Images by Jonas Maon
One could say that an unfortunate punch to violinist Jonathon Franklin’s face while street performing in Waikīkī put into motion the events that would connect the four young gentlemen who make up indie folk band Streetlight Cadence. After being assaulted and robbed, Franklin was convinced he should give up street performances, but when accordionist Jesse Shiroma, a black-belt martial artist, answered Franklin’s call for musicians on Craigslist, the street-leery violinist knew he could rest easy. Along with Chaz Umamoto (guitar) and Brian Webb (cello), they form a rare breed of classically trained performers who take to the streets of Waikīkī and Chinatown to peddle their musical fare.
With whimsical vocals accompanied by theatrical performances, the group has talent to match their unabashed personas. Since forming in 2009, they’ve ventured off-island for two mainland tours, were selected as one of the top 25 bands for Hard Rock’s worldwide music competition, and are working on a second full-length album, set to be released in early 2015. Their success, however, has not come without hard work. Umamoto ticks off a list of the band’s goals for their East Coast tour: “Meet a couple hundred bands, 10 people from the music industry, book 10 gigs, make $200 a day, and grow 500 Facebook fans by the end of the trip.” Despite all their planning, the music industry has proven to be a tough place, which they learned firsthand while on tour. “I was shocked that we can go to strangers who will be totally receptive, but the music industry, where you think you’d get listened too, you get the coldest shoulder,” says Shiroma.
For all members, Streetlight Cadence has become their livelihoods and full-time commitments. They view their band like a start-up company, something that is sustainable despite limited resources or time. This requires some creativity, too. For example, when they discovered that in Austin, Texas, the live-music capital of the world, it is illegal to be a street performer, they found other avenues to get their music heard through a concept they dubbed “music bombing.” If they couldn’t play outside, they headed indoors, something they still do today. They traveled up and down the block, and no matter what type of business they came upon—café, toy store, boutique, dentist, office—they’d ask to play a song. “It’s funny, the really hip places are often the ones who turn us down,” says Shiroma, “Then we’d go to the ritziest restaurant and think there’s no way. But after introducing ourselves with no context and saying, ‘We’d love to play a song for your staff and audience,’ there’s a pause of shock and then, ‘Yes!’ Then they buy our CDs.”
Despite their popularity so far, the foursome remain focused, determined to conquer everything a successful business requires (those cumbersome details like marketing, distribution, budgeting, etc.) in order to pursue their end goal: “We typically just want one thing: to be great musicians,” says Umamoto. Despite the places they’ll go, Streetlight Cadence is proud to be from the streets, and even prouder that they are still there.
Streetlight Cadence’s EP “After the War” is available now on iTunes. You can find them performing on the streets of Waikīkī and Chinatown and at cafés and lounges around Honolulu. To keep up with the band, visit streetlightcadence.com.