The start of a psychedelic dream-surf music project.

The RPM Challenge is a project for musicians to record an album, 10 songs or at least 35 minutes long, in February. The RPM Challenge streams the final results on their website. I participated in the 2019 challenge after a 5 year hiatus from playing music. When I was able to return to the guitar, I realized that my time away had a silver lining: I took to playing my instrument with a fresh perspective and this allowed me to break old habits.

This winter I acquired a guitar that is more comfortable to play; the tremolo bridge encouraged me to compose songs with a surf-rock infused vibe. I feel incredibly fortunate to make music with old and new friends for my RPM project, Kioea.

Kioea the Bird

The Kioea, approximately the size of a crow, had moss green and chartreuse yellow feathers, and dark auriculars under its eyes. The species had two interesting adaptations: a fringed-tongue, curved beak for nectar-feeding and feathers as fine as hair. The Kioea was last seen on the Island of Hawaiʻi. It gracefully fluttered through blossoming bushes that reclaimed the Kīlauea volcanic eruption.

Kioea translates from the Hawaiian language to mean, “stand tall.” The word also mean “to extend” or “to be lifted up.” The Kioea’s unwritten life asks for a new narrative and song.

Kioea the Band

Kioea Music Album Cover Band Kioea Music Psychedelic Surf Jazz Elizabeth Burnet Jonathan Blakeslee Jim Rioux

Last summer, I joined a weekly music get-together hosted by local poet and musician Jim Rioux. Creating music in a group is like a breath of fresh air! I am grateful to be part of this ongoing collaborative experience.

The songs for the RPM Challenge were initially inspired by fragments of instrumentals played during the meet ups. I drew from influences such as surf music, psychedelic bands, 1970’s Anatolian rock, Afrobeat, Ethio-Jazz. Then, I looked to contemporary sounds (Khruangbin, Dungen, Wand, The Mattson 2, Allah-Las), combined with other styles. Hawaii’s diverse landscape prompted the song titles and the album’s overall ambiance.

Jim Rioux recorded the self-titled RPM album at his studio. Rioux plays on drums. Jonathan Blakeslee and Pete Duchesne contributed upright bass and electric bass to the RPM recording.

View Kioea’s website and sign up for notifications of Kioea events here.