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Band Lives its Waikiki Dream

From performing for grocery money to a Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards nomination, indie-folk band Streetlight Cadence’s unique sound earns them street cred.

The story of acoustic group Streelight Cadence began five years ago when accordionist Jesse Shiroma perused through Craigslist to see whether there were local gigs in need of his talents.

“No one wants to play with an accordion, right?” laughs Shiroma as he recalls his “resort” to browsing through the online classified’s site. By strange coincidence he stumbled upon a particular ad that got him to eagerly respond.

“It read: Looking for musicians who play interesting instruments,” Shiroma continues. “I went out to meet them and I see these guys sitting on the doorstep and I thought this just might work out.”

Those “guys” were violinist Jonathan Franklin and former band member and guitarist Daniel Duncan. A native from Houston, Franklin was on scholarship to play with the Hawaii Pacific University orchestra. After deciding to start his own band and meeting with Shiroma, Franklin brought along fellow orchestra cellist Brian Webb to join the group.

Streetlight Cadence ©Ben Decastro
Streetlight Cadence ©Ben Decastro

Soon they we were rehearsing and then quickly performing on the sidewalks of Waikiki’s Kalakaua Avenue. Groups would corral around them in masses like a thick Cheshire cat’s smile, intrigued by the trio rocking out to classic Mozart pieces and cover songs by Foster the People or Lady Gaga.

“I think deep down we wanted to be rock band,” chuckles Franklin. “But it just turned out we were making rock and roll music with all these instruments. Therefore (our music) came off as nothing that you hear everyday.”

After a few friends have come and gone with the band, guitarist Chaz Umamoto – who met the group while doing their sounds systems for an open mic event – was asked to join and thus became the eclectic four-member band that rapidly took over Battle of the Bands’ competitions and local music events.

The college students and part-time musicians were soon looking into a potential full-time career in music, an eyebrow-raising decision that caused concern from each of the band member’s parents even though they were the initial musical instigators.

“They say do what you love,” chuckles Shiroma of the initial advice his parents gave to him, which rings clear with all four members of the group. “As long as it pays the bills.”

“Yeah I’d tell (my parents): ‘Hey we played with Keali‘i Reichel this weekend,’” chimes in Umamoto. “But it was no big deal to them. It wasn’t until they saw me on O.C. 16 for a commercial we shot and suddenly (to them) we’re famous.”

Streetlight Cadence performing at Ala Moana Shopping Center. ©Kristen Nemoto
Streetlight Cadence performing at Ala Moana Shopping Center. ©Kristen Nemoto

Famous – at least to local venues and a growing number of Instagram and Facebook followers – in their own right for being anything but the usual folk group or any music group in general. On any given Streetlight Cadence performance you can watch Franklin strum his violin like an ‘ukulele, Webb play the cello while dancing, or Shiroma create the percussion with his feet while effortlessly pushing and pulling the accordion with his hands. Busker gigs in Waikiki has also exposed them to out-of-town fans, which led the band to bump into some while on their first national tour last year and gain attention from their peers with a Nā Hōkū Hanohano nominated album entitled after their very first home: Kalakaua Avenue. 

Today the group hopes to expand their music locally and “hopefully” to audiences across the world. They recently moved to the bright lights of Los Angeles, which, with their track record, will be only a matter of time before they score a major record label.

“I think that ‘unexpected excitement’ from our music is what will get us really far,” says Franklin.

“We have these huge dreams,” adds Shiroma. “But we’re going to tackle any obstacle that we have in our way and just go for it.”