing I noticed about London bands, So many of the bands there seemed like they were trying to be the next Smiths or the next Brit Pop band. There are some amazing bands there of course but the music coming out of this side of the world is so good and original. The venue thing is super frustrating here though. I guess that's why you can't beat a good old fashion house party gig as that is sometimes the only new venue you can play at, thumbs up!

What are the future plans for Haawaaiii?

We are going to release another song next week! We have three more songs getting mixed at the moment and will be playing with the new line up with Andrew Altman on Drums and Joshua Lynn on bass guitar. There's an EP to come out at the end of the year.

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