By DENA CASSELLA
Island Sun Weekly—
First-timers watching Zack Shimizu and Elijah Oguma perform can’t help but mutter astonishments—who are these guys—and snake their heads back and forth, charmed by the beat. Defying what locals define as “Hawaii’s sound”, Sing the Body has been pulsating on the edge of Honolulu’s downtown music scene for nearly two years, bringing hungry crowds into multiple venues to feast on their alternative vibe and spirited stage presence. With the recent release of their second album “Contrast”, band members Shimizu and Oguma—local boys, both born and raised on Oahu—push their talents further in a fusion of 11 original and infectious songs.
The band once again teamed up with ‘Aumakua Records, Soul Sound Studio and producer Kelli Heath Cruz. Starting the album off with a bang, the first track “Pbjy” is an all-instrumental jam that unzips your head and reverberates within your mind. A hefty electric guitar and the bouncing beat of a kick-drum introduce the listener to one of Sing the Body’s many skills—completely rocking out on any instrument available to them. The band says they decided to keep it an instrumental because they didn’t want to “ruin the vibes.”
From there, tracks two through six continue with an energetic, electric nature, while seven through 11 hold a more acoustic and mellow air. Listening to the album in its entirety is a journey and shows the multiplicity of Sing the Body’s abilities. Track eight, one of Shimizu’s favorite songs on the album, features Grammy award-winning Cellist Chris Chorney and lap-steel guitarist Kilin Reece in a strikingly beautiful song called “Under Eyed Child.”
“This track just came out so well and we’re really proud of it,” said Shimizu. “I got chicken skin when I heard it for the first time. It was so cool to hear and it turned out way better than I had imagined. I listen to it every once in a while just because I like it so much.”
The sounds and mood of Contrast pleasingly changes, evolving and allowing each song to hold its own distinct tone within the album. Listening to the complexity within each song, it’s hard to imagine that it’s just two guys producing all that sound—a phenomenon one must see to believe. “I think people need to see us live to really understand our music,” explained Shimizu. “You have to see Eli rocking out all over the stage, switching from drums to guitar. We’re very physical performers. We have to use so many different tools to execute the song. During performances I love looking over at Eli and watch him do his thing, and I think ‘damn, I’m lucky I got this guy on my team.’”
Physical doesn’t even begin to describe Sing the Body on stage. They are as Walt Whitman terms the namesake poem—electric. Aside from accompanying each other’s smooth vocal harmonies, the band also utilizes a snare drum, tom drum, mini Korg synthesizer, ukulele, acoustic guitar, electric guitar and a kick-tambourine (a tambourine set-up and played by Oguma like a kick-drum) while on stage to produce their refreshing sound.
Sing the Body’s manager, local promoter and producer Brandon Apeles, has helped spread their music throughout the Islands. His knowledge and long-time experience within Hawaii’s music industry makes him an amazing resource for the band, says Shimizu. Within the past year, Apeles booked Sing the Body several high-profile gigs, including opening for national acts including The Shins, Airborne Toxic Event and Grouplove. This past January, the BAMP Project promoters opened up the Republik’s concrete arena to hundreds of Sing the Body fans for the band’s first-ever headlining show with a turnout Shimizu and Oguma called “stunning.”
“To see that many people come out and support our music was amazing. I seriously was only expecting 50 people to show up. I honestly forgot that people enjoy our music—Eli and I would still be making it regardless, but it’s really cool to see people enjoying our sound,” Shimizu said.
The Mountain Apple Company, which is distributing Contrast, has been interested in working with the duo since the Alternative HI compilation CD. “Sing the Body is one of the most exciting and innovative groups I’ve seen and I’m so pleased they finally have a new CD for us to enjoy,” said Shelley Coscina, Vice President of The Mountain Apple Company.
Working with Hawaii’s biggest record label has inspired the band to keep envisioning their future. Shimizu says their next goal is to do a West Coast tour to gain national exposure. “Getting picked up by Mountain Apple was so amazing. It is such an honor to have them sell our CD. We need to keep working hard and getting our music out there. The ultimate goal for us is to tour. That dream, I can almost see it now. Before, that was just a dream, but now I can see it and it could be real,” said Shimizu.
Contrast is currently available in stores and on iTunes.