I Wanna Be
Imagine a roots reggae sound accompanied by a soulful, yet pop-like voice with the ability to match an acoustic setting while also being capable of freestyling to a skanking rhythm and you are left with… HIRIE. Led by HIRIE on vocals, the female fronted band stormed onto the reggae music scene in 2013 with the release of their first single, ‘Sensi Boy.’ HIRIE’s self-titled debut album was released on September 3rd iTunes Reggae Chart in its first day. Nominated for San Diego’s best World Music Award, the band has enjoyed further success as the music video for the popular, ‘Sensi Boy,’’ has reached over 440,000+ views on YouTube. That same single, along with a few other tracks, have received constant airplay on all major Hawaiian Islands, as well as local and college stations around the United States, Guam, New Zealand, Tahiti and more.
HIRIE’s live set provides those in attendance with a performance that guarantees to please and leaves the fans wanting more. With the exception of an acoustic song or two, HIRIE can be seen on stage feeding off the energy of the band and the crowd, as she spends a majority of her time dancing across any platform while she sings. From a core rhythm section with drums, keys and bass, to a highly energetic horn section, HIRIE has quickly mastered a formula to gain new fans with each opportunity they are given on stage, regardless of the crowd’s musical preference. The band’s appreciation for her tone and body language, carries over beautifully as their synchronized dancing and contagious melodic lines provide the perfect platform for HIRIE’s voice to shine.
In a genre dominated by male voices, the rise of HIRIE came as a breath of fresh air just as the reggae scene had begun to emerge from the underground and into the mainstream. With so many accomplishments in such a short time, it’s hard to believe the band has only been together for a year. HIRIE’s ability to flawlessly mix multiple styles of music into a reggae/pop song rooted with conscious lyrics makes for the perfect starting point to help reggae music deliver its message to the world.
IRIE. You were born in the Phillippines but have spent most of your life in Oahu, Hawaii, so I know that reggae music was a part your surroundings. What made you decide to get into reggae music?
HIRIE: I found myself at so many jam sessions as a kid and also loved going to concerts with my friends and like-minded people.
I was a huge fan of the reggae artists featured on Oahu’s main (reggae) radio stations and naturally started following the rotation. Bands like Rebelution, SOJA, Tribal Seeds, Katchafire, Natty Vibes, Steel Pulse, Tanya Stephens, Dezarie (I could go on forever) truly shaped me as an artist and human being. I wanted to perform reggae music just like them.
Reggae music is weaved into island culture in such a way you love to embrace it!
IRIE. You sing, you write and you play a few instruments (guitar and ukelele). I take it that music was a big part of your childhood?
HIRIE: Definitely. My parents exposed us to lots of music as kids. My dad worked for the United Nations so every time we had dinner parties there were people with whom we shared no common language except that of music. From singing, playing and dancing we were always around music and the arts. I loved my childhood and remember the sounds clearly. 😉
IRIE. I see the IRIE in HIRIE. Can you share with us the inspiration behind your name?
HIRIE: I was feeling good in my bedroom—one could say I just finished burning. Trying to come up with a name that embodied the ultimate, happy & natural lifestyle, irie came to mind. HI is the capitol of Hawaii so I had this idea of merging ‘HI’ and ‘Irie’ to create a new feeling of ‘HIRIE’. The Hawaiian state of Irie. What people take from it from that explanation onwards, is totally up to them!
IRIE. Who are some of your musical influences and where do you find inspiration in your songwriting?
HIRIE: I take inspiration from all styles of reggae artists and beyond. I am inspired everyday by musicians of all genres and try to better myself by observation and appreciation. I find inspiration comes from talking and getting to know people, or sometimes being alone and getting to know myself. I don’t go anywhere specifically for inspiration but when I feel it, wherever it comes from, I chase it and bring the experience into song.
IRIE. How would you describe your sound?
HIRIE: It’s a bit different. I try to be true to songwriting and storytelling, doing my best to keep it cluster-free and open-ended. It’s reggae.. but its also rock, jazz, funk and more. This comes from the influences of my band members. We’re all stemming from different backgrounds and interests, and because of it you get a piece of all of us rounded into one sound. To categorize our sound would be a damper to our creativity 😉 I think its raw, real and a true expression of my band and myself.
IRIE. Your performance on stage with your band is truly energetic. You’re always smiling and you’re constantly moving. What’s going through your mind while you’re performing on stage?
HIRIE: That I want to make people feel. I’m so grateful when i’m up on stage because I know it’s a privilege to be up there in control of the moment. Whether you’re performing for 10 or 10,000 people, you can’t relate the feeling to anything else. I’m my most vulnerable onstage. It’s like, here I am, spilling my beans for you and I have no control over how you’ll react to it.
Will you want to see me again? Will I make you feel something you’ve never felt, or give you the strength to feel an emotion you’ve been secretly wanting to feel? Will i make you break down or make you fall in love with the person next to you? Haha. Can I help you feel alive again? These are all things that I’ve been blessed to feel at the hands of another musician. Performing is definitely a privilege and I’m learning everyday about it and how i can apply what i see and hear to every show. I’m a rookie but I’m hungry.
IRIE. Can you introduce your band members to our audience?
HIRIE: Our very core is made up of the talented Chris Hampton (sax player, songwriter, producer), Andrew McKee (Trombone player, songwriter, producer), Andy Flores (Bassist, badass) and Blaine Dillinger (Lead/ Rhythm Guitar player, songwriter, mohawk slayer).
IRIE. Do you have a memorable moment from being on the road?
HIRIE: Anytime we’re immersed into a culture unfamiliar to our own has been a memorable moment for us. You won’t believe what kind of things we’ve seen and experienced on the road! To name one would be unfair to the rest! Hehe. I enjoy learning and exploring other cultures and values. My favorite moments have been shared on a reservation or somewhere in nature.
IRIE. You’re currently working on your sophomore album, Wandering Soul, which is due out early this summer. What can we expect from this album release?
HIRIE: Wandering Soul is a culmination of everything we dreamt our next album could be. There are magical moments happening in every song that you can easily get lost in. The musicianship is insane! Lots of emotion, vulnerability and carefully placed words and solos. We put a lot of time and effort into making sure our sophomore release is a 2.0 version of the first, and believe it really is. We couldn’t have done it without the help of all producers involved: Danny Kalb, Josh Cardinali, Sergio Rios, Don Corleon and Chris Hampton. Shout out as well to the session musicians we enlisted to lay down some drums, piano & rhythm guitar: Joe Tomino, Matt Goodwin, John Butcher, Asher Blak, Dan Hastie and Chris Brennan. A full list of collaborators is in the works 🙂 Most of all, this album was only possible by the hands of our fans; the Kickstarter backers.
IRIE. We’re feeling IRIE about your latest single, ‘I Wanna Be’. What’s the message behind the track?
HIRIE: It’s an empowering song. You’re telling someone you want to be everything they wish for but you’re not allowing them to fully experience what that could be. Its like a mystery game where you never reveal your secret identity and strategy. I’m all about being a tease and holding back. I am also a firm believer in easy come, easy go. If you wait for the right opportunities in any relationship you’re bound to find someone else who’s willing to invest that same amount of time into it too.
IRIE. What do you want your fans to take from your music?
HIRIE: I want them to realize I’m being honest to them and to myself. I want to follow my dreams and passions and in return inspire people to do the same. As far as we know, we only get one life on planet Earth. To be good to yourself and others is what we should all strive for. If everyone looked to peace and kindness the way they do material objects we could save a lot of terrible things from happening.
IRIE. Do you have any advice for independent artists looking to follow in your footsteps?
HIRIE: I’ll start with the same advice I sought out from my father years ago: “You only get out of life what you put into it”. Don’t ever think you have the answers to anything, and don’t ever stop believing in yourself. Ask millions of questions and take millions of mental notes. Follow in the footsteps of others who are tried and true. Make yourself happy, follow your gut and be kind but don’t be a pushover either.
IRIE. Is there anything you would like to share with our audience?
HIRIE: I’m extremely grateful to be featured in Irie Magazine and am also very grateful to the readers taking the time to get to know artists like me. I hope to inspire someone out there to pursue their dreams and make wonderful things happen for themselves and others. Life is unfair for so many people that the best we can do is chase our passions and apply any talent towards making life a little easier for somebody else.
IRIE. Much Love and Respect, HIRIE!