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New Music: Heavy Hawaii's Summertime Blues

Heavy Hawaii's fittingly retro E.P. cover
Heavy Hawaii's fittingly retro E.P. cover

Summery riffs and breezy vocals may seem an unlikely November soundtrack, but a closer listen to up-and-coming indie group Heavy Hawaii reveals a not-so-sunny sensibility.

“Our name comes from the influence of tropical surf, but with depressing, dark undertones,” says lead singer Matt Bahamas. “Kind of obvious when you listen to the music.”

This tenebrous, tongue-in-cheek take on The Beach Boys is all the more apparent in their first video, “Summer Suicide,” which features footage of hula dancers sashaying in slow-mo to the mellow, melancholic track (see below).


And it works – recent features in "Vice" and "Nylon," a nominee for Best New Artist at the San Diego Music Awards and a cult following around town have followed, with a west coast tour wrapping up this month.

Bahamas (which, yes, is his on-stage alter ego) began Heavy Hawaii last summer after his first group, Fantastic Magic, split up, with ex-member Nathan Williams creating an unassuming little group called WAVVES (who you may have heard of).

The trio’s other third, Sundar Whalen, teamed up with Bahamas to recruit Heavy Hawaii members Jojo KeyLargo, Mikey Peterson, Derek Butler and Aimee Sanchez.

Their most recent self-titled E.P. features tracks like “Teen Angel” and “Sleeping Bag,” which lull the listener into a languid sort of limbo contest. It’s 60s beach culture ephemera, bottled and spiked – not surprisingly, Bahamas counts Beach Boys frontman Brian Wilson and Joe Meeks as major influences.

“Good music is something so familiar, but at the same time something so surprising,” he says.


And no turf wars here. Bahamas lists homegrown groups like Crocodiles, Christmas Island, the Raw Moans and more as favorites. Next up in the new year: a full-length record produced by Art Fag and plenty more locals-only shows.

“We love to play at the Tin Can Ale House,” says Bahamas of their favorite venue in town. “It’s a block away from Balboa Park, and it’s got great sound.”

“They only serve beer,” he adds, “but on the same block is a tranny bar that serves the most generous shots in San Diego and a liquor store where you can buy all your ‘in the park’ pre-drink necessities.”

Spoken like a true… well, you know.

"Summer Suicide" by Heavy Hawaii