On the single “Alive,” HAWAI [pronounced huh-why] charismatically carries the chorus, “I want to be alive, here in the darkness, under the stars, there’s only your light.”

It’s more than just a catchy chant for the Orange County quartet—Jake Pappas [vocals, guitar], Jesse “Bumper” Dorman [drums], Jared Slaybaugh [bass, vocals], and Matt Gillen [keyboards, synths]. Rather, it represents the awakening explored on their forthcoming second EP, Hide in the Ocean [Antler Records]. It’s the moment when you realize you don’t know everything. It’s the realization that longstanding beliefs you’ve held onto can change. It’s when you embrace change.

It’s the day you wake up, forget about trying to fit in, and just be alive…

“I had an awakening,” Pappas affirms. “I thought, ‘There’s so much knowledge out there, there are so many beliefs, and there’s so much to discover.’ I was okay not knowing. The song is an invitation asking, ‘While I’m trying to figure it all out, does someone want to come on this journey with me?’ I felt like it was time to go out on the boat in the middle of that vast ocean.”

That boat first set sail in 2015. Formed by longtime friends, HAWAI came together with a pure, passionate, and powerful vision equally steeped in alternative, rock, and pop. Produced by Lars Stalfors [Cold War Kids, Deap Vally], their 2016 debut Working All Night EP yielded fan favorites such as “All Night,” “In My Head,” “Fault,” and more, which cumulatively totaled 1 million Spotify streams. The group’s brand of beach-swept alternative bliss generated a serious critical buzz too. Everyone from Consequence of Sound and Magnet to Indie Shuffle and Alternative Press offered praise, while the boys headlined many shows across SoCal.

Back in Los Angeles, they quietly assembled Hide in the Ocean with the help of producer Frederik Thaae [Atlas Genius]. The new tracks marked a sonic progression. Together, they incorporated more synths into HAWAI’s signature salvo of kinetic guitars. Meanwhile, Jake lyrically cut right to the chase—“getting directly to the point like never before,” as he describes it.

“We had something with Frederik from the very beginning,” the vocalist elaborates. “He helped make things a little more concise. He taught me how to loosen my grip on aspects of the music.”

The first single “I’m Not Dead” illuminated this evolution. Praised by Paste as “the track fans have been waiting for,” it quickly crossed the 100K mark on Spotify in a few months’ time. Awash in fuzzy guitars and warm keys, it encodes a theme within the plea, “Come with me to the ocean. Let’s hide in the ocean.’”

“The concept is to go to somewhere that’s completely undiscoverable,” explains Jake. “The ocean is 70% of the earth’s surface, but it’s uncharted. The theme is wanting company in this unknown place. We’re hiding there together.”

The clarion call and shimmering second single “Alive” tempers an upbeat synth spark and bombastic rhythms with a thought-provoking chant.

“It embodies this image of not just wanting to breathe, walk, and talk, but to really live,” he exclaims. “People say they feel alive, but what does that mean? How do you get there? I want to really feel alive. That’s what I’m crying out for.”

Over the course of Hide in the Ocean, that energy transmits right to the hearts and minds of listeners.

“When people hear this thing, I hope they ask questions,” Jake leaves off. “I started asking questions while I was working on it. That inspired me to dig deeper. If they feel like it sounds rad and it also makes them think, that’d be all we could ever ask for.”

Get ready to dive in with HAWAI.

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