Considering that Versatile was formed in 2001 and have been playing their infectious brand of roots reggae live all over Maui ever since, it’s surprising they’ve managed to keep such a low profile. They also acquired the coveted Monday night slot at the Hard Rock Cafe during the month of August, while Marty Dread was on tour.
Speaking recently with Sunday, Kawika Cosma, Dayton Lum and Alika Ikeda—band mates Josh Lum, Kendall Easterly, Keoni Dapitan and Kalani Dapitan couldn’t attend—I was struck by the band’s humor, talent, humility and, um, versatility:
MAUI TIME WEEKLY: You guys represent haole, Filipino, Hawaiian and Japanese cultures. How does that work?
DAYTON: Everyone’s Asian in the band. Sunday and Kendall are just Caucasian!
SUNDAY: We’ll play a gig and I’ll be the only white guy anywhere. It’ll be all good for Kendall [the band’s only female] but I’m like…
Everyone sings and plays multiple instruments. Is it difficult getting organized?
ALIKA: Not really. Everyone brings his own flavor. Usually whoever brings a song will sing on that song.
Does that work well live?
ALIKA: Yeah, we’ll play five songs and sound like five different bands. And every set list is different, so people don’t get bored.
How was the band started?
DAYTON: At first it was just a conspiracy to get chicks. Most of us are from Lahainaluna. We just started hanging out, playing the ‘uke.
Now you have eight members—but no cowbell. Maybe I could join?
DAYTON: That’s actually how Alika started. Just hanging around with a huge smile on his face!
SUNDAY: The great thing is, if someone’s sick or has to work it’s like, “The show must go on.”
Who’s the funniest member of the band?
ALIKA: Sunday’s the funniest looking!
KAWIKA: I’m the prick of the band.
ALIKA: Yeah, he’s the bitch!
SUNDAY: He’ll call you out onstage if you fuck up.
While looking for the entrance to Sunday’s house, I encountered a serious-looking Kawika and thought, “Either this guy’s gonna lump me out, or he’s in the band.”
SUNDAY: Yeah, but Veeks is the soul of the band. Before each show, we all pray together.
DAYTON: Yeah, and if we don’t, that show sucks.
A lot of your lyrics mention the ganj.
DAYTON: We’re all inspired in different ways. There’s songs about herb, heartbreak, hookups, and inspiration from above.
During your cover of Israel Vibration’s “What’s the Use,” a beautiful collaboration of female-sounding voices can be heard singing background vocals. Who’s that?
DAYTON: That’s us. We tried to sound masculine but said, “Fuck it!”
Your songs have been featured on Q103, KPOA and “Da Jam.” But you have yet to record a CD, and seem disinterested in the business side of music.
SUNDAY: People say, “It’s not about the money.” For us it’s really not.
ALIKA: Nobody takes any money, it goes right back into the band. It’s just good fun being in a band. At work, it makes it easier to get through the day knowing that you’re going to play a show. But it’d be nice to travel, release a CD, and hopefully make a name for ourselves.
How were the Hard Rock crowds?
DAYTON: They were sick! There was a line behind the line! Word of mouth gets around quick.
ALIKA: Gotta give a shout-out to the soldiers that come to all the shows. Coming eight strong in a truck, each throwing in $3 for gas. Just call ‘em soldiers, they know who they are.
Any interest in kidnapping Marty Dread and taking his regular Monday slot?
SUNDAY: Nah, because then you become a coin band. You know, put in a coin and play that song! MTW