By Brenda Hillegas
Blending together alternative, folk and pop to create their incredibly unique sound, this quartet (Jonathon Franklin on violin, Brian Webb on cello, Jesse Shiroma on accordion and percussion and Chaz Umamoto on guitar) released Beyond Paradise early in 2016, and it’s an album for all seasons. Think the Beach Boys cruising down a dirt road, with ‘80s and ‘90s pop blends stripped of the usual vibe and replaced with a country melody; that’s the best way to explain Streetlight Cadence.
From the streets of the place they call home, Waikiki, to their current base in Southern California, the foursome draws from their surroundings to create something unique. They used to rely on busking to get by, and spent the last few years as a group of friends honing their sound as singers and entertainers. Now here they are, with a full-time musical career and a gig at Downtown Disney in Anaheim, where they just began a six month residency.
We recently talked with Jesse Shiroma who is gearing up for what will surely be an incredible fall and winter for the band.
Elmore Magazine: You began as a band by performing on the streets of Waikiki- how did the passersby respond to the music you played?
Jesse Shiroma: We were fortunate to receive a positive response from the beginning of our sidewalk days, and quickly learned how to identify certain qualities in both ourselves and our environment that could further influence and improve a performance. For instance, we will often select an area with better acoustic features over a spot with more pedestrian traffic. What is the point of playing to a crowd if they can’t hear you or make out what you’re saying or doing right? Lighting is also a big factor, especially in the evening. Any group would look a little shady in the dark, which can deter a potential audience from forming. Most importantly is to sincerely enjoy what you do, whether it’s on the sidewalks or a stage! We strove from day one to inflect our music with the joy we experience writing, rehearsing and performing together. It’s incredible how an audience can pick up on that so quickly.
EM: Who are some of your folk/Americana influences?
JS: Between us all we have a wide range of folk influences and artists that we admire. A few off the top of our heads are classic legends such as Bob Dylan, John Denver and Charlie Daniels, as well as more contemporary acts such as Goat Rodeo Sessions and Nickel Creek.
EM: Tell me more about your classical backgrounds- where did each of you study, and what music-related gigs did you all do before coming together?
JS: We were all privately tutored as kids growing up on various instruments (piano, violin, cello, guitar, ukulele, bass) which carried over to our young adult year playing in orchestras. Jon played with the Cinco Ranch High Orchestra, Brian with the Westview High Orchestra, Chaz with the Moanalua High School Orchestra and Jesse with the Heidelberger Akkordeonorchester in Germany. Jon and Brian also played in the Hawai’i Pacific University Orchestra together where they first met. Aside from playing in these academic environments, only Chaz had solid experience playing in bands and projects on the side- which was great as he helped us take a lot of steps forward in familiarizing ourselves with fundamental band mechanics.
EM: Your Facebook page lists some awards you won as a band while in Hawaii. What was the reason behind leaving to head to Southern California? Would it have been more difficult to stay in Hawaii as recording artists, even with such accolades?
JS: Things were going quite well for us back in Hawaii and we are both humbled and fortunate to have such a supportive fanbase back in the islands, so we felt it was time to push ourselves even more. Many industry friends of ours suggested that the time was ripe for us to move to LA and continue honing our songwriting, recording, performing skills. We packed up everything we had and made the jump in late 2015. You could say we reached a plateau in Hawaii, which was incredible, and now we feel it’s our responsibility to carry our music onwards and show the world that Hawaii is a hotbed of talent. We highly recommend checking out the music scene there for fresh artists and sounds!
EM: Tell me about the song “Feel It.” Was this written before or after the move to California? Your bio mentions your “infectious storytelling.” I think this song, as well as “Amy,” paints a very visual picture for the listeners. Can you comment a bit on the song(s) and the background?
JS: “Feel It” was written before our move to California, but based on a prior tour along the East Coast. The energy we felt embarking on this trip as an independent band was almost tangible! A fun hidden reference about the mention of fire in the chorus relates to an actual experience where our van caught on fire in the middle of nowhere while driving through Pennsylvania. We made it out unscathed, but it must have been a sight for other drivers to see four guys tossing out accordions, cellos, violin, guitars and all sorts of equipment as this thing is going up in smoke. “Amy” is also based off of a very real situation with a not-so-fantastic housemate… we always create pseudonyms for these people- whether it was a good or bad experience- out of respect for their privacy!
EM: The music on Beyond Paradise has some very heavy ’90s-pop melodies, did you find it difficult or easy to blend in the cello and accordion to this style of music?
JS: Fitting cello and accordion into conventional pop music is always a fun challenge. At the most basic level, we agree as a band that the cello fills the role of a bass and general low-end of most songs, while the accordion can replicate a hammond or synth line depending on the role required. Of course, both of these instruments have such a strong and recognizable timbre as well which we feel adds so much more than if we were to perform these songs with conventional pop band instrumentation. We strive to create music that is both accessible to the mainstream, but still retains a unique and fresh feel to it.
Follow the guys on Facebook and on their website. If you’re in or around Anaheim, you can check them out on Wednesday October 19th and Tuesday October 25th. Check out their video for “I Need You Tonight” below.