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After four long years of silence, former couple Raphaelle and Agor reunited last year as Blue Hawaii and began writing and recording their latest effort, Tenderness. It’s a pop masterpiece blending late ’90s hits and deep disco cuts. The colourful duo has returned in full force, heating up the clubs’ dancefloors on their way and looking as joyful as ever. With such a glow of positivity surrounding them, we wanted a piece of the action, and to frame it in time. So after a morning swim in the turquoise waters of Cancun, the duo was back in their hotel room ready for a FaceTime call while cutting watermelon and plugging in the gear for a long-due rehearsal session. While Mexican food was of course a major topic, we also squeezed in some chats about summer plans; the past, present and future of Blue Hawaii; and Agor’s reinvented career as DJ.
Interview by Julien Van de Casteele
Photos by Vinna Laudico, shot in Montreal
Styling by Kaitlyn Woodhouse
Raphaelle: Hey Julien, Alex just texted you a pic of where we are, it’s pretty idyllic.
Touring isn’t the same as vacationing, we don’t get to see much of the places we go to
What are you guys up to in Cancun?
R: We hadn’t taken time off in a while, so on our way to Mexico City we stopped off in the most convenient place. Not the most authentic place but it’s really nice. I thought I’d like it less, but I’ve found it very okay to be next to people enjoying the beach.
I’m just checking the picture… the color of the water is crazy! Speaking of colours, have you guys seen the pictures from the shoot yet?
R: No not yet!
Okay, I’ll forward them to you.
They’re very colourful and fit the tropical vibe we were looking for!
R: [Laughs] “The tropical vibes”. Oh yeah, this is a fantastic… Alex, they’re amazing.
Alex: That’s cute.
R: They worked out really well. The colours are really warm. Alex’s sweater really matches the chairs, the plants etc… The colour palette is great.
So apart from this pitstop in Cancun, anything else planned for summer?
R: Alex is heading to Budapest to visit his family. Then he’s going to Berlin. I’m spending the majority in Montreal, which I’m really excited about because usually I’m touring in this period. I’m going to stay put and work on the new Braids record. In August we’re going on tour in Europe. But touring isn’t the same as vacationing, we don’t get to see much of the places we go to. So usually if a place stands out, I’ll try to go back to get to know more than the hotel and the bus.
It’s starting to feel like the album format is slightly archaic in a way
You’ve recently been on a DJ tour. How’s that different from your normal tour?
R: Well, we were playing proper clubs at a proper dance time, instead of trying to get people to throw down at 9PM.
A: It’s kinda a cool format, because it’s playing other people’s tunes – a little bit of techno, house and that kind of vibe, and then Raph is like a DJ-MC; she’ll play a couple of tracks and people get excited and she’ll grab the microphone and make up a vocal and the spot and start repeating it and get a reaction from the crowd. It’s really cool ’cause it’s like a blend between a live set and a DJ set. We have room for live improvisation while keeping the security of a DJ set. In a live set there’s so many things that can go wrong; the mixing, the feedback…
Our albums are like a trilogy
Will you be doing more of this in the future?
R: We do love playing parties. We’ve been talking about maybe doing one-off tracks with Blue Hawaii, because I feel like I love an amazing track a lot more than a whole album. It’s starting to feel like the album format is slightly archaic in a way.
We’ve been talking a lot about doing our own things. Like, Alex is going to be doing a project which is potentially going to be called ‘Kerby’, it’s his very cute middle name. I am going to work on my own as well as on some acoustic stuff. I’m sure I’ll be toplining on his tracks and he’ll be producing my tracks. Yeah, it seems like life is taking us on different paths again. But ones that are parallel to each other but that aren’t under the current construct of Blue Hawaii. We’re not sure!
How has Blue Hawaii changed over the years?
R: I think today we strive more for being in a joyful place. Alex is becoming a really awesome DJ and you can really hear that in the latest record. I’ve been doing more diva-confident vocals. Physically, you can see the two albums as two phases, Untogether being hunched over and curled up, and Tenderness standing straight and more open.
A: As a band we’ve been around for quite a long time, releasing things spaced out because of the nature of this being a side project. The way that I frame this is, we release this EP in 2010 about our travels in Central America which was kinda our falling-in-love album, then there was our full-length in 2013 and it was kinda about our falling out of love, and then there’s our latest record which is more about becoming friends again and accepting it. It’s like a trilogy. It’s this big cycle of relations; the way that one person can mean a lot to you one day but will mean something different to another. It’s never just one thing, it’s always changing over time and it’s important to recognise it.