Imagine, among the chaotic desert, among the saturated streets, the clubs teeming with tequila sound and amplifier fury, among the musical microcosm that is Austin, Texas in mid-March, an oasis. It would likely be on some rooftop, with palms and flowers and other things that sway. Its soundtrack would feature balmy, catchy tunes and sultry vocals strung along golden melodies. It would be analogous to Hawaii, in its innate and complex beauty.
Maui girl Anuhea’s tunes would be a fitting sonic component of such a scene.
Just ahead of the release of her first full-length studio album, which hits shelves April 21, Anuhea, who has opened up shows for the likes of Jack Johnson and Matt Costa, was among the wildly diverse cast of musical acts that descended upon Austin for this year’s South By Southwest (SxSW) Music Conference.
“It was amazing,” she says of the experience, which got her some crucial face time on a scene that’s tough to break into. “Playing South by Southwest legitimizes us.”
She and her band were part of the official conference, for which they played the festival’s Hawaiian night at Submerged, where they shared the stage with John Cruz and One Hawaii Music label mates One Right Turn.
“That’s pretty hard to do,” Anuhea says. While a number of bands get booked in Austin during that week, few are part of the official showcase.
She and her band—which consists of guitarist Vince Esquire, keyboardist Michael Grande, bassist David “Wolf” Wolfberg and drummer Shawn Pimental—went on to play makeshift “luau” shows at Roy’s Austin and even did a few rooftop gigs at the Whole Foods flagship store.
“I’m really excited to put Hawaiian music on the map,” the fiercely independent singer-songwriter, who now resides on Oahu, says.
But fashioning a sound containing a balanced blend of her Maui roots with her own musical vision is a challenge, she says.
Her vocals are the obvious centerpiece of her work, which one would expect from someone so heavily influenced by rhythm and blues. Hers is a sound you would hear live in tiny, candlelit, martini and velour nightclubs. It’s a sound that seamlessly folds her influences—reggae, Hawaiian, acoustic folk—into one cohesive, velvety ribbon. It’s an exponentially amiable sound, but by the same token it’s a sound that doesn’t take many risks.
Those who’ve gotten their hands on her first release will notice a striking difference between it and her latest. The latter is much more heavily produced. There’s a full band backing her up and some of her tunes are accented with record scratches and other turntable flourishes.
She recorded it at Angel House Studios in Los Angeles under the auspices of One Hawaiian Music Producer Drew K., who Anuhea says gave her “a sonic identity.”
Anuhea’s latest will be available at Borders, on iTunes and at Request in Wailuku. She’ll also be throwing a CD release party on Maui in early May. MTW