After some impressive shows in New York this fall, at CMJ and opening for Grimes, we tapped Montreal duo Blue Hawaii, comprised of real-life couple Agor and Raph, for a FADER mix. Theirs is a really enjoyable, contemplative 45 minutes; standouts include Autechre’s still-untouchable beat on “Corc” and a gorgeous banjo track with the Malian singer Oumou Sangaré. Download the mix and check out the tracklist at the bottom. The interview below is longer than most that accompany FADER mixes, but it’s a nice conversation (and the mix makes for great reading music), with talk about gemstones, Montreal’s shifting scene post-Grimes and Blue Hawaii’s forthcoming sophomore album, Untogether, out February 11th via Arbutus Records.
Download: Blue Hawaii’s FADER Mix
What have you been doing while you’re in New York? AGOR: Yesterday in the gemstone room at the Museum of Natural History, Raph became attracted to this purple quartz stone called amethyst. We found one in the back of the room that was so big… RAPH: It was bigger than my torso. AGOR: It was easily bigger than your torso. It was huge, like the size of your body. And then we looked it up and amethyst was her birthstone. RAPH: I kept seeking it out, I was like, This one’s amazing. I feel drawn to it.
My friend went to have his chakra balanced, and they told him to always wear turquoise. RAPH: I’m gonna see somebody to align my chakra. I feel very out of alignment. I just feel like I’ve expended so much, just doing these two records. I was gonna go try it out, see how goofy it is, or real. I kind of believe in it. I feel like you have to believe in those things for it to work. AGOR: I think that would be a really good thing for Raph to do. It’s interesting, at this stage in life, in one’s 20s, there’s constantly a search for understanding, or whatever. For your friend, it’s pretty crazy that the solution would be like this thing that’s on the outside. RAPH: It’s a balancing thing. AGOR: It’s interesting if you can find that turquoise in somebody else, because then they can change with you. I feel like, as this person develops and becomes a different person, maybe their problems will change or something like that, and then turquoise will become no longer relevant. It’s really, really interesting if you think about people as that, and good relationships with people, we can all change together. What’s really nice about people and really open communication and stuff is the ways we can really support and be there for each other.
So your new album is called Untogether. What does that mean? AGOR: One of the reasons the record is called Untogether is almost in a negative sense, the amount of communication you can have with somebody. I’m constantly e-mailing my brother, like, 20 times a day, but I don’t really see him very often, because he lives in London right now. It’s an interesting kind of togetherness, cause it’s like 80 percent of the way there, which is better than maybe 50 percent. Another reason this record is called Untogether is definitely something to do with the fact that like… well should we say it, about the scene and all that? RAPH: Of course. We can talk about anything. If you want to. It’s not a negative thing, it just is. AGOR: Yeah it just is, I guess. As friends expand and grow past the Montreal scene and leave, there’s this kind of falling apart there as well. And there’s certain things that bring them together. This album is a lot about the falling apart and the coming together of relationships, in a personal and also kind of in a musical environment. RAPH: I think it was an attempt to find a glue while it felt like everything was drifting apart. Before Arbutus Records there was a [Montreal loft scene] and that’s where a lot of our friends got their footing. When that kind of came down and everyone dispersed, there was this confusing sense of community and Arbutus really brought that back together. There was the rise of Grimes, and people experiencing jealousy, and somewhat not being as supportive as we had all thought that we were, and kind of experiencing those ego problems. I think it exposed the faults of people, that they like to look out for themselves a lot more than the group, so this record was kind of an investigation of how to become more together and how to come to terms with things. AGOR: All while being so fragile. And while the record itself was so fragile. We worked on the record separately, at night, in alternating days. We lived apart for a lot of the conception of it.
Why did you record separately? RAPH: Sometimes Agor and I have very different approaches to making music. I’m much more structured, and I take a lot more time with things and I think a lot about it. Agor’s very like, spur of the moment. So sometimes that can clash, where I’ll get frustrated or something if he moves too quickly and I’ll feel like I’m holding him back. So we decided that, with this record, we both have our own talents to offer to the record but we just needed to do it separately. AGOR: If you listen lyrically, to everything pretty much except for those two songs we released, a lot of lyrics, which are all Raph’s obviously, I read them as this sort of pushing away but also pulling in, that idea of us as a team, and what we have to offer, and just as individuals and as a relationship, and stuff like that. RAPH: The record was such an interesting undertaking, because it was this form of bringing us together but it was also this sort of cathartic time, just doing it alone and Agor sleeping in the other room and I would be awake from like 10PM to 5AM, and he would do that the next night and I would go to bed. Rather than talking about something we wanted to fix we would just do it. So we totally bypassed this human conversation, we just did it musically. I thought that was really nice, because I find that that’s the difficulty in bands, just getting that communication under wraps. I’m still struggling with it in Braids, we’re a lot better now. But to really try and push that talking aside and just do it through composing, that was really liberating. I really liked that.
Another duo I really like, Twigs & Yarn, recorded their album apart as well. AGOR: One thing for sure is it was difficult making this record, but that’s inspiring to me because I feel like even though we’re different and it was different, I feel like it did come together and I learned a lot. We’re going to be able to do some really amazing shit in the future and I’m really proud of this. I think that if people are having trouble with shit, to remember that it’s important, and it can be done. RAPH: I find that, right now especially, there’s a stigma surrounding acknowledging that what you do is actually really important. Like everyone just wants to think of things as not being a big deal, people say maybe music isn’t a big deal. But I think that it is, for instance, for me, it gives me my purpose and with the music that they listen to it gives them they’re sense of purpose. AGOR: Just one less lost person in the world. RAPH: I think that’s what we’re looking for. Direction and purpose. To me it’s really important.
Carl Craig & Moritz Von Oswald – Intro
John Talabot – So Will Be Now feat. Pional
Aphex Twin – Lichen
Flow Child – Cool Rider
Domo Genesis – Clear Eyes
Autechre – Corc
Nic Sarno – Skills
Burial – Forgive
Aphex Twin – Fingerbib
Pawel – Alvin
Majical Cloudz – Dream World feat. Grimes
Oumou Sangaré – Djorolen
Carl Craig & Moritz Von Oswald – Intro
Aphex Twin – Lichen