CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Members of the band Malcognitas are Jack Tawil, left, Ara Laylo, Yvonne Harada and Lorenzo Trinidad.
Chemistry & Camaraderie
These four musician friends are anything but malcontents. In fact, they're at their happiest when playing for themselves and anybody else within earshot.
Featuring 86 List, the Malcognitas, the Insurgents, Dolls Till Daylight and DJ Vagina
Place: Detox Lounge, 1192 Alakea St.
Time: 9 p.m. Saturday
Admission: $5 (16 and over before midnight; 18 and over after)
Info: malcognitas.net or myspace.com/themalcognitas
The Malcognitas may be only a little more than a year old, but they've distinguished themselves on the local underground scene, not only in frequent gigs, but for a distinctive sound and look unlike their contemporaries.
Guitarist Yvonne Harada, singer Ara Laylo, drummer Jack Tawil and bassist Lorenzo Trinidad draw their intricate and intriguing songs from Gothic, postpunk and indie-rock influences. Their onstage appearance is also part of their appeal, Trinidad said. "We hear from our friends and fans that we have a classy, yet sexy, look," he said before a regular Sunday afternoon rehearsal at the Vibe Asylum recording studio in Kakaako.
The band celebrates the release of a debut CD, "Love is Fair," Saturday at the Detox Lounge, part of a dance party coordinated through part-time promoter Laylo.
"While most music here tends to play to different crowds that generally don't mix together, we've had the pleasure to play with different bands, whether they be punk, reggae, ska, or metal," Trinidad said. "And we're usually invited by these bands to join them on their bills."
Both Trinidad -- son of Star-Bulletin editorial cartoonist Corky Trinidad -- and Tawil came home after living in San Francisco and Seattle, respectively. Their musical affinity was unknown to each other until a chance meeting through a mutual friend in 2004.
"For years, I was looking to play music with someone that had a disco-style beat over dark melodies and singing," said Tawil, himself a former punker.
Trinidad would turn out to be the perfect partner. "I'm a fan of old-school Goth music," Trinidad said, "late '70s-early '80s. Bands like Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy, the Cure, and Siouxsie and the Banshees. ... Meeting Jack saved me from an early retirement from music."
The pair would bring another kindred spirit into the fold -- Harada.
"We meshed really well musically," Tawil said, "but she didn't really play guitar like Lorenzo and I wanted her to."
Harada wasn't expected to strum the usual bar chords, but to mainly play single-note melody and harmony lines.
"I just started playing with them both," Harada said, "and I admit it was a little overwhelming." The three of them remember her learning off of illustrations drawn on sheets of paper that circled her like a protective shell.
TRINIDAD WAS always adamant about involving two women in the project, a guitarist and a singer. "I wanted it to be in a band that catches both people's eyes and ears. When I saw Ara (Laylo) do a Wham! song one night at Club Pauahi ... she made such an impact that I knew she was the one."
It turned out Harada and Laylo were friends who'd initially struck out on their own after exiting their ex-boyfriends' bands, pairing up in a project called 17/10. But when Harada's focus shifted to Trinidad and Tawil's music, Laylo admits feeling abandoned.
"It took me a while to warm up to them," Laylo said. But they've all become friends since she joined the band last April: "I think of practice and shows as therapeutic for me."
And it seems they were fated to join forces as the Malcognitas. The name was taken from an underground comic fanzine of Trinidad's called "Defile Yer Idols," produced when he lived in San Francisco in 2000. Trinidad said it was about four individuals who created a new sound, then vanished after three months. "So then there was this band that was inspired by them, made up of three girls and me, called the Malcognitas."
"And the thing is," Tawil added, "I used to have that old zine in my cymbal bag."
The chemistry and camaraderie of the band is evident during rehearsals. They've bonded to such a degree that songwriting is quick and efficient. "We've all changed for the better as musicians," Harada said. "Each piece of lyric, melody and harmony we each bring in is made better when we all work it out."
"The music has taken a life of its own," added Trinidad.
Over the Malcognitas' brief life, they've come up with 20 songs, 11 of which are on the debut CD. With mixing help from studio owner Ben Tirnauer and engineer Steve Escallier, "Love is Fair" should make for a valuable calling card when the band ventures outside Hawaii.
"This first album is a testament to each of us," Trinidad said. "It represents a piece of each and every one of us, marking our evolution as musicians, and how well we work together."
But plans don't involve abandoning their island home.
"It's too lovely a place to leave permanently," Laylo said, "because there are so many creative and talented people here.
"For us, it's always worked out when we go with the flow."