Spine-tingling in production, ABUNAI’s latest track “sixteen hours” providing us with a sense of escapism as we enter the weekend. With whispered cadence, ABUNAI’s ethereal vocals float over a dreamy soundscape — complete with rhythmic hi-hats and a head-bopping beat. Laced with an ear-worming chorus of light guitar strings, the track is a percussion idyllic for those moments you need to unwind from the world and your own thoughts.
“It’s music for healing,” ABUNAI explains, “for the listener to be able to marinate in the slow tempos, the dreamy textures, the swirling vocals, and the lush synthesizers. It’s very much about growth, re-emergence, and dreaming of a better future.”
Sampling the psychedelic soul tendencies of his latest sophomore album Chrysalis, “sixteen hours” is an effortless depiction of the Oakland-based artist’s connections to Hawaii — and has us all riding the waves along with him.
To access ABUNAI’s Bandcamp, click here. To stream the track and to read our exclusive interview with the artist now, scroll below…
Hey ABUNAI how are you? How has this past year been for you?
I’m feeling a mixture of burnout and rejuvenation. It’s a strange place to be. The past year has been a roller coaster for me in many ways. Some of my highest highs and lowest lows. Between finishing my album, dealing with medical issues, caretaking, working, moving to LA, extended isolation, and getting to know myself a lot better, it feels like quite a journey.
The pandemic affected people in different ways, did it affect your creativity?
I definitely experienced the loss of inspiration that comes with not leaving the house, and not providing enough new input to my brain. But at the same time, I loved not having plans, not having to make the tough choices between working on music and having a social life. I’m grateful for the amount of time I got to spend in my home studio, because even though I ended so many days in frustration, I also was ready when the sparks came, able to catch the fleeting moments when everything just flowed.
Coming out of it and going back to live shows and performances, does that make you nervous?
It’s almost cliché, but I do really miss performing – I wasn’t performing much leading up to the pandemic so it’s been a long time for me. I’m excited to put together a band to perform this album at some point soon. But I’m also feeling a bit terrified of live performance currently, since I haven’t put in the time needed to prepare yet. We’ll get there.
Let’s start at the beginning, what inspired you to do music?
I recently watched some home videos from my toddler years and connected a few dots in my head. I am thankful to have grown up with a lot of great music playing on the stereo. My dad plays the piano, and sitting in his lap, I was banging out random notes to accompany my enthusiastic rendition of the alphabet song at the age of 2. I fell in love with jazz when I was in middle school and started a jazz & funk band with six of my friends.
And where are you from? Do you think your home inspired your music in any way?
I was born in San Francisco and spent most of my life in the Bay Area, with the exception of summers in Hawaii visiting my grandparents and my mom’s side of the family. The Bay has a rich cultural history and gave me access to a wide variety of musical genres, so I’ve always had an eclectic set of influences. I’ve realized that my sound is also quite indebted to my childhood love for the ocean, thanks to the beaches of Oahu. I think my music both sounds and feels aquatic, and this album particularly calls me back to my other home.
And now you’re dropping your LP Chrysalis, what does this project mean to you?
Chrysalis is a coming-of-age album for me. It is very much about growth, re-emergence, and dreaming of a better future. It’s about my experience growing up, trying to find my voice as an artist, learning how to love, building confidence in my identities and retreating from the world to hone my craft. It’s also the most deeply personal work I’ve created, and my first album as a lead singer, which is both vulnerable and empowering.
And the production process, what was the most challenging aspect?
This album was an incredibly isolated affair – trying to do almost everything myself, in a room by myself, with little human contact or collaboration. I’ve also been dealing with chronic eustachian tube dysfunction for the past year plus, which results in my hearing being muffled to varying degrees and near-constant popping and clicking sounds in my ears. This has put my patience to the test, and made the process of mixing my album a real personal battle. My parents recently reminded me that I also spent the first couple years of my life with muffled hearing, before I had ear surgeries. Everything sounded underwater to me, and I lived in my own sonic bubble. It all makes a lot of sense to me when I listen to my music now.
What do you hope people will take away from it?
My mom said the album left her with a hopeful feeling about the future, and that’s my intention in a nutshell. I hope Chrysalis can be a balm to listen to at any point in the roller coaster, to feel held, to feel safe, to exhale.
Who inspires you?
Frank Ocean, Solange, and D’Angelo have been my guiding lights creatively for a long time now. For this album specifically, I took inspiration from the immersive sounds of Nick Hakim, Lianne La Havas, Khruangbin, Crumb, Tom Misch & Yussef Dayes, and there’s definitely some audible influence of James Blake and Tame Impala.
What’s next, what are you most excited for?
My goal for the next year is to find new collaborators in LA. I miss jamming with people in the same room, holding down a bassline alongside a rock solid drummer, and the energy that comes from bouncing ideas back and forth. I’m curious to see what direction my music goes in – there’s no game plan at this point but that’s an exciting feeling.