Take a healthy dose of Red Hot Chili Peppers circa 1989, chase it down with a bottle of Beastie Boys circa 1987 and dress it in a pit-stained high school P.E. uniform, and you get Maui’s newest (and “Most Likely to Cut Class”) hip-hop/punk/funk fusion band, Phys. Ed. Rentals, set to celebrate the release of their debut album at Wailuku First Friday.
Founded in 2009 by Lahaina-based multi-instrumentalist duo Trevor Arnholt and Aydin Say, Phys. Ed. Rentals takes a decidedly “scholarly” approach to their lyrics and themes, each song painting a picture of the class-clown, fresh-mouthed troublemakers you knew and loved (and possibly were) during your high school days. “Anyone that’s gone through the trials and tribulations of high school can relate to our music,” says Arnholt.
Say says stylistically they’re “unearthing the class of 1991 time capsule 20 years later.” They refer to their sound as “sophomore rock,” and Arnholt explains that this means the characters they portray in their songs are “the kids that have the bragging rights over the freshmen but aren’t cool enough to have their driver’s license yet.”
These guys aren’t freshmen when it comes to music, either. Both are highly skilled “adult” musicians who play every instrument featured on their recordings and then some. (They invite drummer Adam Moor to the stage and the occasional guest singer during their live shows.) Their irreverent, sometimes downright filthy—and often silly—rhymes are more than balanced by a funky bass line, a killer horn section and groovy beats.
Quite the interesting bird, Arnholt hails from Ohio (“the kazoo capital of the world,” he says) and recalls being driven to jazz ensemble, marching band and pep band by his grandma as a kid. He collects instruments, and claims he learned to play music during an alien abduction. Say, meanwhile, played/marched in the Rose Bowl parade and played music in bars to support himself through college in Kentucky. Their paths collided on Maui during a music festival in Kula in 2005 and they’ve been playing together ever since.
Friday night’s show celebrates Phys. Ed. Rentals’ debut full-length release, There is No ‘I’ in Rentals (available at Requests and on iTunes), which boasts an ambitious 26 individual tracks. The album runs the gamut of “bad kid” high school experiences, from songs titled “Detention” and “Food Fight” to topics like misbehaving in gym class (“Go Run Laps”), sharing a carton of “Chocolate Milk” and cutting class (“Truancy”). Add sound effects like a ringing bell, ticking clock and disguised voices mocking reprimanding teachers and the album is a truly fun, nostalgic listen.
The duo’s live performances add more to the equation, with Arholt and Say alternating between the early-’90s “unplugged” style performance and showcases of their homemade madcap videos projected behind them.
Until now they’ve performed mostly at small underground events and private shows inside their roomy recording studio in Lahaina (known by locals as “The Fuzz Box”). That makes First Friday—which has grown into a bustling block party—a coming-out of sorts. “It’s our goal to make sure everyone is just leaving with a big-ass smile on their face,” explains Say.
Refreshingly (and not surprisingly), the guys don’t take themselves too seriously. “We have a lot of fun writing music,” says Say, “and take great pride in our own stupidity.”