COURTESY TOO PURE / BEGGARS BANQUET
The Rogers Sisters (Hawaii-born bassist and singer Miyuki Furtado, left, drummer Laura Rogers and guitarist and singer Jennifer Rogers) are creating a buzz in the boroughs of New York City with their get-up-and-dance album, "The Invisible Deck."
Oahu-raised rocker switches between musical genres as easily as he adjusted to moving to new locales
Until his family moved away from the islands, Miyuki Furtado said he listened to a lot of Hawaiian music while growing up. It was a steady diet of Cecilio & Kapono, the Makaha Sons, HAPA and, of course, Bruddah Iz.
"This had a profound impact on my notions of melody and harmony," he said recently via e-mail. But Furtado was surrounded by other music as well. "My dad had a lot of reggae and Motown records. My brother turned me on to rock and hip-hop. My mom loved Japanese torch songs and Blondie!"
His musical journey would be fueled by an admitted wanderlust as his father, a communications officer with the U.S. State Department, moved the family out of Hawaii when Furtado just entered his teens. As his world opened up, it emboldened him to fearlessly play any kind of music he liked. That confidence led him to a momentous meeting in Brooklyn, N.Y., with Jennifer and Laura Rogers.
Now he and the Rogers sisters are embarking on an important part of their burgeoning career as a trio, with Furtado playing bass and sharing lead vocal duties with guitar-playing Jennifer, and Laura pounding out the backbeat.
Billed as the Rogers Sisters, their new album, "The Invisible Deck," is just out, and it's a fine example of why this dance rock trio has created such a buzz, first in their home borough, specifically at hip but grungy Brooklyn house and bar parties.
"I (first) met Jen and Laura when a mutual friend mentioned they were looking for a bass player to play a party. I totally lied and said I played bass, despite the fact that I had only recently acquired one. We practiced for about an hour and played the show the next night. It was a pretty rowdy affair from what I can remember."
Jennifer Rogers concurs and, in the band's press release, said at their debut at a birthday party held at a Brooklyn bar, "We did a cover of Ike and Tina Turner's version of 'You Are My Sunshine' with 'Happy Birthday' lyrics. It was reckless and by the skin of our teeth. That's how a lot of our shows were in the first couple of years. We still have that energy, but nowadays we try to play the right notes."
Nearly four years later, "the right notes" are played with more confidence but without the band losing their sense of adventure and sonic exploration. Their attitude and sound are direct descendants from street-tough '60s girl groups like the Shangri-Las and the Ronettes, to female post-punk pioneers the Slits and ESG.
"My parents took me to (my cousin's) practices when I was a baby and I used to fall asleep in the kick drum while they were playing."
Musician remembering his introduction to music
-- which came courtesy of his family -- back
in Waimea, Kauai
FURTADO is a long way from his family roots in Waimea, Kauai. His earliest musical memories are of his cousins being in a band that played Santana covers. "My parents took me to their practices when I was a baby and I used to fall asleep in the kick drum while they were playing."
He also remembers, while growing up, shuttling back and forth between his parents' Waikiki home and spending "many summers back in Waimea, visiting my grandmother and staying with my aunt and uncle. After a few years, my family moved to Red Hill, near Aiea."
Because he has a little bit of Hawaiian in him -- along with an ethnic mix of Irish, English and, with a name like Miyuki Furtado, Japanese and Portuguese -- "I went to Kamehameha (Schools) for a short while before we moved overseas."
That's where his ears were really opened up. "We were able to visit some amazing countries and do many things I didn't think I would ever get to experience ... (like) soukous and highlife music from West Africa, polka music in Switzerland and post-punk from England and Europe. I discovered jazz, American punk and pretty much every other genre of music when I moved back to the U.S."
When he lived in Baltimore, in particular, "it was spent playing with as many different bands as I could. It didn't matter what kind of music it was -- dub, polka, garage, jazz (or) avant-garde noise ensembles.
"I was originally a drummer, so that usually kept me busy. Drummers are usually in high demand. Rent is quite cheap there so I was able to play music most days of the year. The crime, however, got on my nerves after a while, so my wife and I moved to New York. Also, the food's much better in N.Y."
COURTESY TOO PURE / BEGGARS BANQUET
Influences such as the Shangri-Las and the Slits can be heard in the music of the Rogers Sisters. Hawaii-born bass player Miyuki Furtado shares the same musical sensibilities as the sisters.
BESIDES THE tastier fare, Furtado discovered when he met and played with the Rogers sisters that "Jen, Laura and I have similar musical sensibilities. We have an appreciation for rhythm and melody. I guess we have good chemistry. We spent a lot of time writing and arranging ('The Invisible Deck') together with our producer, Tim Barnes. Sometimes, I'll go on a writing jag and write a lot of songs in a week to bring to the band for arrangement."
For the album, the three reworked a couple of songs that were released earlier on a one-off single. "The Conversation," sung by Furtado, steps up its jagged and slightly dissonant Gang of Four-ish attack. Against the background of buzzing guitars, Furtado and Jennifer Rogers sing of the push-and-pull of freedom and restraint on "Emotion Control."
And there's a little bit of the Doors and the Velvet Underground in the luxuriously psychedelic haze of "Your Littlest World," as well as a bit of the B-52's and the Who (circa 1960s) in the biting commentary of "Money Matters," one of the better songs on the album.
"I think the record has some of the best lyrics (Jen's) ever written," said Furtado.
And now with a new album to promote, the traveling continues apace. "We've been fortunate enough to tour across the mainland (a LOT), England, Ireland, Scandinavia, France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, Australia and New Zealand. We want to tour in Greece, Turkey, Brazil, Japan and Thailand this year!
"Sometimes, releasing an album seems like an excuse to travel the world. We usually try to experience as much local food and culture as we can. We're not so big on the rock 'n' roll nightclub experience per se."
And Furtado hopes that he'll get reacquainted with "things like laulau, huli-huli chicken (and) poke aku" if and when the Rogers Sisters come to play in Hawaii.