[INTERVIEW] Kainalu Speaks About New LP 'Ginseng Hourglass', "Queen of Wands", & Creating His Own Album Art
Kainalu is a psychedelic funk/psych house independent recording project created by Trent Prall with a guitarist, Joe Waldbillig, bassist, Evan Nelson, drummers, Matthew Allen and Julian Russell and conguero, Aaron Gochberg. Celebrating Prall's Japanese-Hawaiian heritage with the meaning of Kainalu: "ocean waves" as well as the release of their sophomore album, Ginseng Hourglass, this project has more to unravel in 2023. The group also announced a new tour and will soon make their debut at Electric Forest 2023 to perform a more jam-oriented live interpretation of the recorded music. iEDM had the priviledge to interview Trent Prall of Kainalu about bedroom artists, the creative process behind Ginseng Hourglass, and meaning behind "Queen of Wands".
Check out iEDM's exclusive interview with Kainalu below.
iEDM: What is the meaning behind your stage name?
Kainalu: Kainalu is a male Hawaiian name that roughly translates to “ocean waves” in English. My relatives gave me the word to use to celebrate my Japanese-Hawaiian heritage.
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iEDM: What was the inspiration behind “Queen of Wands”? Does the song represent someone in your life? Is this song an echo of infatuation and heartbreak?
Kainalu: I wrote the song after pulling the Queen of Wands card during a tarot reading I was receiving from a friend. Although the song isn't specifically about anyone in my life, it speaks to the universal experience of navigating the complexities of relationships. Infatuation and heartbreak are certainly elements that can be found within the song, but they're not the sole focus. Ultimately, I think the song is about facing the inevitability of feeling strong romantic connections when it’s least expected.
iEDM: Ginseng Hourglass is a distinctive and special LP title. When deciding the LP title, how did you know Ginseng Hourglass was the title perfectly underlining the LP’s sound or theme?
Kainalu: Album titles have always come to me towards the end of the writing process. I wrote this album in the aftermath of losing my mother to cancer. The theme of the album naturally began centering around life and death. Ginseng is a plant with deep roots in traditional medicine, and I was drawn to it as a symbol of the healing and transformative power of the natural world. The hourglass, of course, is a symbol of time and the passage of life, and I felt like it was a fitting way to capture the sense of impermanence and change that runs throughout the LP.
iEDM: What was your favorite song to create for Ginseng Hourglass?
Kainalu: “Turned Around” was the most fun to create. It took many different forms over a two-year writing process, but I landed on the yacht-rock inspired version right at the end of the writing cycle. I had my friend, Bradley Giroux, play the lead guitar at the end which is my favorite part of the album. We were in LA on a summer evening writing the solo together. It's a great memory.
iEDM: Is there any advice or philosophy you’d like listeners to learn from the LP or from your entire discography?
Kainalu: I have always written music as a form of self-therapy. It’s a little comical listening back to my discography, because all of the albums clearly represent existential questions I was thinking about during very distinct times in my life. If anything, I think the discography’s overarching theme is learning to release control of your life.
iEDM: If you were to film a music video for any song on the new LP, which song would that be and what are the concepts or visual images you desire to bring to life?
Kainalu: If I were to film a music video for any song on my new LP, I would have to go with the title track, “Ginseng Hourglass.” To me, this track explores the most sonic space, and I feel like it would be the perfect canvas to bring to life some trippier and more otherworldly concepts. For the visuals, I would love to create a psychedelic animated film that takes the viewer on a journey through a world that's both familiar and surreal. I’ve been recently inspired by the animated film “Fantastic Planet”, and would love to see a video for some of this music in that style.
iEDM: As you and many other artists describe themselves as “bedroom artists”, can you explain the beauty and importance they still contribute to art itself? Also, can you name some of your favorite bedroom artists or art created by bedroom artists?
Kainalu: I think the evolving “bedroom musician scene” is where some of the most innovative production techniques are born simply out of necessity. Most of us are recording on extremely tight budgets, so we are recording through cheap and repurposed gear. Pretty much everything I send signals through is a piece of junk from Craiglist or eBay. The joy is finding affordable ways to corrupt your signal path. I think the creative limitations due to the realities of recording in an acoustically imperfect space pushes artists to create innovative techniques and soundscapes. One of my favorite “bedroom” acts is Ruban Nielson from UMO, I’m pretty sure he’s still recording in a home studio. Also Vansire, those guys can make anything.
iEDM: You were in a punk band when you were 13, what music findings have you learned during your time in a punk band that you still incorporate into your music today?
Kainalu: Loud guitars. That punk band was about as loud as you could get. As kids it was fun to crank an amp that weighed more than we did. I think I’ve carried that love of distortion/overdrive since then. I don’t really use amps anymore, but I do love blasting guitars through transistors and clipping them until they start screaming. It’s just nicer for your ears, and for your neighbors.
iEDM: Many find it admirable and intriguing that you create your own album art and visuals. What is your creative process behind creating your album art? When you decide to release merch, would you like to create the t-shirt and poster designs?
Kainalu: I have been using Photoshop and Illustrator for some time now, so making digital art comes most naturally to me. Whenever I’m making art for Kainalu I try to fuse film photos of nature with animated/psychedelic elements. I think that sort of juxtaposition of digital and natural elements also carries through in the music. We have released merch in the past, and I have designed a couple of shirts myself. Moving forward I’m interested in collaborating with other artists to do limited merch runs, but here and there I’ll probably still throw in a design of my own. For the Ginseng Hourglass Tour, we’re collaborating with Atlanta-based artist, Ryan Miller (@its_rydawg).
iEDM: What are your goals for 2023? Do you have any details about upcoming projects or collaborations you’re at liberty to share with your fans?Kainalu: We are going on our first West coast tour at the end of May, which I’m super excited about. We haven’t played over there since 2018, so I’m looking forward to experiencing it at a new stage of the project. I also have been producing an album for my good friend, MUNYA. We’ve been working hard on it since my album came out, and I’m really stoked to share it. She’s also a fantastic musician/producer; we’ve created a whole back catalog of collaborations that will start being released this coming week.
Photos Courtesy of Kainalu
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