San Jose, CA-based band, Sweet HayaH, goes back over a decade in the young members’ shared lives. The local heavyweights are getting ready for a post-pandemic push following the release of their single, “Can’t Get Comfortable” on July 27, 2022.
The group has steadily become the apex of professionalism, beget from experience and alive and vibrant in the members individually and as a unit. They all had their own projects going on before their band formed, and each brought some of themselves to Sweet HayaH’s sound.
The band makes indie that doesn’t rest in just one genre, instead creating a retro-soul-rock feel and blending them seamlessly. “Can’t Get Comfortable” promises to be an indie darling, with just the right amount of a hint of reggae tamped down with traditional alternative elements to truly stand out. The band is decentralized, vocalist Nehal Abuelata quick to defer, “I don’t think I ever really consciously envisioned becoming a ‘front woman’.” All bandmates are equally important: Devin Moreno (Guitar), Kosuke Okamura (Drums), Austin Geiger (Bass), and Ryosuke Sakurai (Trombone) all have esteemed positions in the band alongside vocalist Nehal.
Nehal is noticeably proud when she elaborates on that special dynamic with the band and what it allows them to create:
“Every core member (current or past) has played an instrumental role in defining the super eclectic sound that we’ve come to perfect today. It’s still a sauce that merges Retro-Soul, Reggae, Funk, Earthly Rock, and a dash of Afro-Latin sweetness…We’ve never followed trends, we’ve never cared to define our genre very seriously, and we always focused on making sure the music is FUN for ourselves, for each other and for our audiences. What matters is the energy that flows through us and carries onto the crowd or pours out of the records and individual songs we put out. What matters is the intention, the emotions, the authenticity of the messages, the exchange with the listeners.”
On living with intention, Nehal touts mindfulness, adding that to pay attention to what events and energies are swirling around their environment is to draw the right type of inspiration. Music is whatever-you-believe-in’s way of communicating, and Nehal knows this, pointing out music provides a soundtrack for making sense of an otherwise-silent life. She concludes, “It’s about elevating positive messages when we can, and finding ways to capture music and moments that can help heal or simply a reminder to enjoy the HayaH (Arabic for ‘life’) when given the chance.”
Sweet HayaH released their first EP in 2012. They’ve completed several self-funded tours, played across the Bay & beyond, released multiple albums, and then they took all that and carved out a comfortable niche for themselves in the South Bay music scene. Nehal notes they won’t be playing as many shows in the coming months, “since we want to focus on releasing more music and start writing new songs.”
The band is also ready for a revamp and a recommitment to taking on a less covid-restricted world, but Nehal wants a conscientious approach, ”yes we want to get back to being as active as we used to be pre-covid, but we’re also conscious of the way the world has changed, and continue to strive to connect with our audience in ways adapted to this new normal.” Sweet HayaH is taking on all aspects of running a band like they’re experts. They’ve designed a new logo to accompany their new chapter, have revamped their website, and are currently rebranding as they plan their near-future releases. Committed as they are to running the business side of music, they are also more than ready to focus on performing their music: “Like so many other bands, our touring plans were paused due to the pandemic. We plan on getting back to playing more festivals & College shows, and performing more within and outside of the Bay Area in general.”
Sweet HayaH met on a date famous enough that Nehal remembers their exact anniversary. The vocalist recalls, “On 4/20/2011, I met a wonderful 3-piece alternative/metal band that I immediately connected with on a musical and personal level.” The original band members (Devin Moreno, Josh Gardner, Aaron Marquez, Nehal Abuelata) clicked instantly, “These 3 friends immediately connected with Nehal and they ended up sharing a really special moment on and off stage, where they improvised, then ended up chatting it up all night.” Within just a few weeks, Devin and Nehal began to work on independent tracks together, then Nehal took the plunge and asked if the three-piece would like to learn some of her songs and accompany her, “at their very first San Jose Pride Festival performance that Summer of 2011. Then ensued a series of shows, and the band kept growing its following and sound exponentially.”
The more things change, the more they stay the same for Sweet HayaH: “That Open Mic no longer exists, but we still meet up there for an occasional drink and laugh, and a few years back, we even performed there. It felt good to go back to our “ band roots” and also revel in our friendship and in how far we’ve come since that Open Mic.” Those roots run deep, and that friendship has taken them far, with a long way to go. But they’ll go together, and go much farther.