Banner photo: Jhune Li
Words by Jasmine Bourgeois
Rotten Blossom is a riot grrrl hardcore band from Honolulu, Hawaii. They were founded by Ruby Rañoa, Kalena Suhayda, and a mutual love for Bikini Kill and DIY in the summer of 2016. The current line-up also consists of Cherise Honda on bass and Evan Suhayda on guitar. Jason Miller of Hawaiian Express Records has described their sound as “If Black flag started out with a pissed-off teenage girl instead of Keith Morris.” The band has released two albums, their debut EP “Get Lict” and second EP “Let’s Hang Out.”
Tom Tom got a chance to talk to the band about DIY, Hawaii’s music scene, and their upcoming plans.
TTM: Names, ages, pronouns, and respective instruments?
Ruby Rañoa, 17, drums, she/her or they/them.
Evan Suhayda, 22, guitar, he/him.
Kalena Suhayda, soon-to-be 21, she/her, vocals.
Cherise Honda, 20, bass, she/her.
TTM: What’s the music scene like on the island?
Cherise: The music scene on an island is a close group of friends who come together to enjoy music of many different genres.
Evan: Some days it feels great. You feel a closeness with everyone you play music with. You have everything a music scene needs: Your favorite venue, your rehearsal space, your favorite bar, your friends who help put out your music, your producers, your friends’ bands to play shows with. You’re friends with the local punks at the local punk house so every so often you can throw an all ages house show. And on the weekends you can just hang out and chill at the beach with everyone. Sometimes if you’re lucky you can island hop and play on different islands. It’s family. No one’s trying to get ahead of each other or be the best like you’re in a competition. It’s all about creating a community that loves to do cool stuff and party your ass off.
On the other hand, none of us really have a steady career in music. We all still work our 9-5 jobs, punch a clock, and barely get by. We don’t get the opportunity to jump in a van and tour the nation. We don’t get paid very much for performing. There are no label scouts. There are no big festival stages. If someone’s putting out your record, they’re either sending it to their distributing guy somewhere to burn and hand-make CDs on their dining room table. Once in awhile we’ll be able to bring down local bands from other cities we like via fundraiser shows. But no big band really has it on their agenda to put Hawaii on their tour list. There’s a whole world of music that we can only stay connected with by Instagram and YouTube videos, and that can feel isolating — like our music scene doesn’t matter. But it does. It’s a punk rock scene in paradise, and it’s a blast to be a part of it.
Ruby: The music scene over here definitely has its pros and cons. I love when I can go into a show and recognize almost everyone there — that’s when it really feels like a family. We also receive an overwhelming amount of support from the entire scene. With all that said, living on an island also means you’re super limited in almost every sense of the word. We are isolated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, after all.
Kalena: The music scene is small. Which is cool because you know everyone and everyone’s band; everyone knows you and your band. Every band is different and unique in their own way, which makes shows more fun and interesting with the different sounds and styles each band offers. The scene feels like a big family of weirdos. Even bands from other islands are part of the family. Whenever bands from out of Hawaii visit it’s always extra exciting for everyone to check them out.
TTM: You formed only a couple years ago and have seemed pretty busy with releasing EPs and playing shows. Any major plans coming up?
Cherise: While we are currently on hiatus due to two members moving/soon-to-be-moving away, we are prepared to record another album the next time we get together.
Evan: Our rhythm section — Cherise and Ruby — are off to college for now. So college. Maybe in the summer we can release some new music and tour some west coast cities.
Ruby: We are actually on a hiatus as of right now, as Cherise moved to Portland and I am moving away to Seattle soon. Hopefully some type of reunion is in our future.
Kalena: Total years playing would be two years maybe even longer. Kalena and Ruby originated the band then once Evan and Cherise joined, writing our own songs became easy and our sound developed. Evan had the most experience being in a band so he was the one that really moved us to record and put out both of our EP’s. As far as any more plans, our band has split up for now; a couple members moved away. If we get back together in the future we would already have another EP to record.
“It’s family. No one’s trying to get ahead of each other or be the best like you’re in a competition. It’s all about creating a community that loves to do cool stuff and party your ass off.”
TTM: You said your band was formed from a shared love of DIY. How would you describe “DIY” music? What do you like about it?
Kalena: DIY music is music made by the people; distributed by the people for the people. What I like about the idea of DIY music is that it comes straight from the minds and the hands of the artist to you.
Ruby: I would describe DIY music as music made with whatever materials possible. Music made with drum sticks you found on the floor; music recorded on your friends laptop on their small independent label run out of their apartment. I personally love it because people obviously aren’t making music to make money, they’re making music because they feel so passionate about doing so.
Evan: What Kalena said.
TTM: Favorite potato chip flavor?
Ruby: Apparently I’m the only one in the band whose favorite isn’t maui onion. Damn. I love any spicy chips with chili and lime.
Kalena: Maui onion bitch.
Evan: Maui onion chips. Local kine grinds is da bestest.
Cherise: It’s hard to beat Maui Onion.
TTM: Any bands you’d love to be on a bill with?
Evan: 5. Really like GOGGS, would be fun to play with them. Also Clit Kat. Fun stuff. Good times.
Kalena: The Unlovables, The Muffs, The Ergs, Descendants.
Ruby: Gotta agree with Evan on this one. We played with Clit Kat once during our mini L.A tour and that was the peak of my life. I’d kill to play with them again.
Cherise: I love and appreciate the bands we have had the pleasure of playing with, and look forward to playing more shows with good people. It would be pretty sick to play with Subhumans or The Muffs, though.
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