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No Hope H.S.

Darin Lee

Text: Lyle Matsuura
Images: Kate Adams

Born in the UK, raised partly in Canada, and partly in Australia, Hawai‘i transplant—and lead vocalist of the four-piece no-wave punk act GRLFRNDS—Alex Kaiser has a lot of stories to tell. With a personality as eccentric as his upbringing, Kaiser puts a twist on everything he engages himself in. A poet, filmmaker, actor, musician, painter, anarchist, surfer, and blogger, the brazen 24-year-old possesses a relentless desire to create. “I’m also good at pissing off my band mates. I want to apologize to them in advance for anything I might say or do,” says Kaiser. The fact that he is playfully aware of his ego almost makes his cocky swagger forgivable. Almost. Due to the GRLFRNDS’ busy schedule the following interview took place through e-mail, but fret not; I assure you that the content was not compromised in the process. Ladies and gents, I present to you the crowning achievement in my bollocks of an attempt (or lack there of) at being a music journalist: The Alex Kaiser Interview.

Contrast: What’s with the name Girlfriends? How is it spelt, Girlfriends? Or GRLFRNDS?
Alex Kaiser: We’re going to go with GRLFRNDS. There were too many other people on MySpace trying to go with The Girlfriends or Girlfriends so we wanted to stand out. And we like MSTRKRFT. I think of it like text speak and the way it’s becoming so pervasive in society. You can go to the young adult section of Barnes and Noble and read books written in text speak and that blows my mind. One reason we’re called GRLFRNDS is because I see a trend happening and I want to capitalize on it.

Nice, it’s like Korn and Limp Bizkit misspelling their names in the mid-‘90s. Do you have any literal sketchy girlfriend stories? I heard you once made out with a dude dressed like a chick, and after you found out you were actually stoked.
I don’t know about that one, but good interview tactic. It’s always good to throw trannies into the mix early on in any interview, be it a job interview or something less formal like talking to your girlfriend’s dad. We were kind of fucked up in our other bands. We got into a lot of trouble at Detox when my friend tried to smash the window in with a skateboard, swung back, and busted a girl’s lip open. I watched while a lot of my friends got arrested that night. My girlfriend got choked by police in front of me. That was in Shoko Kono, and then in Le Tenia we were really pushing the bar with how fucked up you could get before going on stage and in that respect it was a success, but musically we were a mess. If there’s one big difference between this project and others is that now we are very serious about not getting too drunk or anything before we go on stage. But after we play is a whole new ball game, it’s very drunk.

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?
I was born in England. I grew up in England and Canada and Australia. I’ve lived in Hawai‘i for the past 10 years but I’ve been able to go back to England a lot and check out a lot of good bands and festivals. Spending some time watching bands I looked up to­—Radiohead, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Crystal Castles and the way certain performers commanded the crowd like Santigold or Pete Doherty got me excited and wanting to start a project like GRLFRNDS when I came back.

Do you still feel a connection to the British?
I feel very connected to England and to British people in general. They have such an intense focus on rock music and especially indie rock music and they have a completely different political dialogue going on that you don’t see in America. These are things I can relate to. If you’re in a band you better be hip to what’s going on in Britain or you’re going to find yourself subsequently irrelevant. That’s one thing I really like about The Jump Offs is that they sound like a British band without the accents, if that makes sense. In rock music it goes without saying that the British bands have always set the bar and GRLFRNDS certainly fall in line with that mentality.

Any fond memories of England?
A few years ago I took a train into London from Portsmouth and it was the first time visiting the city without my parents. I bought a T-shirt in Camden and then went to this massive nightclub called Fabric. I took Molly for the first time and Amy Winehouse played an impromptu set with Mark Ronson’s band. Pendulum DJ’ed and they had bass speakers under the floorboards to make everything move with the music. I got out of the club before the trains started running and walked through a desolate scene from 28 Days Later. I pissed off of London Bridge after smoking a spliff at dawn and slept in a park on newspapers with the London tramps. I caught a train back around noon and felt young and grown up and alive and dead tired all at once.

How did you get into music?
Beyond the fundamental influence my parents had just playing music all the time, I really got into music when I was 12 years old and I went to my first punk show. I started a street punk band when I was 13 and have been in a lot of different bands ever since. Punk shows were the most exciting and formative experiences of my life. This is when there were a lot of all ages shows, a lot of different bands and a fucking lot of people going. I’d go to school all week, and Fridays and Saturdays catch bus to punk shows where I made friends with other bands, got drunk, met girls, saw fights, moshed, and what have you. It seemed very dangerous and exciting.


You’ve been in a bunch of bands with the same dudes. How did this band come together?
The name GRLFRNDS is kind of referential to the fact that the four of us in the band are our own best friends and we’re very insular and familiar kind of; like we’d go out and we’d just stand off to the side and talk amongst ourselves and be snarky. Like a bunch of snotty girls. We didn’t care if it was emasculating as a name, it was also a really good name. But yeah, we had all been on our own doing our own stuff and got back in touch. We’d all been listening to a bunch of the same stuff like Soulwax, Santigold, Justice, and wanted to try something more dance-oriented than anything we did before.

I was hoping that you would say something like you guys were both girls and friends, and it just made sense, so thank you for that. I heard none of you guys have jobs. How do you guys practice or buy guitar strings and stuff?
Well, Nate (drums) is self-employed and I have a part-time job at a pet store. We practice in the boonies of Punaluu or in Nick’s garage and whenever we get money from shows we are constantly saving to get more gear. We’re pretty broke, but it’s grunge right? Other bands seemed to start off broke so this has to be the right track.

What is everyone’s role in the band?
Nick plays guitar, Ryan plays bass and keys, Jake plays keyboards, Nate drums, and I sing. We all work together writing the songs. Between Jake, Nick, and myself there are three songwriters within the band. Nate holds down with the beats.

What are your top five favorite albums?
I don’t know about all time, but in no particular order... Phoenix– Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, Matt and Kim– Grand, Handsome Furs– Face Control, La Roux– La Roux, Yeah Yeah Yeahs– It’s Blitz.

What are your goals for this project?
We wanted to make people dance. We wanted to sound like our favorite bands and hope that other people hear that influence and get excited. Without any immediate plans to take on the mainland right now, we just want to focus on playing a lot of shows in Hawai‘i, but also writing as much new stuff as possible to keep everyone from getting bored. We’d love to take over the world, but we’ll settle for throwing the most anarchic dance party Hawai‘i’s seen in years. So far we’ve succeeded because the shows lately have been nuts. The main goal is to get our hooks stuck in people’s heads so they come out and dance and spill their drinks and when it’s all a big sweaty beer-stained mess we score a “goal,” so to speak.

Alright this is getting long. Any last words?
We just want everyone to know we don’t mind if you dance or if you buy us a drink after the show so feel free to do both with abandon and excess.

ガールフレンズは最近大人気のホノルル出身のノーウェイブパンクバンドだ。彼らの音楽はとにかく楽しく、うるさく踊るのが特徴だ。リードヴォーカルのアレックスはイギリス出身で、ハワイに住む以前はカナダとオーストラリアにも住んでいた。メンバーは他のバンドが嫌になった人の集まり。このバンドは良い音楽を作る為だけに専念している。Yeah YeahYeahsやCrystalCastles等から影響を受けている。




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