Overcoming adversity: a conversation with Antoine from Girls in Hawaii

Olivier Donnet

In the section From the Zine, we feature select interviews and features originally published in our magazine. This conversation with Antoine was first published in our 8th issue, NOSTALGIA. Read the full magazine here

When thinking of the artists for the theme of nostalgia, I immediately thought of Girls in Hawaii. Nostalgia can be a warm memory of a past love or a wonderful time in life that makes you smile every time you think of it, but nostalgia can also have a dark side. In 2010, the band confronted the death of their dear friend and drummer, Denis. It took them a couple years to be able to make music again, and their song “Misses” off their newest album, with aching lyrics—“There is always a fall / but it happened too soon”—is just one of the songs influenced by their tragedies. Besides altering their lives in ways I can only imagine, the tragedy completely changed their music. Plan Your Escape, released in 2008, felt, despite some melancholic moments, like a feel-good, indie pop album. Their most recent album Everest, despite some louder moments, feels quiet, introspective and reflective. With a title like “Everest,” it’s difficult not to think of the mountain as a metaphor for overcoming personal struggles. In a particularly poignant song on the record, they pay homage to mountain climber, George Mallory, lost for seventy-five years after being seen just 800 feet from the summit of the tallest mountain in the world. “Did you reach the top?” they ask in the final words of the song.

Without using genre names, how would you describe your music?

Melodic and carefully crafted but sometimes loud and dirty.

Your band name is “Girls in Hawaii” but you are all from Belgium. How did you come up with the name?

I guess we wanted a name that did not reflect who we are in real life… it’s an invitation to travel, to escape from your daily routine.

How do you think being from Belgium has influenced your music?

Belgium is at the crossroad of many different cultures. So I guess we sometimes mix and match things that you would not think of in the first place. And that becomes an influence.

What brought you to Iceland to record some of your music?

We just love Iceland. Such an amazing country. There’s no words to describe its magic. We felt we needed to be there.

Our theme for this issue is NOSTALGIA. What does nostalgia mean to you?

Trying to hold on to what is left of something that’s gone. Hold on to it and give it a second chance, a second life and a new meaning in the present.

I love your song “Summer Storm” and it always evokes a strong feeling of nostalgia in me. Can you tell me the story behind the song?

It’s a song Lionel wrote the night after breaking up with a girl he had been with for a long time. It was a horrible moment for him but his love was gone. So he just needed to write a song about it.


I understand that as a band, you’ve been through some extremely rough times, notably with the death of a band member. Would you say your music has helped you heal?

Yes we did. I think we needed to go through the grieving process before we were able to start making music again. Our music did not really help much. I would say it made things more difficult in the first place. Then we learned to be a band again. But for a long time there was nothing but pain and grief.

Are there any particular songs that evoke the feeling of nostalgia for you? What do they make you think of?

I think “Misses” is a good example. It’s obviously a song about Denis, our lost friend. It’s a nostalgic song but I think we avoided the pitfall of self-pity, which is a good thing. We miss him but we also decided to move forward because that’s the only thing you could do.


What’s the most powerful song to you on your most recent album?

That’s difficult to say because we are six and I guess everybody would pick a different one. But I would say Wars, it’s very mysterious and intriguing. Powerful in a particular way.

What’s something people would never expect about you?

I don’t know, singing in French maybe!

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