There’s no better Honolulu band to become a sweaty mess over than garage-punk Gnarwhal. But we’ve been without singer Erica Westly’s saccharine howl since May, when the guitarist-vocalist moved to San Francisco to be with fish and family—she’s earned two degrees in marine biology from HPU and her grandma’s not getting any younger.
“It’s actually a cool reason to not play music together anymore,” Westly says, comparing Gnarwhal’s pause to other bands’ permanent break ups over creative differences or worse. A band can grow apart for many reasons. But with Gnarwhal, “there were never any problems,” she says. “We were all very sad that I was leaving. I knew I would come out and visit, of course. And it was expected that we would play a show.”
Since Gnarwhal’s not clinically a dead band, Westly says their existence is more a question of where and when. “It’s not really like we’ll never play together again; it’s like we’ll play when we’re all in the same place again. We would still be together if I was still here.”
So what is she doing in a city such as San Francisco? If you know anything about her talent, you know she’s a good fit for the city and is probably in at least six bands already. Not so fast, she says. “I’m not really doing much musically over there, yet. It’s just hard to find people that you jive with. It takes time to break into a new scene. I’m just excited to be back with these dudes. We all had a lot of fun at practice. It should be a lot of fun.”
Westly says that playing with Nick Ayakawa and Adam Funari puts her where she needs to be. “I feel like playing with them [at practice] last night was like home; I feel right again, like a normal person again. I feel like myself again,” she says, quickly adding, “We haven’t played since May, though. Let’s keep the expectations low, alright?”
Mercury Bar, 1154 Fort St. Mall, Thu., 1/31, 9pm, $3 suggested donation at the door
Photograph of Gnarwhal, by Michael Keany