Picking Up Good Vibrations

Bill Mossman
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August 31, 2011
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Recording new material took a backseat to family affairs for reggae stalwarts Natural Vibrations over the past years. Now, the band is back with a smoking-new, fuel-injected album

Once upon a time in Kahaluu, the neighbors weren’t feeling so irie about vocalist Penidean Puaauli and his reggae-loving bandmates. It was circa early ‘90s and the fledgling group’s evening jams, filled with bass thumps and drum crashes, were causing a lot of unwanted, unnatural vibrations for residents up, down and across dark and quiet Okana Road. So, the neighbors decided to pull the plug on the music in the only way they knew how.

“Every time we practiced, they would call the cops,” Puaauli recalls. “The cops would show up and they’d say, ‘Eh, Natural Vibes. You guys gotta stop. Get too much noise.’”

Fortunately, this tale has a happily-ever-after ending, for soon after the band released its first opus, Balls Rolling, many of those same residents began feeling Da Vibes for the first time, shaking their okoles to the band’s style of Hawaiian roots music.


Or as Puaauli says, “After the radio stations started playing our first song, Luv Me Now, nobody ever, ever complained again.”

True dat. Today, Natural Vibrations is still recognized as one of Hawaii’s foremost reggae bands. Its party-style lyrics and sound have been a staple on radio stations here and abroad over the past 15 years, thanks to timeless groove-worthy tunes such as Put A Little Love and Shawty.

Natural Vibrations is, from left, Wayne Enos, guitar-vocals; Penidean Puaauli, vocals; Stacy Medeiros, drums; Shane Abraham, keyboards-vocals; Jehua Evans, bass-vocals; and Kayton Macariola, percussion-vocals. Photo courtesy of Go Aloha Entertainment

Now comes the band’s latest effort, Got This Music, scheduled for release Sept. 6. For fans, it’s been five long years since Natty Vibes cut its last fulllength CD, but Puaauli says the delay comes with good reason.

“Basically, we took a backseat to the family process,” explains the singer. “The wives and girlfriends had sacrificed a lot for the first 10 years the band was together, and the guys felt it was their turn to sacrifice by taking care of their families. We felt that once the families were good and happening, we could get back together and have room to expand and make more music.”

Musical Notes caught up with the group’s frontman between family obligations and offered him a “Peni” for his thoughts about Got This Music.

MN: So when is the big CD release party?

PP: Oct. 29 at Aloha Tower with J Boog and Anuhea.

MN: You and the boys decided to collaborate with other musicians on this project. Who are some of the featured artists on the album?

PP: There’s my daughter, Quela, who does a duet with me on Don’t Worry, our first single off the album. We also brought in other artists like 2Boi, Papa T from B.E.T and Andy Sexton from Simplisity.

MN: How’s Got This Music different from your first five full-length albums?

PP: I’d say this is the best album we’ve done to date. It’s capturing a new and fresher Natural Vibes, but with an edge. If you listen to the kids nowadays like Kolohe Kai and Rebel Souljahz, they’re mixing it up and it seems to be working. We’re old school guys, but we figured we could learn a couple new tricks here. Before, we’d record by going into the studio and playing our instruments. But this time, we brought in Imua Garza and gave him the reins, the blueprints and asked him to interpret our music. He ended up producing all our music tracks.


MN: So everyone was on board with this change in the recording process?

PP: No, not everybody embraced it. Like I said, we got some old school guys among us and they love carburetors more than fuel-injection. But we decided to put in the fuel-injection anyway just to give our car a nice, young and vibrant feel. We also decided to record this way to cut down on time and cost. I imagine if we had adopted this process 10 years ago, we probably would have doubled the amount of albums we produced in that time. But next time, who knows? Maybe we’ll mix it up, find a happy medium where we get back to recording live a little.

MN: How would you describe the group’s evolution over the past 20 years?

PP: I’d say each album has seen a gradual upgrade in ability, skill and craft. Each album has also prepared us for the next level of writing original music.

Still, I sometimes listen to our early stuff and I go, oh, I wish I could go back and fix it. But as I was told by Kapena’s Kelly Boy De Lima, that’s how you grow. You look back and you can either change, or you can use the same recipe and just keep maturing in your music.

SMALL-KINE notes:

If you happened to be around in the early ‘80s, you may recall Hawaii, a contemporary Hawaiian/rock ‘n’ roll outfit that enjoyed some success in Waikiki with its live performances. Well, it turns out that band members Brian Hamilton, Ted Among, Danny Lee and Dennis Robinson have been experiencing a rebirth of sorts lately, according to their producer Eddie Tanori. Not only has the group re-released its compilation CD Resurrection on its 10th anniversary, but the band also is laying the groundwork for its first full-length album in more than a quarter of a century. And while the band is still incomplete a new keyboardist is needed its producer, the one-time manager of Imua Garza and the Opihi Pickers, expects the latest offering to be available to fans soon. “We definitely will release it before the end of the world in December 2012,” quips Tanori, his comment dripping with sarcasm. “Just in case the incoming aliens decide they want to pick up the album.” Until the new CD is cut, readers can find Resurrection at Hungry Ear Records in Kailua, Hawaii’s Natural High in Waikiki and online at CD Universe.


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