Fenech-Soler & Knox Hamilton – Tickets – The Roxy Theatre – West Hollywood, CA – May 23rd, 2017

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Fenech-Soler & Knox Hamilton

Fenech-Soler & Knox Hamilton


Tuesday May 23

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm


This event is all ages

Fenech-Soler & Knox Hamilton
Fenech-Soler & Knox Hamilton
Towards the end of their biggest headline show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, Fenech-Soler’s Ben Duffy took a moment to appreciate where he was and what the band had achieved. With the second of two critically-acclaimed albums in the shape of 2013’s Rituals having just come out, he realized the band had already surpassed his early goals. His contentment was tinged with the knowledge that what came next had to be bigger and better than what had gone before. Following a short hiatus and the departure of two members, Fenech-Soler, aka Ben and brother Ross, are back with Zilla, a lighter, bolder and more eclectic album of shimmering pop that feels like their defining statement. Lead by the glorious sunburst of first single Kaleidoscope, Zilla – named after a close friend – is chock full of positive and upbeat pop songs, a soothing balm in a chaotic world. “We’ve always set out to write pop songs but this time it’s been about simplicity,” says Ross. “It feels like we’ve refined our sound and finally achieved what we’ve been looking for”.
The seeds for Zilla’s creation were first sewn at the end of a US tour in support of Rituals (which featured the singles All I Know and Magnetic), the follow-up to 2010’s self-titled debut, which collected together early tracks such as Lies and Stop And Stare. Having landed a Q Awards nomination, toured with everyone from Kelis to Example to Robyn, successfully battled cancer (Ben was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011) and played headline shows all over the world, the band needed a break. With the core creative unit of Ben and Ross choosing to stay in LA, however, demos were started immediately with REM and U2 collaborator Jacknife Lee. Early sessions were ripe with experimentation. While those early sessions were fruitful, there was a nagging sense that the catalyst for the album’s creation hadn’t been discovered. “It was a time of collecting sounds and ideas and being inspired.” says Ben. “In some ways it was frustrating because I knew we couldn’t finish it there. We needed some familiarity so we went back to the village we grew up in and began working from a makeshift studio.”
Swapping the heady extremes of Los Angeles for a small farming village near Northamptonshire may seem like madness, but for Ben and Ross it made perfect sense. “We found the first keyboard we ever owned, the kind of keyboard you learn on when you’re a kid and for some reason it had every sound we needed. It was simple began defining the sound we were after. The floodgates opened and we did 70% of the album in 6 weeks”. Inspired by disco, old soul vocal harmony groups and an unwavering love of pop music, the pair steadily built up a collection of their most vibrant songs yet. While previous albums have seen them collaborate with the likes of Style Of Eye, Starsmith and Tim Goldsworthy, Zilla was a much more organic album, with most of it self-produced (with additional production from former drummer Andrew Lindsay, whose departure alongside Daniel Soler was part of an amicable decision among the band).
The fruits of their labour can be heard in the textured mesh of Grace, an oddly undulating near-instrumental that’s awash with slowly expanding synths. As with most of the album, it’s both instant and strangely experimental. The key track on the album however is Kaleidoscope, the album’s opening song, lead single and title track of the forthcoming four-track EP (“the most concentrated form of the album that we wanted to put out there first,” says Ross). Recalling the streamlined indie-pop of Phoenix, it’s a buoyant ode to the pure joy of love. It also proved to be the album’s long-sought-after catalyst, kickstarting the album as a whole. “We had the verse of Kaleidoscopic for a while as a scratchy phone recording until we could figure out a chorus,” remembers Ross. “Once that song fell into place the record followed suit”. Around that same time they also stumbled on the album’s title, with the name’s meaning – ‘colourful, bright, grand’ – becoming an all-encompassing motif for the album itself. “It turned into its own genre for us in a way,” says Ross. “It was something we decided on quite quickly and that’s been a theme on this album,” adds Ben. “Our second album was tough to make, with a lot of people involved. Everything had a lot of thought, so with this record we decided early on that if we liked something we went with it quickly”.
That sense of trusting your creative instincts can be heard on the synth-lead banger, On Top (“That’s probably the most positive track on the record” says Ben) and the atmospheric soul shimmer of Night Time TV. “That’s about that still moment from midnight to 3am,” explains Ben. “It’s an insomnia song about time being all messed up.” That idea of time and disjointed timezones also filters through in other songs too. “My girlfriend is American so there’s definitely an element of us living at opposite ends of the world,” continues Ben. “There’s a sense of wanting to be in another place both geographically and where you are in life.” While the first half of the album focuses on a lighter mood, the album’s latter songs shift in tone slightly. Perhaps one of its best moments is the ballad Be Someone, a song that borrows from those blustery 80s soundtrack ballads and creates something deliciously modern. Or there’s the epic glide of the album’s closing song, From Afar, which steadily builds to an orchestral crescendo.
Zilla is the sound of a band confidently coming to terms with their sound while steadily refining it. Loaded with personality and pockets of experimentation, it’s also a glorious, unashamed pop album that will sound incredible in a live scenario. It’s an album that takes Fenech-Soler to another level.
1. HAWAI is a band not a state.
2. From Southern California, Orange County to be exact.
3. Makes sun-kissed alternative music that feels alive.
4. Here’s the story so far…
Behind every band there’s a longtime bond.
HAWAI began to attract national attention by landing multiple tracks on the Hype Machine charts and signing to Antler Records in 2016. However, their musical union can actually be traced back to when Jake Pappas [vocals, guitar], Jesse Dorman [drums], and Jared Slaybaugh [bass, vocals] first started jamming together as young teenagers in their native Orange County. Countless gigs would follow as they sharpened their chops. Eventually forming their original band J. Thoven and adding Matt Gillen [keyboards, synth] and Jack Rose [guitar] to the fold, the boys commenced work on a proper EP in 2015.
A certain revelation encouraged by producer Lars Stalfors [Cold War Kids, Deap Vally] would evolve both their style and name…
“Lars really broke down the DNA of a song,” says Jake. “Our music was a bit schizophrenic in the past with J. Thoven. It was more folk rock. Lars showed us you can still be creative and take pride in musicianship, while adhering to a traditional structure. It was eye-opening. We took our ideas and turned them into fully fleshed out songs. We thought, ‘If we’re going to reinvent ourselves, now is the time for a name change.’ We wanted something recognizable and memorable that would evoke emotions when you hear it. HAWAI stuck. We just dropped the ‘i’ to make it our own.”
With Lars at the production helm, the band cut their Working All Night EP [Antler Records] in Southern California. The first single and opener “In My Head” would stir up a local buzz, even gaining spins on KROQ. With its lush guitars, energetic beat, cinematic production, and unshakable refrain, it’s liable to stay stuck in your head for long after one listen.
“The song itself has a little bit of aggression to it,” the frontman goes on. “It’s from a particular time period really marked by a lot of frustration. Lyrically, it tells a fictitious narrative of this person with a superficial and artificial definition of love—that cliché of hearts and sex. Love is a much a deeper thing. It’s this selfish perspective of love.”
Elsewhere on the EP, “Fault” glides between a clean guitar hum and an expansive vocal line. Coming to life on-screen, its music video features Cold War Kids bassist Matt Maust actually creating the Working All Night cover. Meanwhile, the song “All Night” mirrors the musicians’ tireless commitment to their own art.
“When I moved to L.A., my wife and I were expecting our first child,” recalls Jake. “Working more heavily in music was going to be my general focus. When you find out you’re having a kid, your focus becomes directed elsewhere. It was really written for my unborn son saying, ‘I will work as much as I can to provide for you.’ On a larger level, it’s reflective of the band’s commitment to music. We’re willing to work as hard as we can for it.”
Underneath the beachy gusts of guitars and keys, shimmering soul, and iridescent hooks, HAWAI’s island houses an inspiring message.
“I want to make an impact in terms of what the lyrics are about,” Jakes leaves off. “It’s important to convey something that can help people. There’s a power within music. It can be a healthy tool to use. We treasure that.”