I was in my bedroom, trying not to wake people up, so my songs came out naturally quiet and sad," says Corey Teruya, letting out a chuckle as he reflects on his early songwriting efforts. "Now we can make a little more noise."
Indeed. The Hawaiian-born songwriter and his Hello Kavita bandmates recently finished work on their poignant and scintillating debut, And Then We Turned Sideways. Diverse and dynamic, the disc reveals many more influences than the typical "sad bastard" singer-songwriter fare. While a gloomy cloud still hangs over the songs, occasional rays of California-rock sunshine and Nashville skyline lend a bittersweet mood to the music, recorded and produced by local luminary Ian Hlatky.
With characteristic humility, Teruya credits the evolution of his songwriting and the act's sound to his bandmates — guitarist Luke Mossman, multi-instrumentalist Ian Short, bassist Jimmy Stofer and drummer Leor Manelis — who all contribute their ideas, styles and attitudes to Hello Kavita.
CD-release show, with Paper Bird, Joshua Novak and the Dan Craig Band, 8 p.m. Saturday, April 5, Larimer Lounge, 2721 Larimer Street, $8, 303-292-3666.
"It started with me," Teruya notes, "and I met Ian and Luke through mutual friends." Last summer, Stofer — who also plays with Dualistics, played previously with Bop Skizzum and the Fray and sits in with many of Denver's top acts, including Meese and John Common — was so struck by Teruya's sincerity and vulnerability that he asked if he could join on bass. And at the beginning of this year, Manelis — who already had a full plate with his work in Three Cheers Faraday and Blue Light — was similarly moved by a Hello Kavita performance and offered his services as drummer, taking the throne that had been occupied previously by Steven Brooks and Hlatky.
"I've always liked the band," Manelis explains. "But when I saw them at the Meadowlark that night, I really wanted to let them know."
Short and Mossman — who moonlights in Achille Lauro — are equally excited to be a part of bringing Teruya's irresistibly moving, delightfully hummable songs to life. "Before Jimmy and Leor joined," Teruya recalls, "we often felt like we just wanted to get through a song or show and get it over with. Now we're all really comfy playing with each other. It's really natural."
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That newfound comfort comes across in the act's live performances, where beautifully melancholy, subtly energetic songs like "Late With the News" and "Pensa-cola" develop a power and a presence that connect with listeners and draw them in with quiet charisma that's even stronger than that of the recorded versions.
"It's nice to get this record out," says Teruya, visibly relieved. "It took almost a year and a half, and we already have another eight songs we're ready to record." Before the quintet heads back to the studio, however, Teruya and company want to hit the road and see how the songs are received outside of Denver.
"I think it would be really cool to have one thing to do all day," Mossman offers. "Just play a show — that's it."
Stofer, a road veteran himself, agrees: "When all you have to worry about is playing shows, it gives you a light of hope of the life you want to live."