Kawaii Kountdown: The music in we

April 28th, 2011

Jason’s note: Anyone who’s ever tried to delve into the Star-Bulletin archive between September 2008 and the final day before the merger in early June 2010 may have noticed that things are a bit … messy … in there. A few stories here and there have gone missing, as have all the pictures (making any attempts to find, say, archived copies of the Sunday comic strips by Jon Murakami and Dave Thorne sadly impossible).

Among the articles that have seemingly vanished from the Internet: two Kawaii Kon preview profiles that ran in our weekend section, one from 2009 about the state librarians and Roy Chang’s art advice booth, the other from 2010 about musical guests Alt/Air and Eleven Staples. Since they’re still quite relevant, I’ve gone into our in-house archives and resurrected them for reposting here, adding some new pictures here and there and taking out a few things that applied when these articles first ran but no longer do.

In case you missed it earlier today, the 2009 article, which originally ran with the headline “Teaching with a Kawaii twist,” has been posted here; here’s the article from last year.


Japanese animation (anime) and comics (manga) may grab most of the attention of Kawaii Kon attendees this weekend, but music concerts will play a role in the convention experience as well.

Since 2005, Kawaii Kon has featured performances by Japanese pop singers Yoko Ishida and Mari Iijima and rock bands Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re and the Emeralds. Even voice actor Vic Mignogna has slipped behind the keyboard for a few performances.

This year, the convention is taking a more home-grown approach, with two local bands performing: Alt/Air and Eleven Staples.

Alt/Air is comprised of Aly Ishikuni on vocals and Brandon Udani, who goes by the alias of Kowai Kowai, as DJ. The duo’s music blends ethereal, electronic beats with songs heavily influenced by Japanese pop.

Ishikuni and Udani have known each other since 2006, when they shared a common interest in Capsule, a Japanese electronic music duo. They soon began collaborating online, with Udani setting down beats and Ishikuni would add her vocals.

But it wasn’t until a few months ago that they formed Alt/Air, deciding on their band name after a night spent searching for random names on Google.

“I found ‘Altair,’ which is the brightest star in this constellation, and I thought, ‘Oh, this sounds kind of cool,’” Ishikuni said. “So I decided to split it into Alt/Air. Spice it up a bit.”

They came up with a couple of songs in three days — “We were just excited about everything,” Udani said — then debuted at an event for groundUP International, their management agency, two weeks later. In attendance was Kawaii Kon Vice Chairman Chris Macedonio, who offered them a spot on the Kawaii Kon roster of featured guests soon afterward.

“We totally didn’t expect to be playing something, somewhere so big,” Ishikuni said.

Tomorrow night’s two-song set and extended DJ mix may be Alt/Air’s first large-scale performance as a unit, but both Ishikuni and Udani have the musical pedigrees to pull it off. While in high school, Ishikuni auditioned for and eventually signed with Avex, a Japanese recording label. She worked on several projects in Japan, the most notable being a collaboration with Japanese recording artists BoA and M-Flo, Christina Milian and Howie Dorough of the Backstreet Boys on several songs for the Japanese “Bratz” TV series.

Ishikuni’s time in Japan was an experience she described as “really fun and stressful at the same time.” She eventually broke off from Avex and returned to Hawaii, forming another local band, Explorer, for a few years.

Udani got into music in seventh grade, when a friend left his guitar at his house during a vacation.

“I taught myself how to play guitar, taught myself how to play music and everything,” Udani said. “I started playing … making music on the computer with Windows MIDI and stuff, built-in sounds and everything. From there I bought new programs and hardware, experimenting in my room.”

Alt/Air may not be as well known as the other voice actors and anime industry figures headlining Kawaii Kon, but Ishikuni and Udani hope attendees will come and check them out.

“We just want people to have fun,” Ishikuni said. “We just want them to dance, just have a good time. That’s the main thing.”

(Note from 2011: Alt/Air will be performing Saturday from 8 to 9 p.m. in the Main Events room; expect some new songs and old favorites remixed in a fresh way.)

ONE GROUP of anime fans is taking their convention fun one step further this year, forming a band and performing some of their favorite anime and video game theme songs during one of the convention’s fan-run panels.

Eleven Staples is largely a family affair, with keyboardist/singer Megan Teruya joined by brother Ryan on drums, brother Nolan on bass and cousin Jennifer Nose on guitar. The only person not related is singer Erin Tamura, last year’s winner of Kawaii Kon’s Karaoke Kompetition.

“Megan’s my friend and I know she has a musical background, and she also sings,” Tamura said. “So we were just kind of like, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we got together and did a band?’ And I heard the rest of her family was really musical, too, so it just kind of kept going from there.”

The band started up with Tamura and the Teruya siblings in September, with Nose joining in January — “which was good, because we really needed a guitarist,” Megan Teruya said. They found free time whenever they could to practice, with the goal of performing at Kawaii Kon this year.

“We’re just doing this for fun, mostly for the con,” Megan said. “That’s kind of our main goal, to maybe be able to play at the con next year, too … maybe add some original songs. I don’t know if we’re going to do any other gigs, because … everybody like my brothers and (Jennifer), they have future plans that are away from Hawaii. So I’m not sure how long we’re going to do this yearly thing.”

The group’s six-song set promises to showcase the group’s diverse talents — expect to see Nolan with his violin at some point and Tamura with her flute. The exact song list remains under wraps, but the group will say the songs draw from pop/rock and Japanese pop influences, along with some traditional folk songs and ballads. One of the songs will also shed some light on why the band is called “Eleven Staples” — suffice it to say for now that the “staples” in the band’s name is in tribute to that song, which got the ball rolling between Tamura and Megan to form the band.

As for the “eleven?” That was the number the four original members came up with in adding up each of their favorite numbers. (As it turns out, it’s also the age difference between the oldest and youngest members.)

“We’ve been working hard; we’ve been having fun, too,” Tamura said. “We just hope people will come and they enjoy hearing us play and they have a good time and we hope to add to their con experience.”

(Note from 2011: Eleven Staples will be performing an 11-song set – and introducing their sixth member, rhythm guitarist Kyla, to boot! — in the Special Events room from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. tomorrow night.)

One Response to “Kawaii Kountdown: The music in we”

  1. Otaku Ohana - Hawaii News - Staradvertiser.com:

    [...] Staples, the six-member group that thrilled audiences at the 2010 and 2011 conventions. I wrote a profile of the band in 2010, one that also featured my favorite picture of vocalist Erin Tamura, keyboardist/vocalist Megan [...]

Leave a Reply