You can’t really explain P∆G∑ without having seen them perform. Their name is an acronym of members Paul Bajcar, Amrik Sidhu, Grant Na‘auao, and Emily Sewell, but Sewell says their name also references their concept.
P∆G∑ are storytellers; each song turns the page into another chapter. It’s an experimental sound for Chinatown, which sometimes gets stuck in a rut, but Sewell says the time is right for local indie music followers to get into bands like P∆G∑. “For a while, there was a lot of punk and hardcore going around,” Sewell says. “The indie essence of the scene—It’s definitely an open field right now for bands. There’s not a guiding light right now.” She adds that part of their concept is to collaborate with other bands and musicians to create “something amazing.”
At an upcoming show, for example, they hope to work with another experimental Honolulu band, the NoNo Spots. Vocalist and songwriter Alexandria DeVaux says she doesn’t quite know yet what it will be like to work with P∆G∑, “but we really dig their sound and their vibe [...] We consider them to be our sister band.”
So far, P∆G∑’s music, written by each member—and heartened by the chemistry between them—and conceived by Sewell, is strung together by a single story based on a girl who “pretty much starts off in a dreamlike state,” Sewell describes. “She’s dreaming of a land that she feels so comfortable in. It’s peaceful and calming. She gets woken up by a dark energy force and takes off into a chase,” and the songs follow her journey to find that place from her dreams.
Sewell, the band’s vocalist, says that, when writing the songs, they put themselves in the girl’s state of mind. “For the bulk of the story, she’s going through different environments to chase after that dream to get what she really had. Going through different seasons, going through different dreams, and still seeing that place. The last dream is her sailing out to sea at the shore, arriving to that land. The first song is almost a very calming song. But in this one, she makes it to that place she went after.”
It’s a cycle, as drummer Na‘auao says: “The first song and last song’s notes are almost the same.”
“From a writing standpoint, I guess I listen to what we’re playing,” Bajcar, the guitarist, says. “I play whatever, unless I get scolded that it sucks. I always like that it’s a story. It’s pretty awesome that we go through a whole chapter at every performance.”
“We’re more or less trying to find the place that you dream of, that comfort and feeling that you get when you get there,” Sewell says. “It’s so peaceful and gratifying and worth everything that you went through. For her, the dream became a reality at the very end. She went to that place that she saw in the dream.”
Bassist Sidhu, who also performs in Animal Mother, says it’s one of the funnest projects he’s ever been a part of. “It’s like, ‘What’s the next piece of the story? Oh, this is the part where she’s flying. Okay, how the fuck do I write something like that?’ To create around the story,” he says, “write something to the story, it’s really just a clean slate with only a story as a guide. With a film, you have to lock into the timing. But this is much more free.”
The song P∆G∑ performed in the bathroom of the Honolulu Design Center for this Precious Moments session, titled “Burial Grounds”, was written for this occasion, but it’s not a part of the cycle. “It’s a chant, a cultish chanting type of song,” Na‘auao says. “It wasn’t written for the story.”
In addition to the show with the NoNo Spots on April 25 at Mercury Bar, you can see them play at Art and Flea on Thursday, April 24, at 8:15pm, and then a show on May 10 with Painted Highways. On May 24, they’ll play at Pink Mist’s last show. Forthcoming details about those performances can be found on their facebook page.
Special thanks to the Honolulu Design Center for letting us jam in their women’s restroom.