Blue Hawaii

A Band Who Won’t Surf the Same Wave Twice

Blue Hawaii want to try new things on their forthcoming album.

Blue Hawaii has reasons to be melancholic about Art Matters events.

“It was actually on the Art Matters Opening Party night we decided to make music together,” explained Alex Cowan, who, along with Raphaelle Standell-Preston, comprise the two-piece electro-pop group. “It went really well, we were just jamming on the stage. I had synched her loop pedal to some of the software I was using and it sounded really good and we were really excited about it.”

But it was a trip through South America that threw the duo the inspiration needed to create their first album, Blooming Summer.

“Our album is based a lot on our experiences down there,” said Cowan. “We were constantly surrounded by water and sand and palm trees and all this beautiful idyllic dream-like imagery. So it’s really nice to be able to reflect [our music] on that [experience]—all the warmth and that beauty.”

Cowan added that the experience wasn’t all fun and rainbows. “Hidden beneath [the beauty] there were also lots of strange and weird unaccountable kinds of forces. We tried to communicate that as well.”

Blooming Summer uses guitars, synths, drum machines and other electronics, as well as both of their voices as instruments, to create the floaty, sonically textured electro-pop that is characteristic of their music.

Both Cowan and Standell-Preston had been involved in the Montreal music scene before they formed Blue Hawaii. Standell-Preston is a member of local band Braids and also plays under the moniker of Indiensoci for her solo work.

Cowan helped run creative loft space and music venue Lab Synthèse. Since its closure, he has been a part of the Arbutus Records team that sprouted from that space.

With each tackling other projects, the production process of their album was fit into two tight schedules.

“I would come to the table with a bunch of song ideas and melodies and chords and stuff and she would work out a vocal line and we would produce it together, but we always started from separate positions,” said Cowan.

“Since it’s electronic music, we started with the recording itself as creation. Whatever we did, it was recorded. A lot of the lyrics were really spontaneous. Once everything was in place, we kind of saw what was natural for us and refined it so it was more unified.”

The pair have already gotten started on their next album but are approaching it a bit differently this time.

“We’re trying to go at it the more old-fashioned way now, with instruments. It’s really healthy, but very difficult,” said Cowan.

Cowan is conscious of the obstacles Blue Hawaii will likely face after the success of their first album.
“It’s really important to be making something meaningful. I mean, our lives are so meaningful already and if you can just change and develop as your life does, that’s great. This [new album] is one of the ways we’re doing that.
“What we did with [Blooming Summer] worked really well, but if we just did the exact same thing again, we wouldn’t be doing anything new.”

Blue Hawaii play Casa del Popolo (4873 St. Laurent Blvd.) on Oct. 29. The show starts at 9:00 p.m. Tickets are $8.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 09, published October 12, 2010.