Perry & Danielle: from Hawaii to Los Angeles

Editor’s note: Originally from Hawaii, Perry & Danielle is a two-piece pop group that creates music with smooth, piano-based instrumentation alongside soulful melodies, creating a twist on pop-alternative-soul.

They’ll be appearing at the San Gabriel Lunar New Year Festival on February 10 in the Mission District. We spoke with Danielle and Perry to learn more about the duo and their music.

ISG: Thanks for joining us, Perry and Danielle. First, could you describe the origins of your music?

Perry: We’re originally from Hawaii, and we’ve been playing music throughout our whole lives. Before we moved out here, we were part of a band called Common Ground. I was on drums, Danielle was on lead vocals, and we had a guitar, bass player and everything, and we did that for a while for a few years.

We’ve always wanted to pursue music outside of Hawaii, so we moved to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, the other band members did not want to move, so it ended up being just the two of us. Instead of finding new players, we wanted to keep it simple so we kept it between the two of us.

ISG: How do you come up with your music?

Danielle: Usually, I write a lot of the songs, the music, and the melodies. For me, it’s across the board. Sometimes I’ll be driving, and I’ll hear one line and I’ll record the one line and expand upon it once I get back home. For the next line, I might hear a chorus or a verse. Other times, I’ll sit at the piano and come up with a piano riff and play off of that. Usually, it starts with a little idea that I can expand upon. It just depends what I start with, where I’m sitting at the moment, whether I’m behind the piano or behind the guitar. Both bring different textures, and the melody will come across differently from both instruments.

Perry: She’ll show me what she has, and once she has the lyrics and vocal melodies, then I’ll start coming up with the drum beat and the groove for the song. I’ll come up with an arrangement and we’ll just form the song from there. For instance, if she creates the song from a piano, it might come off smoother so my drum grooves won’t be as heavy. Sometimes, she’ll write a song off the guitar which might be a little more rhythmic and a little more upbeat and punchy. I have to follow what she writes and what she comes up with.

ISG: Danielle, you play the piano in addition to the guitar. Could you describe the piano’s sound in relation to other instruments?

Danielle: For me, the piano was my very first instrument. I know theory really well on the piano, so I tend to think theory when I’m playing it. The sound of the keyboard does really matter to me, but I tend to think more on the keyboard. When I pick up something like a guitar that I’m not as in-tune with, the melodies simply come out differently – sometimes more naturally, compared to an instrument like the piano.

Like the ukulele, the guitar not my first instrument, so I tend to just jam on it and create something over it. It has a different vibe.

ISG: What’s it like performing live?

Danielle: It’s a lot of layering. For example, for me, since I play keys and I sing, I’ll layer the keyboard so that there’s bass on the bottom, an electric piano on the top, and some patches so that live shows sound as full as they can be with just the two of us. Usually for a set, Perry is on drum kit and a drum pad, while I’m on keys and vocals, so we try to make it as full as possible with just the two of us. We just try to be a little more creative.

ISG: What was it like moving from Hawaii to Los Angeles?

Perry: First, it’s very fast paced here. Hawaii is an island, and it’s relaxed. We had to adjust to the pace, so we have to hustle a lot. It’s very big, and there’s a lot to do.

Danielle: The culture is different. This isn’t a good or bad, but there is a difference between the two places. When you get off the plane [in Hawaii], there’s a welcoming feeling in the air – not that Los Angeles isn’t welcoming, but our family is located in Hawaii. We’re kind of on our own in LA, so it forces you to see things through different eyes. As far as experiences go, we shipped our car from Hawaii and it got totaled within the first month of living here. I took that as a bad omen and I remember crying on the phone with my mom telling her that I didn’t belong here.

Perry: Everyone’s reaction was “welcome to LA” – I mean, the traffic and driving in Los Angeles has certainly become something that we’ve had to get used to. Hawaii has a lot of traffic too, but the driving here can be a little crazy.

ISG: What can people expect when you perform on February 10?

Perry: We’re going to make it simple. We’re going to have an acoustic guitar, and we’ll probably play some new songs that we’re recording on our album and some covers that we like to play as well.

Danielle: We’re going to give you a good taste of Perry & Danielle in fifteen minutes.

You can watch Perry & Danielle perform on February 10 at 5:05 p.m. at this year’s Lunar New Year Festival. If you’re on Facebook, be sure to RSVP here.