Yes, the name sounds familiar and no, they don’t play Hawaiian music. Over the past 18 months, rock quartet Hello Mahalo has paid dues on the New England concert circuit while building a solid fanbase along the way, similar to kindred spirits Zox. Both bands shared the stage at last week’s WBRU Summer Concert Series, along with Badfish and Someday Providence.
UMass Dartmouth School of Music grads Joyce and guitarist Jared Pizarro recruited Justin Hardy and drummer Tom Stanwood and their distinct musical personalities quickly meshed. The four guys hail from random parts of southern Massachusetts but have firmly planted their roots here, thanks in large part to hiring Brown University alum Dilini Fernando last year. Mahalo is her first foray into management. It all started at the BandStandLive in Taunton, Massachusetts, a full-service practice space for aspiring acts, where Fernando works as general manager.
“They rehearsed at BandStand and played their first show just two days later,” Fernando recalled. “Four guys, practically strangers, played a 90-minute set as if they had been jamming together for years. I remember thinking if they could pull off a stunt like that in 48 hours, imagine what they could do with more time, effort, and planning . . . I truly believe Hello Mahalo has all the elements needed to be a nationally recognized band. It’s just a matter of growing into that role. They push each other in new directions and at the end of the day we are even more passionate about what we do.”
That “we” team spirit isn’t lost on the fellas who, in separate e-mails, all referred to Fernando as the fifth band member of Hello Mahalo.
“Without Dil’s guiding hand we wouldn’t be nearly as far along as we are,” drummer Stanwood said. “It’s not just her hard work and diligence that has helped us, the biggest thing is having someone there who truly believes in us. She keeps us moving forward, and slaps us around when we need it.”
But it’s no secret that breaking big outside of Providence is no easy feat, even with motivated management and talented musicians working as a unit. “You can travel and become a regional act, but it’s easy to get stuck playing close to home because this is where the majority of your fans are and where you feel most comfortable,” Joyce said. “And it’s never easy to capitalize on another city’s scene.” Stanwood agreed: “On the flip, though, the size of the fanbase here really allows fans to embrace each band, which is great, along with having so many great acts around to share the stage with.”
Having a rock-solid debut album doesn’t hurt. Produced by Ray Jeffrey (Dropkick Murphys), their October ’07 debut, Dawning Days, offers breezy jams and guitar-driven numbers, somewhere between Santana and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, with a dash of Sublime and 311 mixed in. Standout tracks include the summertime-flavored “Eternal Days,” the pogo-inducing fun of “Crowbar,” the rollicking “Mind Control,” and the title track and lead single, a crunching mid-tempo jam filled with guitar squalls and Stanwood’s airtight rhythms, complemented by Joyce’s Josh Homme-like falsetto. Dawning Days has garnered good press and is being spun on more than 200 indie and college stations across the US and Canada.