Taking the island vibe to L.A.


POSTED: Monday, May 11, 2009

In Los Angeles' fabled Troubadour tomorrow, a gathering of musicians will try to reproduce the island vibe they felt during a visit to Hana in 2004.





        Release date for the CD is tomorrow. The album is also available for MP3 download on for $5.99. Individual songs may also be purchased.















Professional photographer Christopher Wray-McCann had traveled to Maui with musicians Ian Ball and Olly Peacock of the British band Gomez, and de facto Gomez member Dajon Everett; Jesse Carmichael and James Valentine of Maroon 5; and Phantom Planet's Sam Farrar.

Brought together on a whim by a mutual friend and acquaintance, they called themselves Operation Aloha, with a mission to take a break from their busy careers by spending three weeks in a treehouse compound to make and record some music, totally off the cuff.

Other guests included Kauai-born Will Nash, son of Graham, and Fil Krohnengold, a New York transplant who had worked with Gomez in the recording studio and now is part of L.A.'s music scene.

Speaking by phone from L.A. last week, Nash and Krohnengold said their show at the Troubadour will help promote tomorrow's national release of the “;Operation Aloha”; album.

“;Even though I grew up on Kauai, this was my first time in Hana,”; said the 29-year-old Nash, who contributed percussion and vocals on the Maui project.

“;I play music because I love it, not for my career,”; he said, admitting, “;It took me a while to be a musician. I started off playing drums, and as I've grown I've picked up the piano, guitar, ukulele, but it's the bass guitar that has made me the happiest.”;

Nash has been friends with Wray-McCann for nearly a decade, and when the photographer asked him about recording on Maui, he said, “;I loved the idea. It was utter madness—logistically it was a nightmare, what with 14 people, instruments and portable recording equipment—but it was based on the principle that great things could come together at a great place like this, so I wanted to see what would happen.”;

WITH THE days set aside for trips to the beach and jungle exploration, and after casual dinners of fresh fish and fruit, “;We had a routine every night to start rolling tape without any preconceptions,”; Nash said. “;We all had bits of musical ideas and lyrics that we brought to the sessions. That's how Ian came up with his songs 'Elephant Pharmacy' and 'Failure.'”; (Both songs would appear in more polished studio form on Ball's 2007 solo album, “;Who Goes There.”;)

“;I really like 'Elephant Pharmacy,'”; Nash said. “;It tells a story that could be like a special piece of folklore. It's a love song couched in a junkie's lament of needing to score by any means necessary. The song has an earnestness, with these lyrical layers about what is right and wrong.”;

Krohnengold brought musical ideas that became two of the album's songs, “;Phone Booth”; and “;Secret Song.”;

“;'Secret Song' was just born in the moment,”; he said. “;I was playing guitar, and Ian was next to me on ukulele. It was a very collaborative effort between us.

“;Before that, I didn't know if I was able to work on any of my own music. It was a lot of fun playing, since we spent a lot of time with each other. The sessions were surprisingly disciplined. We just got into a rhythm that, every night, we would focus on the music.”;

In the compound, only one larger treehouse had electricity, so in addition to being the main sleeping quarters (for 10 men), whoever happened to be in what Krohnengold called “;the hot seat, the place in the room where the one good microphone was, would end up either singing or playing guitar.”;

Ball, apparently, was its main occupant, as he sings the majority of the songs, including a nice solo version of “;(And the Band Played) Waltzing Matilda,”; an anti-war song written by Scottish-born singer-songwriter Eric Bogle in 1971 and made famous by the Pogues.

“;THAT THREE weeks on Maui,”; said Krohnengold, “;was some of the most serene times of my life. After a couple of days, we got used to living without the usual amenities.”;

“;It was amazing how free I felt in such familiar surroundings,”; said the local-born Nash. “;The bushes and trees and dirt all have the same vibe of Kauai, and, that said, I also got to sing on this record, which was liberating, especially coming from someone without much singing experience compared to the others.

“;It's tough enough to build a consensus in the real world, and to have Christopher bring all of this together and for us to have done so much in that small amount of time, I'm amazed. It's like a weird dream from years ago, and re-listening to the melodies, I get thrown back to this fantastical world we lived in.”;

“;We called it 'Operation Aloha' for a reason,”; Nash said, “;because we came together in the spirit of community and giving, and respecting and loving one another. It was great to get back to that feeling of aloha.”;