Jake McMullen

Jake McMullen

HAWAI, Ruby Haunt

Tue · August 22, 2017

8:00 pm


This event is 21 and over

Jake McMullen
Jake McMullen
Jake McMullen had to leave California in order to discover it.

"I was in Nashville the first time someone introduced me to Jackson Browne and all those Laurel Canyon songwriters," remembers McMullen. "I was 18 or 19 years old, and I don't think I'd fully realized the power of songwriting up until that point, that it could carry such weight. I knew what songs did for me as a listener, but I hadn't realized that I could create that myself as an artist."

Now in his 20's, McMullen is still a young man, but one well beyond his years when it comes to harnessing the power of songs. He writes with a deep emotional sophistication, blending light, airy melodies with rich, vivid imagery. On his new EP, 'Giving Up,' the Nashville transplant pushes his sound into decidedly un-Nashville territory, crafting immersive, percussion-and-synth-driven soundscapes that showcase both his unique vocals and his off-kilter musical instincts.

'Giving Up' follows McMullen's 2015 debut EP, 'Always,' which delved into a rootsier side of his artistry. Praised by Paste for its "emotional melodies that…tug on the heartstrings," the EP racked up more than three million streams on Spotify and earned love from tastemaker NPR stations like WXPN, which fell for McMullen's "tenderly sung and played" brand of introspection. Consequence of Sound hailed the arrival of McMullen's "mature voice," while Pop Matters extolled his "surreally beautiful" songwriting, and Culture Collide said his "pure timbre is a warm embrace."

When it came time to record the follow-up, though, McMullen felt the pull of a new sonic palette, one indebted to 80's icons like Lionel Richie and Peter Gabriel as well as the breezy West Coast vibes of his native California. It wasn't so much a conscious decision to shift directions as it was a natural progression, the result of a musically adventurous soul following his muse and allowing his songs dictate their own arrangements.

"On the last EP, songs would start with me messing around on the guitar or piano," says McMullen, "but this time around, I was using keyboards and drum machines to create these sonic environments that I could step into and really inhabit. The songs came from me having more access to that kind of gear and learning how to record myself, too. I taught myself how to use software like Logic so I could capture the sounds I was hearing in my head."

Recorded in the studio of producer Micah Tawlks' house in the dead of winter, the EP opens with the reverb-drenched guitar line of "Falling," which makes potent use of open space and infectious polyrhythm. While songs on the 'Always' EP grew up out of McMullen's quest for recovery from a dark period in his life, new tracks like "Falling" find him emerging from the experience stronger and more self-assured. He's come to recognize that's there's no one substance that can cure the ache inside of us, no quick fix when it comes to coping with the weight of life, and that's okay. In McMullen's music, acceptance is half the battle.

"Falling" leads into a cover of "Dancing On My Own," which reimagines Robyn's dance floor hit as a moodier, more meditative ballad. The measure of any cover is its ability to offer new perspective on familiar material, and here McMullen strips the song of its glossy pop sheen in order to highlight the immense sadness and longing of the lyrics. Though he was initially skeptical of recording a cover with so much of his own material in the tank, McMullen's compelling take on the song has already proven to be an unexpected hit, with more than a million streams on Spotify and prominent playlist features.



1. HAWAI is a band not a state.


2. From Southern California, Orange County to be exact.


3. Makes sun-kissed alternative music that feels alive.

4. Here's the story so far…

Behind every band there's a longtime bond.

HAWAI began to attract national attention by landing multiple tracks on the Hype Machine charts and signing to Antler Records in 2016. However, their musical union can actually be traced back to when Jake Pappas [vocals, guitar], Jesse Dorman [drums], and Jared Slaybaugh [bass, vocals] first started jamming together as young teenagers in their native Orange County. Countless gigs would follow as they sharpened their chops. Eventually forming their original band J. Thoven and adding Matt Gillen [keyboards, synth] and Jack Rose [guitar] to the fold, the boys commenced work on a proper EP in 2015.

A certain revelation encouraged by producer Lars Stalfors [Cold War Kids, Deap Vally] would evolve both their style and name…

"Lars really broke down the DNA of a song," says Jake. "Our music was a bit schizophrenic in the past with J. Thoven. It was more folk rock. Lars showed us you can still be creative and take pride in musicianship, while adhering to a traditional structure. It was eye-opening. We took our ideas and turned them into fully fleshed out songs. We thought, 'If we're going to reinvent ourselves, now is the time for a name change.' We wanted something recognizable and memorable that would evoke emotions when you hear it. HAWAI stuck. We just dropped the 'i' to make it our own."

With Lars at the production helm, the band cut their Working All Night EP [Antler Records] in Southern California. The first single and opener "In My Head" would stir up a local buzz, even gaining spins on KROQ. With its lush guitars, energetic beat, cinematic production, and unshakable refrain, it's liable to stay stuck in your head for long after one listen.

"The song itself has a little bit of aggression to it," the frontman goes on. "It's from a particular time period really marked by a lot of frustration. Lyrically, it tells a fictitious narrative of this person with a superficial and artificial definition of love—that cliché of hearts and sex. Love is a much a deeper thing. It's this selfish perspective of love."

Elsewhere on the EP, "Fault" glides between a clean guitar hum and an expansive vocal line. Coming to life on-screen, its music video features Cold War Kids bassist Matt Maust actually creating the Working All Night cover. Meanwhile, the song "All Night" mirrors the musicians' tireless commitment to their own art.

"When I moved to L.A., my wife and I were expecting our first child," recalls Jake. "Working more heavily in music was going to be my general focus. When you find out you're having a kid, your focus becomes directed elsewhere. It was really written for my unborn son saying, 'I will work as much as I can to provide for you.' On a larger level, it's reflective of the band's commitment to music. We're willing to work as hard as we can for it."

Underneath the beachy gusts of guitars and keys, shimmering soul, and iridescent hooks, HAWAI's island houses an inspiring message.

"I want to make an impact in terms of what the lyrics are about," Jakes leaves off. "It's important to convey something that can help people. There's a power within music. It can be a healthy tool to use. We treasure that."
Ruby Haunt
Ruby Haunt
Childhood friends, Ruby Haunt (fka Haunt) is an american musical project conceived by Wyatt Ininns and Victor Pakpour sometime in 2015. The duo wrote their first three EPs while in school via opposite ends of the west coast (Los Angeles and Portland), exchanging musical ideas over email. In this time they received support from Nowness, Track + Field Records, C-Heads Magazine, and various tastemaking YouTube channels for their unique songwriting and self-produced music videos.

In 2016 the boys saw a move to L.A. where they wrote their debut LP ‘Sugar’, their first written together in a small ocean front house in Laguna Beach, California. ‘Sugar’ was self-released in October 2016, featuring collaborations with the renowned photographer Henrik Purienne, film duo Wissa for their Roberto Cavali campaign in Vogue Italia, and a critically praised remix by Nutrition released on Majestic Casual Records. 2017 sees the duo busy at work on their next EP and a live show that will tour towards the end of the year.
Venue Information:
428 S Hewitt Street
Los Angeles, CA, 90013