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Local indie-pop band represents Hawaiʻi at SXSW Music Festival

Evan Fujimoto, Spirit Artis
Top row: Hailey Fines (main vocal, rhythm guitar), Locke Nishihara (drums), Analiese Esopenko (backup vocal, organelle) Bottom row: Ryan Miyashiro (lead guitar), Antonio Burruso (bass)

Local indie-pop rock band Ragamuffs was the only Hawaiʻi group performing at the 2022 South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival.

The band was founded by Hailey Fines and her former music partner Joe 2017 when they began playing at Chinatown venues. They wrote all the songs in their first album, "Achy Luminescence," and hired local musicians to play with them at live shows.

Hailey Fines was 5 years old when she began to play music. She didn’t know then that her musical journey would lead her to perform in front of thousands of people at the SXSW Music Festival.

Kristi-Ann Say
Hailey Fines is the founder of Ragamuffs, and the creative brain behind the music.

"I was really into like, performing for my family and all of that. I played music in church for a long time and started writing after that — after kind of watching local bands in the Chinatown music scene. I was really inspired to write originals," Fines tells HPR.

The catchy indie sounds of Ragamuffs caught the attention of artists outside of Hawaiʻi. In early 2020, Ragamuffs opened for a sold-out Mac Demarco concert at The Republik in Honolulu. Later that year, the band was invited to play at SXSW in Austin, Texas.

After a two-year delay caused by the pandemic, they finally performed on March 15 and 16 at one of the biggest music festivals in the country. Ragamuffs was the only band from Hawaiʻi in this year’s lineup.

Ryan Miyashiro is the lead guitarist for the Ragamuffs when they play live shows. He wishes the world knew more about Hawaiʻi’s local talent, saying, "You know, I feel Hawaiʻi suffers a lot from kind of like a little sibling complex."

"We’re always fighting to be recognized and be seen, which really shouldn’t be the case — especially nowadays with the internet, how everything is very global. We’ve always had phenomenal musicians and creative people," Miyashiro says.

Evan Fujimoto
Ragamuffs performing at Nextdoor.

Fines and her live band members rehearsed two times a week to prepare, and they had to figure out the logistics for their trip. She has been selling band merchandise and using the money earned through royalty streams to fund the band members' flights and hotels. SXSW does not cover travel and lodging expenses.

Before Ragamuffs headed to Texas, they performed on March 11 at the Slack Key Lounge located in Hawaiian Brian's.

Listen to the extended interview from March 14 on The Conversation.

Hailey Fines and Ryan Miyashiro - March 14, 2022
The Conversation

Zoe Dym is a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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