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Local vocalist and songwriter Marti Sarbit has moved on from Imaginary Cities to a real place.

Her new group, Lanikai, shares its name with a beach in Oahu, the translation of which is "heavenly sea." Sarbit and her partner, Tim Iskierski (who plays drums in the band), spent time there during a vacation to the island a few years back, and the beauty of the beach popped into mind when the time came to choose a name for the project.

"It was just a good memory, and every time I think about it, it just kind of brings me back to that spot. That was sort of the purpose, something that makes me smile every time I think about it," says Sarbit, 31.

Lanikai will be performing at the third instalment of the Free Press’s Sunday Brunch Collective on Nov. 20, just two days after the release of their self-titled debut EP.

Some have deemed the recording a sort of solo coming-out for Sarbit, who is most well-known for her work as half of the indie-pop duo Imaginary Cities (the other half being producer and former Waking Eyes member Rusty Matyas) and as a vocalist in the popular Motown cover band the Solutions. Sarbit prefers for Lanikai to be thought of more as a five-piece group in which she fills the roles of frontwoman and songwriter.

Sarbit and Matyas announced earlier this year Imaginary Cities would be going on an "indefinite hiatus" following the release of their Leftovers EP in August. Though Lanikai had already been making music by that point, Sarbit says the decision to embark on a separate project wasn’t necessarily something she had in her mind when Imaginary Cities decided to take a break.

PHOTOS BY MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Marti Sarbit (left) and Jay Bachman, members of the band Lanikai, perform at the next Sunday Brunch Collective on Nov. 20.</p></p>

PHOTOS BY MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Marti Sarbit (left) and Jay Bachman, members of the band Lanikai, perform at the next Sunday Brunch Collective on Nov. 20.

"I had been just writing songs anyway, I didn’t really know how not to, I guess, but I wasn’t really... I didn’t have concrete plans of starting a new project, because it was actually a very intimidating idea for me at the time, but I just wanted to keep writing," says Sarbit, adding that she continued to work with Matyas for Lanikai’s EP, on which he co-wrote and produced a couple of songs.

"I wound up with some material and got into a place where I thought I was ready to start a whole new thing."

The six-song EP has a retro quality to it in the fluttering vibrato that subtly dots Sarbit’s vocals, the classic musical lines and phrasing that feel ripped right out of the 1950s and ’60s and the haziness that envelopes the tracks and gives them a vintage vinyl sound. At its core, it’s pop music, but Lanikai’s soulful flourishes make it sparkle.

Though Sarbit is no newbie when it comes to penning songs, the collection of tracks on Lanikai’s EP showcases her solo voice as a songwriter for the first time — an idea she finds equally exciting and terrifying. She says her solo work "also kind of gives me more pride.

"I feel things are at a point where I didn’t even think I could get it to, and now I’m here and I’m basking in the fact that I was able to put music out into the world," she says. "It’s a feeling of pride and scary as hell at the same time, but because it’s so scary and because I was able to do it, I feel good about it."

Lanikai will hold an official album-release show in Winnipeg sometime before the end of the year, but details have yet to be announced. Fans anxious to hear the new music, however, can check out the group’s Sunday Brunch Collective performances during both the 10 a.m. and 1 p.m sittings on Nov. 20 at Kitchen Sync.

erin.lebar@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @NireRabel

Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Multimedia producer

Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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