Yeah, this is an interesting period when Jimmeh departs. Some mystery definitely about how many different people were part of the band. Brendan. Danny Mapp, who knows?...Then there's a Canadian muchacho named Scott who played with them at The Armadale Hotel in Melbourne the night before the appearance on Roy and HG. The one name I keep getting is Scott Aplin, who does play in Sydney. The picture is a little over a month before The Monday Dump.
Don't mention the F-word: Waikiki's Joel and Juanita Stein[/center] YOU can say what you want about Sydney band Waikiki, just so long as you don't compare them to Frente.
"You're not allowed to say that!" says Juanita Stein, Waikiki's frontwoman.
Stein's voice attracted comparisons to Angie Hart's sickly sweet vocal style when their EP, Presents, was released a year ago.
The latest single, New Technology, was set to travel the same folk-tinged path until former Cars frontman Ric Ocasek stepped in to produce the track.
"I believe he brought a kind of world-classness to it, something that definitely wouldn't have been there otherwise," says Stein.
Ocasek convinced the band to change the style of the song.
"It was originally kind of a folk song," Stein says, "and Ocasek helped transform it into a pumping rock-pop song."
The Frente comparisons have since been replaced with comparisons to the Pretenders.
But Stein doesn't mind those comparisons one bit. "That's cool with me. I'm totally into the whole headstrong vibe," she says.
Waikiki has scored major commercial radio attention with New Technology, with the song peaking at No.60 in the charts.
The video, directed by ARIA winner Ben Saunders, has been a favourite on Rage and Channel V.
With the addition of a fourth member to the Waikiki line-up and the band's sound successfully altered, next on the agenda hopefully will be an overseas tour.
But while most musical acts would put a tour of the US or Britain on top of their touring lists, Waikiki are bucking the trend.
"Sweden - I really want to go to Sweden," Stein says passionately.
"I romanticise about Sweden, I've got to get there and play. "Because it's such an isolated country, it's got some really quirky off-beat music that I really love. I don't know, I just think we'll do OK in Sweden."
For the time being, though, the band are content to put their energies into a local tour and the release of their as-yet-untitled debut album.
JUST LIKE THEIR LAST EP PRESENTS, THE NEW SINGLE FOR WAIKIKI, NEW TECHNOLOGY, IS AN EQUALLY DIVERSE AFFAIR. THERE'S THE ROCKING TITLE TRACK, A GENTLE ACOUSTIC BALLAD IN IS HE FAIR, EVEN A DREAMY PSYCHEDELIC INSTRUMENTAL CALLED STONEY'S MOUNTAIN OF GOLD. "I THINK THIS ONE WAS MORE OF AN ACCIDENT IN THAT WE DIDN'T RECORD ALL THE SONGS AT THE SAME TIME LIKE WE DID WITH PRESENTS," BEGINS WAIKIKI'S VOCALIST AND BASS PLAYER JUANITA STEIN. "THAT WAS A WHOLE STUDIO EXPERIENCE, OUR FIRST, AND THIS WAS MORE LIKE WE RECORDED TECH, THAT WAS THE SINGLE, AND WE NEEDED SOME MORE B-SIDES AND THEY JUST HAPPENED TO BE THE SONGS THAT WERE LYING AROUND AT THE TIME, SO IT DID TURN OUT QUITE DIVERSE FOR THAT REASON."
It's the New Technology
"Personally I'm way too passionate about different kinds of music to stick to one," Juanita adds later. "I think as a band we've definitely got a lot better at being more consistent in our sound, where as when we first started it was I love pop so we're gonna play pop, and I love this, so we've got to play this - rock, whatever. But now it's a bit more..."
Joel [Stein - guitars, harmonica]: "...direct."
The New Technology single marks the first time Waikiki guitarist Jimmeh Brandon has appeared in recorded form with the group. "Jimmeh's just a ball of energy, and he's really inspired. He's so into music. He's really obsessed with it all. He's into different kinds of music which is good", Juanita says. "That's the best thing. He loves hip hop and I like electronica. It's good, it's another element. It's good to have somebody who likes something different," Joel adds.
Juanita offers their track Stoney's Mountain Of Gold as a good example of what Jimmeh has brought to the band. "We all went up to Glenn's country cabin thing and we all rehearsed and got this really old sixties organ/keyboard, and I was playing around with some keyboard lines and Jimmeh started writing some beautiful guitar lines and it turned into this warpy, experimental 60's song. We loved it. It was kind of Jimmeh's baby," she says.
The addition of a guitarist came from a need they had for a bigger sound.
Joel: "He was filling in space."
Juanita: "He was filling in a void that we felt was there."
Joel: "A void on my behalf as well. It's terrible when you're playing with the band and you hear these guitar parts and you're aching to play them but you can't. And it really gets to you. You want someone to play it. That's mainly why we got him I suppose. But we got more than we bargained for [laughs]."
New Technology also contains the darkly sweet number Mad And Beautiful which Juanita wrote with Chit Chat Von Loopin Stab from Machine Gun Fellatio at a songwriting workshop. Like Stoney's Mountain Of Gold, this song was also borne of the country. "That was going away to Mount Macedon, which is in the middle of nowhere near Melbourne, and teaming up with someone you've never ever met before and being pressured to write a song in less than eight hours. That was Chit Chat and he was mad and crazy and animated and wonderful and full of lyrics and I was just sitting there full of music and it worked well," Juanita recalls.
Juanita meeting up with Chit Chat could have been a possible reason that Waikiki recently scored the support slot with Machine Gun Fellatio, especially as they wouldn't be the most obvious choice (but then again, considering MGF, who would be?). Joel: "That was fun. Very, very, very fun, because they're a fun band. And it's really good to tour with someone who isn't emotionally..."
Juanita: "...self indulgent..."
Joel: "...and their energy attacks you as well. They're just fun. Every time we played with them we felt like we came back from a cool party."
(The pic is a little misleading, interview is obviously pre-Jimmeh, so when it was published, I dunno.)
Vic managed to catch up with Kikisun, vocalist and bassist from up-and-coming Sydney three-piece popsters Waikiki.
Could you give us a little Waikiki history lesson, from beginning to now?
Well, it was a conception that started about a year and a half ago. I had been in a few other projects before and decided that I wanted to start my own shenanigan, so I got my brother who is also a guitarist, Joel, and I started writing songs. Then we placed an ad in the paper and luckily the first respondent was the right one which is Glenn, and that's how it happened.
Where does the name come from?
One night we were desperately trying to think of a name because we had a gig the next night so I just thought of the ingenious idea to flick through an encyclopaedia, and that's how we got the name. I just pointed to a word, and that's it. It meant like flowing water and Hawaii and things like that, so it was nice.
For all the people out there who aren't familiar with your music, how would you describe it?
It's a bit of lots of things. It's a bit of blues and a bit of pop and a bit of rock and a bit of dreamy twilight kind of music. It's just a bit of everything that we've put into this big bag and mixed up.
If you had to put yourself into one genre, which would it be?
I think at the moment people are finding it difficult to pigeon hole us. So I think the closest to anything they could get would be 'pop rock,' that's the kind of folder they always shove us in. It's a pretty broad one but that's the closest definitely.
You guys have just been signed by Liberation, which is part of the Mushroom group, and your debut EP 'Presents' is getting a fair bit of airplay around the country, do you feel the groundswell that precedes these things or did the interest come as a complete surprise?
I think we've been lucky in the sense that we've only been together a very short time and we recorded our demo pretty early on and only handed out a handful and we got the response very quickly, and the deal very quickly and the recording very quickly. Everything's happened within a year, so you don't really notice how quickly it's all happened until someone like you mentions it, and you think 'oh yeah, it's actually really lucky that it has happened that way.' You know we just hope and pray that it just keeps going and going and going.
It's been a dream run for you so far though.
So far, yeah! I've been very happy with how it's going and the response we've been getting. It's been great.
How hard is it to be recognised in the Sydney scene with so many quality bands around?
Well, I have this theory that I think people imagine that because Sydney is one of the biggest cities in Australia and is very well recognised around the world you'd expect a lot of quality bands, but I think some of the best bands I've heard come from the country and you know, really baron areas like Perth and, like really, really closed off, quiet areas.
The isolation factor.
Yeah, totally, and the best ones aren't really coming from the city, but that's just my opinion anyway.
Presents was produced by renowned Australian producer, Tim Whitten, who's worked with bands like The Clouds and Stella One Eleven, what did he bring to the recording process?
He brought a sense of independence to us because it was our very first recording. He didn't come bolting into the studio telling us what to do and how to do it, he gave us a huge amount of freedom and basically told us to do it the way we wanted to do it because we are so young and that's the only way we were going to learn as a young band. And that's exactly what we did. I mean he told us a few things here and there, but basically we learnt how to deal with it ourselves as a young independent band.
So you must've known exactly what you wanted before you went into the studio?
Yeah, I mean that helped as well. If we'd gone in there with no idea he would've stepped in a lot more but I think he could see that we were very adamant about what we want. I mean, as a band we've got a very, very distinct idea of what we want and I knew pretty much exactly what I wanted the songs to sound like before we went in there and it's still the same now. As I write songs I like to think that this is exactly what they'll sound like when we're recording them, like I'd like a bit of piano play here, and eventually a horn section here and all that kind of stuff.
Who contributes to the song writing? Is it a team effort or an individual process?
On the EP I wrote all the songs and at the moment Joel has started writing a lot more, so we've started performing a lot of his songs live, but the majority of it at the moment is me. But I can see that changing, as we get older as a band.
You're about to hit the road with Brisbane band George, what are your expectations of your first national tour?
Lots of fun I think. I think I'm expecting shitty hotel rooms and lots and lots of fun. We haven't really hung out as a band much. Whenever we have a show it's back to work the next day and we don't even get time to drink ourselves silly like every other band. This is going to be our first opportunity to really hang out and just get to play to a few different crowds.
So what does the next 12 months have in store for you guys?
I think we're going to try and start demoing songs for our first album. We're going to play Homebake in a couple of months which I'm really looking forward to, and just try and play heaps more shows and get better as a band.
The University Of New South Wales Union - Blitz Magazine
Nick: I managed to catch you guys twice at UNSW, once at the O Week gig...
Juanita: The one at the Roundhouse? Cool!
Do you find that uni gigs are better than, say, playing bars?
From our experience, night-time shows at unis are great! But the daytime shows are just a matter of playing lunch, entertaining a few people for 45 minutes and they’re not really interested and just want to eat… When you do a night-time show the people have paid to be there and they want to be there...
And there’s alcohol…
…which always makes a gig better!
Are you guys still rocking up to gigs in Taragos with your gear in the back?
Not even Taragos – we’re still rocking up in my brother’s station wagon! We’ve gotta sell a few more records before that happens.
Are you in any danger of becoming a big mainstream success?
Well, I wouldn’t mind - it’d be nice - ‘cos then at least we could afford a Tarago! I don’t think success is a danger really, if you’ve got your head about you and you play music because you absolutely adore it. I think the danger is in becoming a manufactured band.
But even so, you find a lot of bands nowadays, they come along and Triple J loves them and they sort of die off when they become unfashionable.
Yeah, well you can’t really control that… It’s really, really hard to make it. If I’ve learnt anything in this business, it’s about the time you have to put in. Even if you’re unbelievably amazing, it’s still the time put in. Look at George. I’ve got friends now who hadn’t ever heard of them, who are like wow - where did George come from - that happened so quickly but they’ve been playing shitty gigs for, like, seven years. It takes so much patience and time. But if you’re dedicated you do it.
How long have you guys been playing shitty gigs?
We got together in ‘99… so about three and a half years.
So while you were doing all that, did you have other skills that you supported yourself with?
I did a uni degree and all the while at uni I was writing music. I was playing kind of folk music, in duets and trios. And at one point I really wanted to stop playing other people’s music.
What instruments do you play?
Well, in the band I play bass and on the record I play lots of piano, guitar, tambourine and percussion and that kind of stuff. I think that’s something that makes us stand out. I believe in what we’re doing and our songs and music. We’re progressing at a really fast rate and hopefully we’ll keep progressing.
When do you know that you’re not a support band anymore - that you can sell people The Waikiki Show?
I dunno but I can’t wait, I can tell you that much. I think when our album comes out we can start playing our own shows. It’ll be nice to fill a room with Waikiki fans… rather than constantly playing before the headline act at a gig and having people look at you like they just can’t wait for you to get the fark off the stage…
Well, are you getting much ground-swell with your fanbase?
Yeah, especially since the single has come out. It’s just amazing. You get to other states and people are singing the words to your songs and you’re like how do you know the words to my songs?
With the internet, people say that you can get a lot closer to your fans…
Exactly, yeah. We have two fan sites now and we’ve got a bulletin board on our website, which is a really good way to check in and see what the fans think.
And how do you find the other bands you’ve played with?
I’ve done shows with bands who are the nicest people you could ever meet and I’ve played shows with local bands, even, that have so much attitude that it bowls you over! It’s really weird. I’ve never ever understood what gives anyone, no matter how good they are, the right to have rock star attitude.
We’re not losing you overseas anytime soon, are we?
Um, I hope so! It’s a big goal of ours to get to say London and a few countries in Europe. I don’t know about America. It’s very competitive to try to get into.
Finally, where did the band’s name come from?
It was actually really just a matter of flicking open a book and closing our eyes and pointing to a word and that was it. It was actually an encyclopedia. So, it’s not profound. You know it’s a place in Hawaii?
So, note to uni kiddies - those books aren’t entirely useless!