Interview by Elvis Tangelo | Photography by Pattice Silverslide
In an age of siren music and vogueing, if someone were to drop a drum machine and a synthesizer into the ocean, what would be splashed back onto the shore? Well calling from a conch shell of glittery sand and glistening daydreams, a made up genre coined by a member of the oceanic diaspora beaches itself onto the sand to put forth it’s case - ‘Pacific Glamour’. The misfit who coined the term is none other than art slack, David Feauai-Afaese (formerly Dave Urso - somewhat LEAO), who has been making music from a variety of places, all which they are proud to technically say, the Pacific (namely Auckland, NZ). With a quick google images search on the word ‘glamour’, one will find themselves looking upon the most vague idea of what glamour could possibly be; firstly motorcycles, then Andy Warhol ripoff prints and finally white women in wispy evening dresses. However there is one lovely image from the School of Witchcraft website that offers a beautiful (and now being appropriated) explanation as to what glamour is, explaining it as “a form of magic, an illusion based on a projection of one’s magical energy altering the awareness of a physical form in order to trigger certain emotion(s). It makes objects or living things appear different from what they really are”. Sheesh. With all this said, below is a one-time made up interview with the Tamaki-based artist:
So what is Pacific Glamour?
On an intentional level, I don’t know. In a musical sense, I guess it’s aligned with say synth punk or some form of bubblegum pop or video game music. Visually, what I see in my head when I’m making songs I’d call pacific glamour-esque, it’s jewellery and lens flares surrounded by ocean and trees.
What do you mean by intentional?
Well I never really had an idea of what Pacific Glamour is or was, it was more sort of a ear worm catchphrase I thought sounded really cool and I think even now if I’m honest, it really is just a ear worm that now has a sprinkling of music throwaways I’ve uploaded to soundcloud that could possibly be put under the umbrella of ‘pacific glamour’. Buzzy I’m saying ‘possibly’, I made up the damn thing, so I guess they are pacific glamour, but I don't know.
At what time in your music journey did you come up with the term?
I think it would’ve maybe been about mid-2018 I’d say, maybe earlier. It was during a time where I had just gotten into Yellow Magic Orchestra via Haruomi Hosono who I had only known through his folk rock band, Happy End, at the time. Little did I know he was also a super important figure to what is now electronic music. Don’t mind me being under a rock. I think at the time the other flip-term, if that’s even a thing, for pacific glamour was ‘folk disco’, but I’ve since forgotten about that.
PS: David found a note dated 10/6/2018 noting "50's Synth Pop"
Would you say YMO is a big influence in the ‘Pacific Glamour’ sound?
Maybe not so much as to how I think about pacific glamour now, but definitely the ground to where everything gets sprung from, especially the video game music tonalities. The track ‘Behind the Mask’ is one of my favourites and the section where Sakamoto’s vocoder hook comes in just exudes a real awesome feeling of like a super glamourous discotech.
And the influences now?
Nowadays, Vada Vada acts like The Garden, Cowgirl Clue and then the synth work by David Loca (aka Part Time) and John Maus is sort of the primary influence in what I think pacific glamour is right now. That said a lot of the energetic space is informed by all sorts outside of music itself. Real big admirer of Jessica Hansell AKA Cocosolid, Pati Tyrell and the FAFSWAG whanau, my friend Gabi Maffey, who has always been a big inspiration for glamour and fashion.
What’s glamourous to you?
My friends [laughter] but in all seriousness, I guess maybe if you think of glam rock, there was an overboardness with the glitz, especially in it’s fashion and how beautiful it was, though sometimes tacky - but even the tackiness was still beautiful. Thinking about it now, I would’ve still had long hair at the time, but I was going through a phase where I was appreciating the sort of space around androgyny and was the first sort of stint of wearing jewellery and makeup. Reflecting on it now it was actually super trashy, but real beautiful nonetheless. I think nowadays, as someone that does a lot of thinking and feeling about space, I find the holding of space to be real glamourous, something I observe from others and feel within self, not only what people are wearing but the way we hold ourselves, when shoulders are pulled back, a light but held gaze, a powerful strut walk, the feeling of having movie cameras on you. It’s elevating and elevated even more I feel when you're in a space of music or performance - a dancefloor, a stage. I guess in a nutshell to answer the question, a strong presence can be quite glamourous, if not magical.
It seems like your feelings around space are quite cinematic
Yep [long pause] Yep, much to my own dismay [laughs]
I don’t know, it’s more my own sort of feelings around things being cinematic. It’s beautiful and kinetic as a film is and I believe we all play into this cinema that is life and the journeys that are commenced and intertwined is an awesome phenomenon to share in. I guess I’ve just been hyper aware of how much I think of things as cinematic that it sorta just feels ironic and funny. Sometimes the idea of cinema can be a distraction from reality, but what’s real right?
Now I get that Pacific Glamour takes its roots in electronic music, has that always been a place of interest for you?
I grew up with techno and house music. Just imagine chubby 7yr old David having a little rave on the way to school [laughs] It was my older siblings. My older brother used to collect these 90’s techno compilation CDs called ‘Wild’ and they just had all the classic club hits on ‘em. He passed those CDs onto my older sister, who played them around us younger siblings, then I eventually got into cats like Daft Punk, Benny Bennassi and Armand Van Helden. My older sister, Thelma, is a big musical influence, a lot of my musical bearings are owed to her, so I guess it’s natural for me to have wanted to dabble in electronic production, though I have many friends who do it way better.
What’s your favourite Daft Punk song?
Veridis Quo. Definitely that or Da Funk.
So I guess the question now is what’s the ‘Pacific’ in ‘Pacific Glamour’?
In all honesty, right now I think it’s just the placement of where the sound is being made, here in the pacific and by me, a pacific islander, which sounds like a stink answer but I think it stems from a very important conversation being had within our diasporic community. When I first coined the term, it was merely curiosity as to what an electronic pacific sound would even sound like, outside of standard conceptions of pacific music, which is primarily reggae and RnB. That conversation has since grown from talanoa with Larsen Taylor and our interchange of understandings of intention and manaakitanga for Noa Records, where I began to feel validated in holding space in something that isn’t perceptually ‘pacific’ per se because I acknowledge that I’m a pacific islander making this music in the first place. A lot of that energy is what got channeled into the ‘Ghost Roads’ project released at the end of last year. I feel like with a lot of the ideas I come up with I hope for other people to come share in its creation, I like coming up with ideas, but I'm pretty lazy with it’s execution. I think at the moment, I’ve had sort of a romantic ear in terms of what pacific glamour can be. I think of how exotica music pulled a lot of it’s tonalities from island music and how breezy and romantic that style of music is, so fusing that with a sort of synth punk would be what pacific glamour would be right now - romantic chords and what not.
Did you try to channel any of those mentioned tonalities in ‘GHOST ROADS’?
Definitely. The ‘A Thousand Phantoms’ track on soundcloud, which I’d say is the first pacific glamour track, is the progenitor of that project in a way. When I was thinking of what sort of faasamoa project to make, the first thought that popped to mind was what would that track [A Thousand Phantoms] sound like with faasamoa lyrics. That demo eventually became ‘1000 FANTOMS’, where the hypnagogic pop style is maintained with synth strings and reverb-treated piano chords. As much as it is conceptually a post-punk album, I’m a pop head at heart so I try to channel that when I can. I’d like to think ‘PUA MALIU’ could also fit into the pacific glamour umbrella, the song sounds like ocean lipstick.
Ocean lipstick sounds like a catchy cosmetic brand, potential merchandise perhaps?
[laughs] Yeah it does have a ring to it doesn’t it. Could be tacky as well, but I did say something earlier about tackiness being beautiful still, so I’ll probably stick to my word.
Synth Punk, Post-Punk, Daft Punk - it seems like punk is a recurring theme within your process
It’s energy. It’s a capturing of the moment. And most importantly it’s messy and fast. A lot of the pacific glamour tracks carry this energy in the sense; aside from having punk-esque drums; that I made most, if not all of them in like 20 minutes. It didn’t brew in a conceptual soup, they just got thrown out the moment the feeling came, most of the time right before going to sleep. It’s fun and makes me less prone to caring whether it sounds finished or not.
Favourite punk acts?
The Germs, Bad Brains
So any plans on a Pacific Glamour project being released anytime soon?
Don’t bet your money on it.
Oka (rawfish salad) with taro.
End of interview