Haki are a four piece that have spent the past few years taking punk rock songs and infusing them with noisy and experimental elements. Their music encompasses a range that effortlessly vacillates between loud and aggressive and quiet and thoughtful. When they whip up a whirlwind of noise and fury, it’s something to behold, as evidenced by last year’s Positive LP and January’s Haki’s Big New EP. The band has recently operated as a trio while drummer Ruby Dunphy attends school in Seattle. In the following conversation, we discuss how the band has dealt with Dunphy’s absence, both on record and on stage, and what it was like recording their debut LP. We also talk about why one shouldn’t head to a Haki show expecting to hear them as they are on record, and about their Loud Loop Press-exclusive single “Equilibrium,” which can be downloaded for free at the bottom of this page, or streamed in the sidebar. Also! For the first time ever, we’ve included a video of the band rocking out the song live in studio, which you can find below.
LLP: Tell me a little bit about how Haki formed.
Yusuf: I started the band with Ruby. I think we were sophomores in high school. We just wanted to start a punk band. It was just guitars and drums for a while. Then Kelsey joined and there was a span of time when we jammed, and we started playing shows. We released two EPs, and then Connor joined in 2014.
LLP: What made you want to expand beyond a duo?
Yusuf: We just wanted to do a full rock/punk band type of thing. I didn’t really sing and we also needed bass, so it was just basic necessity. We tried a few different people but these two ended up being the coolest.
LLP: How did you all meet?
Kelsey: Yusuf, Ruby, and I all went to high school together.
Connor: I was playing in a punk band called Crude Humor. We were playing someone’s birthday party and Yusuf and Ruby were there. They asked me to practice with them.
LLP: So you’ve been a four piece since last year?
Yusuf: Yeah, but now Ruby goes to school in Seattle, so she’s only here on breaks in the winter and summer.
LLP: What’s that been like?
Yusuf: It was obviously hard at first, but it forced us all to step back and think of all the interesting ideas we could pull out of our bag in order to fill the space of the drums without trying to replace the drums. We just had to try harder. It was tough, but we figured it out.
Kelsey: We’ve gotten better at making use of our resources, and we use a sampler now. We used a sampler before but now it’s part of the main structure.
LLP: Has it pushed you in a different direction musically?
Yusuf: The stuff we do now is more improvisational. It’s got a more experimental, jammy vibe. Before we were doing these straight rock songs, and now it’s way more open.
LLP: So you’ve continued to play live shows without her?
Connor: We’ve been playing a bunch of shows, yeah.
LLP: How has your live show changed in her absence?
Yusuf: It’s different. It’s not intense punk music. It’s more hypnotic, and it’s more like an ambient experience. It’s strung together. We’ll start off with a song, and then we’ll incorporate some noise or some jamming into the next song.
Connor: We’re trying to get it so it just doesn’t stop. It’s constant, and there are no breaks in the set. There are definite ends to the songs, and there’s just more transition. It’s more atmospheric.
Yusuf: Before, with the drums, we’d play a song, and it’s like really in your face. Then it stops and nobody says anything in between the songs. We’re just trying to experiment and push ourselves to do the opposite of what we were doing. Rather than have people be like “oh wow this is a punk show!” We want them to be focused on this whole long string of sounds and weird noises. It’s all strung together, it’s like you’re watching a story.
Connor: And we can improvise and do different things. We just played the Flower Shop, and there were whole sections that we were just improvising, which is a lot of fun.
LLP: You guys released your first album last year, what was that like?
Yusuf: It took a while to make but it was fun.
Connor: I came in halfway through the process.
Yusuf: Yeah, Connor isn’t on all the songs actually.
LLP: Are you happy with how it turned out?
Yusuf: I think we rushed it.
Kelsey: It could have sounded better.
Yusuf: I think there were moments where we just didn’t come together as a band.
Connor: It wasn’t as tight as possible.
Yusuf: There’s always going to be stuff you’re unhappy with. I think we were still finding our sound. I think now we’re all more happy with what we’re doing. At least I am.
LLP: So you’re happier with the EP you just put out?
Connor: Yeah I like the EP more than Positive. I just constantly like the last thing we put out the most [laughs].
Yusuf: And I like the recent songs we’ve been doing, the three piece stuff.
LLP: Tell me about the contrast between creating the EP and the album.
Kelsey: It was just more relaxed this time. I felt like before we were rushed and we didn’t have time to finish it.
Connor: It was really quick but a lot more relaxed. I enjoyed that.
Yusuf: We recorded it at Grandpa Bay, back at their old spot when they were doing shows, and that was really fun. We had been friends with them for a while.
Kelsey: You feel comfortable recording with people you trust.
Yusuf: With the album we just put too much pressure on ourselves. If we had just put out the songs we really liked and didn’t rush it, it would have been better. We were a young band being like “it has to get done, it has to be good!” We wanted to make it happen. There are still great songs on it.
LLP: Lastly, can you talk about “Equilibrium,” the song you recorded for us?
Yusuf: It was really stressful. We didn’t know if we could do it because our drummer wasn’t there. We really missed her. It was tough to start making music again together.
LLP: So this was the very first song you created after Ruby left for school?
Connor: It definitely wasn’t a super easy transition.
Yusuf: That’s the cool thing that came out of it. It showed that we could still make music together, even if Ruby wasn’t here. This song is very personal to me because it motivated me to keep going. It gave me hope for the band, that we can make it through whatever hurdle we face.