cover photo Arvida Byström
photography Arvida Byström & Marilis Cardinal
words Zarah Cheng
I hate it when I google Blue Hawaii and images of toxic fluorescent blue tiki bar hangovers show up. That’s not what I want. I add the word “band” behind the search term and the Montreal-based duo shows up instead. Much better. We chat with Blue Hawaii’s Alex “Agor” Cowan about how the Agor Edits mixtape came together.
Blue Hawaii brings to mind an ethereal reverie soaked in aquamarine hues. The music of Raphaelle “Ra” Standell-Preston and Alex “Agor” Cowan pulses with a subtle urgency that is barely subdued by an electronic layer of building expectancy. With their 2013 LP, Untogether, Ra and Agor created an expanse filled with cloudless space and dream-like minimalism. Reimagining this dreamscape, the band released the Agor Edits mixtape last month. The 9-track release, meant to be played as a continuous stream, is faithful to Blue Hawaii’s sound but also incorporates influences from Agor’s DJ sets. The result is a refreshing take on Blue Hawaii. From the almost claustrophobic mix of “Sweet Tooth ($ Edit)” to the hip hop-influenced, “Strawberries and White Light (Edit),” Agor Edits is at once familiar and new. Feel free to dance.
CREEP: You’re known as Alex “Agor” Cowan. Where does that nickname come from?
Alex: AGOR is a US Oceanographic Vessel, but my specific name comes from my little brothers and sister not being able to pronounce "Alexander" when we were younger.
Was there a concept that you mapped out for the mixtape before recording it?
Yeah, the transformation that takes place between a released recording and its live enactment. This was meant as a display of how our songs changed when we started to play them live.
Did you set out to make a mixtape that would be played in one continuous stream?
Yes! I wish there was a way of streaming it in a continuous way and still being able to link tracks. You can download the whole uninterrupted mixtape here.
You’ve been DJing a lot recently. How much did this side of yourself, as an artist, affect the edits?
The second half of the tape is the strongest affected by this. More consistent, house-y tempos.
For me, “Sweet Tooth” probably underwent the greatest transformation out of all the songs. It was a beautifully melancholic song on Untogether (2013) that felt really spaced out. But on Agor Edits, it felt almost claustrophic even though emotionally, it was just as visceral. What sort of emotions and thought processes went into transforming the song?
Ummmm just trying to make it intense on a dance floor, tension and releases and builds...but still maintaining a full vocal and the essential song structure.
Blue Hawaii just finished a massive tour in 2014. What do you hope a crowd takes away from a Blue Hawaii show?
Hopefully haven't danced the whole time. We often have the best success with this in places like Mexico, Russia, Thailand, et cetera…
What’s next for Blue Hawaii?
I'm going to produce and DJ this year, and Ra is going to be touring with Braids, so expect more like this from me. And we'll both reconvene in 2016.
You’re forced to watch one movie on repeat for the rest of your life. What movie would you be stuck watching for eternity?
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
How many Blue Hawaii cocktails can you drink in one sitting?
None. They are disgusting.
What creeps you out the most?
The carpet in the apartment I'm currently renting in LA... probably has so much "history" I don't know about.
Posted on January 25, 2015