Olelo is a band from the Big Island that features brothers Chase and Carl Kuahane. Their original music covers their faith and life experiences. They will be releasing a new four-song EP this Fall, and the first single “Heartbeat” drops September 27 with two music videos to follow.
The Kuahane brothers are no strangers to the local music scene. The grew up playing music together and in 2010 formed the trio Life In Pursuit with drummer Chris Ward. The band focused on rhythm-based acoustic rock and released New Horizons in 2013. The following year’s album, Nickel & Dimin’ It,” paid off and was nominated for Best Alternative Album for the annual Na Hoku (Hanohano) Awards. Life In Pursuit was also featured in the 2017 documentary Livin’ On A Rock: A Big Island Music Story.
Although Life In Pursuit broke up in 2018, the Kuhane brothers continued their songwriting efforts and have worked with Grammy Award winning producer Charles Brotman on various studio projects. Brotman encouraged them to attend the annual Hawaii Songwriting Festival where they won Best Original Song in a competition. The exposure from the songwriting festival and involvement with the Creative Lab Hawaii’s Music Immersive program has led to co-writing and producing music for specific film or TV projects with a team of professional mentors. They also discovered the benefits of “sync.” It’s a license agreement where a music user (film, TV, etc.) and the owner of a copyrighted song come together and allow permission of the material to be used on a specific release. After experiencing sync success with music for the Gold Brothers, and getting music placed on Netflix’s Shadowhunters, Chase and Carl have decided to release an EP’s worth of music that’s both very “sync-friendly,” and representative of the Big Island.
“That’s the whole goal of Olelo” said Chase Kuahane. “We’re songwriters first, and artists and performers second. The new EP features just my brother and me. We did half of the tracks here in Hawaii, and half in L.A. We collaborated with award-winning songwriter Nitanee Paris on the tracks and ended up writing six songs in two days. We got to keep three of those for ourselves. We hope to get them placed in film or TV projects.”
Chase Kuahane says the first single “Heartbeat,” which is also the title of the forthcoming EP, is about the struggles songwriters experience in the music industry. “Hope is the theme that runs through this song and the rest on the EP,” adds Kuahane. “Being intentional about your relationships and going through adversity and pushing forward. We also wrote a very heartfelt song called “Far Away.” It’s a very personal song and we’re doing a music video for that well. That song means a lot to us. The whole EP has an indie sound to it, which is different than things we’ve done in the past.”
After eight years of attending the Hawaii Songwriting Festival and mentoring with professionals, Kuahane has learned there’s an easier way to get your music heard and relates the experience to an old-school method for harvesting seafood. “When we were young and growing up in Hawaii, we were taught this valuable lesson while picking shellfish on the rocks,” recalled Kuahane. “When the surf comes up, you have to wait for it to go back down to pick what you need, but on the way back up, there’s no need for you to struggle when the waters start coming at you from down off the cliffs. When you wait for the tide to bring you up, you can then latch back on to the solid rocks, and you’re there. I treat the music industry very much the same way. Instead of trying to chase the music industry, we wait for the opportunity to come and be ready to jump on it. I don’t let them dictate where I move. Even though the Big Island is thousands of miles from the mainland, if you have a good product and the right attitude, people will buy it. When the tide goes down, let it go down. When the industry moves, let it move. But when it comes back up, and the opportunities are there, you better jump. Hawaii is a good launching pad for getting your material out there.”
Steve Roby is a music journalist, best-selling author, and originally from San Francisco. He’s been featured in the NY Times, Rolling Stone, and Billboard Magazine. Roby is also the Managing Editor of Big Island Music Magazine.
Photos: Steve Roby and kkphotograpghs.