Brandon Udani + Jason Takahashi

Brandon Udani is a musician who goes by Kuro Kumo, Kowai Kowai and makes up half of the band Alt/Air. Jason Takahashi is the designer of clothing line and storefront, Vizume. Here, they discuss their personal experiences on how Hawai’i can sometimes encourage mediocrity and what living in a small town can feel like when your world view is larger than your surrounding. 

Interview: Brandon Udani + Jason Takahashi (Jaytee)  |  Photography: Vizume, Annie Nguyen

SIL_Y: How did it start for you both? Brandon, how did you get into music? Jason, how did you get into fashion?

Jaytee: I never planned to be in fashion.  Fashion was always a part of the culture I grew up in, but was never my focus.  I originally started in graphic design. I think my scattered brain led me from design to music, then finally to this.  I think fashion became the final place I landed because I realized I could encompass all things I enjoyed into creating this brand.  Vizume allows me to creatively do design, music (through our listening parties) and fashion as well.

Brandon: Music has always been a big part of my life. My teenage years were skateboarding and music. It was from going to punk/metal shows and feeling that energy made me want to create music and give people that same feeling. Picking up the guitar and playing in bands took over the skateboarding part of my life. I learned how to use a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation aka use a computer to write music) shortly after high school and started to create electronic beats. There’s so much you can do with software based instruments and effects nowadays it's amazing. I will forever be on a journey to create something new and different sounding.

SIL_Y: Does the environment you’re in have an impact on your creative process?

Jaytee: Most of the time I'm in Hawai‘i...otherwise I'm traveling.  Either way, my immediate geographic environment impacts me, but not in a traditional sense.  While I'm in Hawai‘i I look outwards for motivation, inspiration and methods or means to a result.  My creative process doesn't start in Hawai‘i.  When I'm traveling, I'm more likely to look for creative inspiration and motivation by my surroundings and the world I'm in.

Brandon: Yes it does. There are some guys pushing the boundaries of music, but it’s more so you just find things on the internet. Experiencing that in person is more like waiting to be at a concert or flying people down. I grew up earlier to where I understand an older crowd and also, there’s this new thing with kids on the internet finding cool things; that’s how they live. It’s a positive thing because you’re not surrounded or lost in a huge scene. I’d blend in and would be suffocated by the same sound outside of Hawai‘i. Being distant from that kind of helps, but also being distant shuts me out of the whole “What’s going on out there?”

Jaytee: What Brandon said is correct.  It definitely is a positive thing since we are somewhat of the minority here. Since my creative work is going mostly to building Vizume now, I can say we definitely stand out here, and we also might be suffocated by the same relative things if we were located outside of Hawai‘i, but I think that's a double edged sword, and for me, the suffocation could definitely lead to progression; it creates a NEED to think forward.  So I find that to be the lesser evil of the double edged sword.  I think the greater evil is the complacency that Hawai‘i creates and in turn the fear of change and "what is new".  That side of the blade cuts deeper because it's a restricting factor.  It sounds cliche but, everyone's greatest moments are when they forget the impossible and just MOVE.  If I were to let Hawai‘i restrict what I do, well, that would hurt me more.  This negativity actually impacts our business, and work, more than my creative process itself.

“It sounds cliche but, everyone's greatest moments are when they forget the impossible and just MOVE.  If I were to let Hawai‘i restrict what I do, well, that would hurt me more.”

– Jason Takahashi

SIL_Y: What is your outlook on doing creative work in Hawai‘i? Pros and Cons.

Brandon: The pro is that you would bring brand new things to Hawai‘i. The con would be that not everyone will take them the way you think. Your ideas might just flop because it’s not what they’re used to. You get to show people something new here, but at the same time there’s the chance of not having people accepting it. You get discouraged after awhile.

Jaytee: Here's the question!  This is a whole different topic and whole different answer; creative process vs. doing creative work in Hawai‘i. I think the pros and cons part are exactly what Brandon said.  My current outlook on creative work in Hawai‘i has been shaped by years of living here, seeing what happens here (both behind the scenes and in front), as well as traveling as much as possible and seeing what goes on outside of Hawai‘i.

The pro part of doing creative work in Hawai‘i, is like Brandon said; we get the chance to introduce new things (ideas and concepts or looks) and we also get to live in a geographical paradise (not necessarily a benefit to the creative process, but a life benefit, for some). For readers that are not from here, no one can dispute the fact that Hawai‘i is a paradise; I agree too.  However, introducing new elements and concepts to Hawai‘i is both a "pro" and a "con" at the same time. The question becomes whether or not people will accept it, or be intrigued by it, and ultimately who gets the credit for it; aka who reaps the work-side benefit for it.  I think the complacency and ultimately the fear-of-the-unknown, or possible ignorance that Hawai‘i breeds...the small-town-mentality, is restricting factor in creative work here.

I believe our creative process remains the same (unhindered by Hawai‘i) and the end product that we produce would and could be the same regardless of whether we were in Hawai‘i or not. We, as creatives, can introduce new music and fashion to Hawai‘i all we want but in the end, whether that amounts to anything is the question. The biggest con is whether the end-user is affected by it in some way.

SIL_Y: What is the creative pulse like in Hawai‘i?

Jaytee: I think there are two answers to this question; or two demographics.  There's the majority and the minority.  To each his own, but in my mind Hawai‘i's "small town mentality" is complacency and fear of the unknown coupled with pride and a growing need to "prove without reason".  This flows down to the "creative pulse" here. In the majority  I suppose another shirt telling people to "respect Hawai‘i" or another shirt with the words "Hawai‘i" or "Aloha", in a different font could be considered a pulse, but not to me.  The majority creative pulse in terms of creative work leaves no room for forward thinking or progression.  The real pulse is found in the minority, the ones that this blog is about.  But then again, I think the minority ends up leaving Hawai‘i.

I think the creative pulse in the majority is a big reason for my answer to the last question.  This is like the why to my outlook on creative work in Hawai‘i.  In the majority, the Hawai‘i-pride and need to “prove yourself” is overtaking the actual progression.  Representing Hawai‘i has become increasingly important to the "majority".  The majority Hawai‘i consumer won't be akin to purchasing something that they don't think represents Hawai‘i.  But they also won't accept something if it doesn't conform to their already tainted image of what "Hawai‘i” is.  So businesses make products that keep them alive like the "Aloha" or the "Respect Hawai‘i for no reason other then we'll beat you up if you don't" tees. It's a never ending downward spiral of redundancy and false pride.

“The pro is that you would bring brand new things to Hawai‘i. The con would be that not everyone will take them the way you think. Your ideas might just flop because it’s not what they’re used to. ”

– Brandon Udani

I think that's why the minority is less seen and less noticed and more times then not, have left Hawaii.  When they are noticed here in Hawai‘i, a lot of the minority creatives are doing "awareness" and "change your thinking" type of work, rather then pushing forward.  The minority creative pulse in Hawai‘i is met with a lot of resistance.  But the the minority creatives that have left Hawai‘i have given thought to the question "Is it worth it?"

Brandon: Yeah, that’s exactly the same for music. There’s no space for forward thinking. If it’s not backed by someone with the popular crowd...I remember playing a certain sound and no one gave a shit. Then some of the popular bands started picking up, and I was like “What the fuck?”

SIL_Y: Lastly, what’s next for you? 

Jaytee: Expansion?  Or relocation?  Honestly, I don't know.  I know we definitely won't let majority Hawai‘i guide our way for sure.  Maybe I'll open a coffee shop, because Starbucks is taking too much of my money right now and boutique coffee shops in Hawai‘i are too "cool" for me. Or maybe start a local brand called "Aloha" and only print t-shirts with "Aloha" on them and sayings about how people should respect Hawai‘i "just because."  *laughs*

Brandon:  More music. More creative adventures. More life. I’m very close to completing my schooling and I’m really excited for that. Putting on these parties with Jaytee is definitely on the “what’s next” list.

Find Brandon Udani online at his (Instagram | Website)
Find Jaytee online at Vizume (Instagram | Online Store)

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