Did you guys have a vision for the record, before you began
We didn't have a vision, it came about more as we were going
along. This is the opposite of how we did our last album, where we were really
careful to make a tapey organic album.
With this record, you seem to blend the organic sound of classic
Cloud Control with more synthetic sounds. What motivated that decision?
(absolutely love it, by the way...)
Thank you! I think this time we were more relaxed. I've always
been interested in electronica and programming, always written demos in that
way. This time more of that found its way onto the album.
How did the writing process pan out for "Dream Cave"?
It was written all over the place, mainly France, London and
back where we used o live in Sydney. I would team up with Jeremy a lot, and
Heidi and Ulrich are the other main team. But it worked other ways too, there
aren't any rules.
How did you guys end up working with Barny
He was recommended through a friend. When we had some test
recordings with him they came out really well.
Listening back to the record, can you hear any specific
Hmmm yeah, I don't know. I don't think it really sounds like
what I was influenced by when we were writing. Just to name drop some bands -
rancid, pure x, beastie boys, Orbison. But yeah I'm just one guy in the band.
What song were you most surprised by its outcome, the finished
I guess promises didn't turn out how I imagined. It's
I would love to hear the stories behind "Scar"
and "Dojo Rising," and how they came together...
On dojo, I wrote a beat. I asked Jez to bring some words for it cause I
was struggling. He came up with that first verse, which really seemed to relate
to me. Then I got in there and sang the chorus freestyle. That's pretty much
how the core of the song arrived. That all happened in the blue mountains.
Scar was similar, but we were in France. I think Heidi or Jez
made up some chords, Jeremy wrote that first verse and then I brought the
What would you like for people to take away from this record,
I want people to feel pumped. I would love people to skate or go
snowboarding or listen to it in the car really loud.
You guys(and gal) have had the opportunity to travel across the
world, touring. Are there any places that you would love to play, that you
haven't visited yet?
Yeah, Japan! Really want to go there.
Perfect day, driving in your car with the windows down, what are
you listening to?
car album for me is Cosmo's Factory
by Creedence Clearwater revival.
When I experience a particularly stressful day, one of my favorite things to do is throw myself into an online music wormhole. Clicking from band to band, jumping from genre to genre until a new sound catches my attention. When a productive wormhole experience occurs, not only do I feel less stressed, I look forward to the upcoming days and weeks as I champion around my latest mix tape hero. The guys in Royal Forest have become favorites of mine, with their oddly beautiful soundscapes. The first song I heard of theirs, was "John Denver," a song that I found to be very catchy in a unique way. Mainly because when i was listening to the song, I felt as if I was in a plane that was quickly ascending and my ears were on the verge of popping. To my surprise, I looked up a description of the song and found out that the version I was listening to was recorded in a prop plane. Amazing. These guys not only write beautiful songs, but try to present them in original ways by capturing specific soundscapes. For the latest info on Royal Forest, and to purchase their latest album Spillway,please check out republicoftheroyalforest.com/ Hope you enjoy my short interview with front man, Cody Ground.
Cliche one, could you briefly explain what brought you guys together?
Ground: Erik and I met in Waco and played in some bands together. Then, we met Justin through a "drummer wanted" ad (he showed up with a pedal steel). Justin was recording one of our friend's projects at his studio when we met Blake.
From talking with other Austin-based bands, I've gathered that it is a fantastic place to develop music. What has your experience been?
G: Austin is a great city. There are a lot of good bands and venues and a real camaraderie in the music world. It's also pretty isolated, tour wise, which makes it a challenge to try and get the word out about your music.
How long had you guys been working on "Spillway?" How far do some of the songs date back to?
G: We worked on Spillway off and on for around 2 years. The oldest song on the record is "On the Sun" and the newest song is "Everyone Who Knows You."
How does the writing process normally pan out for your guys?
G: We write songs as a band. It changes depending on the song. Sometimes it starts as a beat, riff, or sound and we build it from there. Then later, we'll deconstruct that piece and try to leave only the essential elements.
Who did you work with, when recording this record? What did they bring to the table?
G: Justin (our guitar player) recorded and engineered everything on the record. Justin is really good at getting the best performances out of the band. He's also able to create unique soundscapes and figure out how everything fits together by stripping deconstructing layers of sound we record.
I would love to hear the stories behind "John Denver" and "Black Hills," if you don't mind.
G: John Denver is written about a guy I grew up with.
Black Hills was inspired by a scene I saw out of my dad's truck window while we were driving on some backwoods roads on a family vacation.
Who are some guys you have looked up to in terms of live performance?
G: A lot bands put on a great live show - I just saw Yo La Tengo recently and they performed two completely different sets that were great. The Flaming Lips are the best at putting on an unforgettable live show that really engages the crowd. I think we're also inspired by art and trying to figure out a way to make our live shows interesting and original. Recently, we've been doing some live tape looping that involves the audience.
Perfect day, driving in your car with the windows down, what are you listening to?
G: Lately, I've been listening a lot to "Tragic Songs of Life" by The Louvin Brothers. We also have sort of a pre show tour tradition of listening to Jaco Pastorius "Come on, Come Over" (http://youtu.be/PE6HmArln_k) when we're driving up to the venue.
Today marks the release of "Blood Tears," the debut full-length release from
brainchild of Sandra Vu(DumDum Girls Drummer).
played, and produced "Blood Tears" with bandmates Ryan Wood (co-producer), Nathanael Keefer
(drums), and Lars Stalfors (Chelsea Wolfe, The Soft Pack, The Mars
Volta) mixed the album. Julianna Medeiros (DumDum Girls) joins SISU live on synth and backup vocals.
Vu: I believe the earliest songs date back to a few years, some having been re-worked or remixed from demos from any time in that period.
How does the writing process for this project differ from other projects that you have been involved in? This is pretty much my solo project, but I collaborate with my band mate Ryan Wood on the technical side of things. I call him the band "engineer". We would evolve the songs by passing mixes back and forth, which is different from any other band I've been in, where we would sit in a rehearsal space with seeds of songs that we would then develop together. After having written both ways, I would say I prefer to work on my own, or with one other writing partner. Your ideas don't get compromised by band mates who are maybe not on the same page. Some great collaborations happen that way, but overall it's just very inefficient for me and I don't enjoy it as much. I play a lot of instruments, so it's more effective for me to speak to others about ideas, instead of getting really particular about the parts or instrumentation of a song. How would you say your new full length, "Blood Tears," builds on you April release "Light Eyes" EP? On the whole, there is much less reverb, and things are more clear. It's more immediate and direct. It's technically recorded better, with better gear, and mixed by long-time SISU supporter, Lars Stalfors, whose recently worked with Chelsea Wolfe and Matt & Kim. Thematically they are related, but the LP is just harder hitting in my opinion. There is a bit more leaning on minimalism on the LP, and direct song structure.
Is there a song that you are most proud of on "Blood Tears," with how it came together from start to finish? Blood Tears, the title track was the last song that came together for the record. It's quite basic in format, but it's definitely the most dramatic piece on the record. A lot of the songs came about with not much force or struggle. This song in particular started with the synth sounds. They instantly had a mood and feeling and I built it up from there. While listening to the album, I noticed that you seamlessly seem to blend the soft with the loud, creating such an original sound. How do you think you arrived on that type of sound? I love drama and dynamics. With SISU, I just want people to feel something. To achieve the highs and lows, you have to have extreme contrasts. Since I have this sort of voice, I want to create grandness around it. I've just always been attracted to this dramatic quality, shock, and surprise. I'm just sick of irony and indifference. I'm a quiet person by nature, but when I perform I want to be loud. Maybe SISU is the manifestation of that--the pull between quiet and loud. What would you like listeners to take away from this album, after first listen? Hopefully it leaves you feeling inspired in some way--to move on, to create, to break free. But maybe after first listen, they will just be stuck in your head. You have a number of shows coming up, what can people expect when they come to see you live? We sound quite different live, I think harder. The band on tour right now consists of old friends. I grew up with bassist Dave South and guitarist Tito Echevarria, with whom I played in my first band together. We were 14-16 years old and we played growly, grind core punk. So fast forward to now, we've mellowed out a bit. Drummer Nat Keefer also has a background in hardcore, but we are rounded out by Julianna Medeiros who plays synth and sings lovely backups (also of Dum Dum Girls). Normally, you are sitting behind a drum kit when you perform(Dum Dum Girls, The Ravonettes, Boredoms and Dirty Beaches), with this project you are front and center. Has it taken some time to adjust? Do you enjoy it more? Yes, it's taken some time to adjust. The audience looks very different from the two positions. In SISU I'm thrust forward and forced to look square into the audience. It can be intimidating but it's one of those things that's all purely in your head. Playing a lot I've learned how to deal with it. There are some things you can never control though, which can put you back to square one. They're both enjoyable in different ways, but I've got more at stake in SISU. Are you currently working on any other projects? I'm writing more for my next record right now, but I'm always interested in other types of projects, if only I have the time! Perfect day, driving in your car with the windows down, what are you listening to? For today, let's go with Original Colors by High Places. It really depends on the day though, doesn't it?
Forming in 2009, Rome based band Ethos consists of Austen Earp (lead vocals, piano, guitar, synthesizer), Matthew Palopoli (lead guitar), Nick Riggs (bass, vocals), and Tribb Robison (drums, percussion). Their latest release, The Evergreen EP, features stripped-down acoustic versions of songs from their 2012 debut release, Vessels, along with a brand new song, the title track "Evergreen." The EP showcase the band's strong songwriting, breathing new life into some of their best songs and ultimately proving how diverse the band can be.
How did you become involved in this crazy world of music?
Earp: I read an interview recently with Tom Morello of ‘Rage Against the Machine’ and when asked a similar question he said that he didn’t really choose music, music chose him. I know it sounds pretty cliché, but when I read that I thought, ‘Yeah, that’s it.’ The four of us share a love for music; listening to it, analyzing it, and creating it. Matt and I began writing music together in 2009, putting a demo together with the hopes of recruiting two more members. After about a year we asked Nick and Tribb to take a listen and they came out to jam. The funny thing is, Matt and I used to joke about how far fetched it was to have them join the band because of how talented they were. We learned we had a lot in common with each other musically, spiritually and personally, and they picked the sound we were going for right up. Not only that, they added something to the music that was missing, and when we began creating brand new music together, something truly incredible started happening. Anyway, I knew at that point that I wouldn’t find another dynamic like the one the four of us had together because Matt and I had spent the last year and a half dreaming about a group in which each member was irreplaceable and essential. I had a lot of faith in the future of this group so I withdrew from the University that I was enrolled at and Matt did too. For me it was all or nothing. If you’ve got a back up plan, you’ll always use it, so for me it was about taking an irreversible step toward the thing I was most passionate about.
Who are your inspirations and what was the inspiration behind the album?
Earp:I find innovative music really inspirational. Goethe said “we are shaped and fashioned by what we love,” and I think that’s exactly right. I think artists have to be really careful to be inspired by something and not to impersonate it. Personally, I find a lot of inspiration in classical music. Why? Because it’s innovative. It’s timeless. Again, I love anything original, colorful, something that makes me think. I like a lot of rock music that toys with being impressive while maintaining a sense of musical impression. In other words, they don’t take it too far. Everything fits well together without being obnoxious. The inspiration behind the album itself grew as time went on. We knew that we wanted to write music that had an empathetic relationship with the words, more so than what you would typically hear. We were inspired by this idea that music could create an atmosphere in the listeners’ mind that they can experience vividly. It was really cool too, as the artist, to take part in that experience as well. I listened to the music and wrote the words that it spoke to me. The music itself seemed to draw up personal experiences and emotions within me and that’s what I wrote about. I think that’s really special because it’s also what I hope it does for every other listener. I’m really obsessed, in a way, with creating something that people can get lost in.
Could you tell our readers about the band and what makes you different from other artists?
Palopoli: Any musician will tell you they’re different from everyone else but have trouble describing why. I think that’s because genres are for listeners; artists just create. Our sound, like many other bands, is a compilation of the stuff that we all four like to hear in our own stereos, though I think it's safe to say that we all like music that is original and passionate in any sense of the word. Not to sound weird, but we believe that because music is a creation, it comes from the soul--it's a piece of you, which is a piece of something greater, therefore it's special and absolutely has the power to affect another's soul in the same manner it was created. We just want to share who we are and what it’s like to create, and we want it to affect others. In terms of the sound, we have a lot of progressive rock, classical, electronica, hard rock, and metal roots, but we'd like to say our music has a special ‘color’ to it. It's a tight, solid sound, but at the same time it’s earthy and organic.
Tell me about the album?
Riggs: The music itself is a roller coaster ride of extremes, it’s definitely progressive. We created a sound that we thought could change the way people looked at music. The wordethos, after all, means to affect someone through music, so we tried to reflect different moods and ideas that people would identify with. Not that we tried to manufacture something, but it just happened that we were inspired that way.
The title Vessels coincides thematically with the tone and lyrics of the album. The lyrics sort of revolve around the human condition and the idea that we are hosts for or embody something more powerful than we think. Love, hope, addictions, thoughts, are all powerful things that we become ‘vessels’ for.
Where was it recorded, who produced it, and how long did the process take?
Riggs: We spent the greater part of 2011-2012 writing and recording this record; about fourteen months. We tracked and mixed it ourselves in our home studio at Austen and Matt’s place, which is a feat that none of us have ever taken on before. It started as a five track EP, and quickly became a nine track LP. We felt compelled to begin recording a full-length only after playing a handful of shows together. It was an idea that was contrary to what most bands do, but we did it that way because we wanted to share something worthwhile and to share passion. We took our time in the studio not only to perfect the parts we were recording (we wrote half of the material in the studio), but to grow closer as a band.
What's in store for the future?
Robison: We can't predict what's in store for us, but for now we’re enjoying the whole journey and looking forward to where it takes us. Writing and playing music is fun for us, so we just want to stay true to ourselves and write music we love. If other people like it, that's even better. We’ve been in the studio for the past month recording an acoustic EP and we’re right in the middle of writing our second full length in the midst of playing some live shows, so we're staying pretty busy. I think each one of us has a few rock n' roll fantasies and big dreams, but most important to us is expression; making music we like and letting that lead us down whatever path we're meant for.
Scott: We had the incredible privilege of co-writing "Wake Up" with the one and only Scotty Wilbanks, who also produced the recording. He is a very talented and physically fit man, who plays the keys for Third Day.
How did the song come together, writing-wise?
Scott: "Wake Up" actually morphed out of one of our older songs, "Waiting" from our recent album "This is Goodnight, This is Goodbye." We wanted to re-vamp it to give it new life, and we did. So much so, that what we ended up with was a completely different song. We tried everything on this song: different styles, verses, choruses, sounds, you name it, we did it! There was no settling on this song. We all had to be completely happy with it and Scotty isn't easy to please. It was a long, long process, but totally worth it! We are beyond pleased with how it turned out.
What do you hope people to take away from this song?
Scott: I hope that when people hear this song they hear the cool sounds and drive of the song, but more importantly I hope they hear the lyrics. Lyrically this song is a challenge to think. To look around you and ask, what are you becoming? It seems that deep thought about life, death, and our ultimate purpose has become a rare thing. It can be so easy to just live a life of distraction, and never be forced to think about the reality of our existence. We believe all of this is found in Jesus. When we look at the world around us, and recognize our own depravity, we see that we need Jesus. Ultimately that is what we hope this song will lead people to, though lyrically this one is a little more abstract, than literal. Over all this song is an upbeat one, and a fun one. Hence the artwork with this single! I hope people enjoy it, as well as get what it's really trying to say!
Any other news?
The other news is that we didn't just record one song with Scotty... but two...
Matthew Mayfield is one of my favorite artists. Hands down. With every release, he strives to find something to change, and he continues to build. It is baffling how he has managed to surround himself with such supportive artists, friends that help him in his development. Currently, Mayfield is raising support to help get the latest EP, Irons in the Fire, the proper promotion it undoubtedly deserves. For more information on how you can take part in this project, check out the following link: Pledge
Why the choice of doing a new EP, rather than an LP?
Mayfield : Well it's somewhere in the middle. Eight tracks. Four brand new songs, two remasters, an acoustic tune, and a remix of 'Fire Escape' from Catherine Marks (The Killers, PJ Harvey) featuring John Paul White of The Civil Wars. I'm gonna make it a point to keep the price low for fans that may already have a couple of the tunes.
What did you and Paul Moak focus on this time around? Was it just you guys in the studio again? If not, who did you bring in?
M: Moak and I have a unique musical kinship. It took us a while to learn each other as artists, but once we did, we started seeing that we were truly sharpening each other and challenging each other. He's a brilliant, musical mind. I wanted to try some new things and get some fresh sounds in the mix while keeping the organic elements at the forefront.
How did the material for Irons In the Fire come together (writing wise)? Did you write it during a specific time frame?
M: As always, it's a bit all over the place. I wrote 'Miles & Miles', 'Look Me In The Eye', and 'Follow You Down' on the road with NEEDTOBREATHE this past fall. When it comes to creativity, I'm either on fire or I'm burned out. Being around talented folks like the NEED(TOBREATHE) boys and Good Old War inspires you in a bit of a subliminal way. You don't know it's happening, but all those sound checks and shows paired with 9 different musical minds and the right amount of spare time makes for a perfect storm. I've been on fire ever since.
Would you say that this album is a departure from your previous record? Is it a harder, more rock album?
M: Irons has a little bit of everything on it. The opening track, 'In Or Out', is certainly the heaviest thing I've put out in a while. Felt so good to turn up and dig in again. Songs like 'Miles & Miles' and 'Look Me In The Eye' are new territory for me especially when it comes to the guitar sounds. I wanted to keep the acoustics in the back and let those jangly electrics be the foundation. I kept referencing Springteen's The River in the studio because there's a magic to those guitar tones that I wanted to try and find. So rich and warm, but never overkill.
What song were you most pleased with on the new EP, Irons In the Fire?
M: Today it's 'Miles & Miles'. I struggled to find that song. I chased it relentlessly for months. I had a great verse, but couldn't find the chorus to save my life. It was like a fight with your girlfriend, sometimes it's best to step away and come back when the dust has settled a bit. One night I came home from the bar and sat on the floor in the dark. I went through the verse once and the chorus just arrived out of nowhere. Those moments are gifts. I didn't sleep a wink that night. Nothing gets me more riled up than a great melody.
You have a very loyal fan base; what would you say is the key to developing one?
M: I'm so fortunate to have fans that not only support me, but seem to understand who I am as artist for the most part. They allow me to try new things and to explore new territory. It may not always be their thing, but I'm grateful for the opportunity. I think the most important thing is to realize that at the end of the day, your job as an artist is to deliver your best art to anyone who will open their ears. I focus on giving them content more than anything. My heroes didn't win me over with gimmicks. They won me over with songs. That's all I ever hope to accomplish. The rest falls into place naturally.
Where did the idea to do a covers album come from? Did your devotion to karaoke fuel the idea? Do you have any hints on the Covers EP or the release date?
M: I think the same part of me that loves Def Leppard's 'Pyromania' also loves the idea of drunken anthems being shouted to the heavens at 2 am in some dive down the street (laughs). But this set of covers came about a bit differently. The Covers Collection is a record for the fans. They have asked for these songs for quite a while and the time was finally right to give it to them. I enjoy exploring these songs and making them my own, but I mostly just wanted to give my fans what they'd been asking for. It will be available exclusively at Pledge Music, so every dime we make will go towards the promotion and marketing of Irons.
How did the live EP come together? Who did you work with? Where was it recorded? Are you pleased with the result? Release date?
M: The live thing was a lot of fun. On the last tour, I had a lot of recording capability at my fingertips since I was out with a band that carried their own console. My friend Mikey Reaves (NEEDTOBREATHE's monitor tech) was running sound for me every night, so we found a good mic and just went for it. It's 5 songs, 5 cities. Just me and my guitar. Mikey did an incredible job on the mix by incorporating the dynamics to keep the live feel. It's another exclusive at Pledge Music .
You recently tweeted that you turned down "The Voice." What motivated you to make that decision?
M: A lot of folks thought it was a jab at other folks who have gone that route. It wasn't at all. It's just not me. I mean, can you see me up there with a big smile on my face during Tina Turner night on Team Adam?Me neither. I also know myself well enough to stay away from anything that has a shot-out-of-a-cannon vibe. My personality could never handle that kind of swing. If I get there at a steady pace, then great. But you don't wanna be on the cover of People Magazine when all you've done is sing karaoke on TV and gotten a record deal that won't last. I don't want fame without true fans. One minute you're flying high, the next you're doing commercials for the local car dealership. I'd rather jump off a building.
Over the years you have seen some huge successes within your close community of musicians. How would you say you celebrate the successes of your peers? Are they ever bittersweet?
M: Man, it's been amazing to watch. The NEEDTOBREATHE guys, JP and Joy(The Civil Wars), Will Hoge, too many to name, honestly. I couldn't be happier for them because they've truly paid their dues. They are blue collar acts. They've worked their asses off for years and years and it's starting to pay off. It always gives me chill bumps to listen to these huge crowds singing songs I've heard for years. I feel like a proud mother. Ha. I may have cried like one sidestage a time or two as well. Tears of joy are a rarity.
You will be using PledgeMusic.com again to help raise funds to promote the projects. What initially attracted you to this process? What can fans look forward to seeing in the pledge levels this time around?
M: I was introduced to Pledge by my old manager, Brian Klein (Joe Purdy, Fitz & The Tantrums). He's a DIY hero and taught me so much about the new world while we worked together. This time, my favorite incentives are The Live EP and The Covers Collection. I love being able to deliver music to the people who want it most. If you pledge, you'll get something that only a few folks have. I also have some handwritten lyrics, guitars, private shows, etc available. Every dime will go towards the promotion and marketing of the next release. I hate it, but properly promoting a record as an independent artist is really expensive. I figure the best way to get the money is to make sure everyone wins and gets quality, exclusive content. That's my favorite part about the service Pledge provides.
I know you've answered this for me before, but this is worth repeating: What kind of advice would you give to an artist starting out?
M: The best advice I can give is this: do everything yourself. Learn how to be your own manager, agent, label, and promoter. I've been through seasons where all of those elements were in place and others where none of them were. You've gotta adapt if you're gonna survive. That's the new world. I wish we could all be rock stars with no worries besides where to find more cocaine and who was getting us to the tarmac for the next jet ride, but sadly those days are gone.
What have some of the advantages and disadvantages of going the "independent" route as a musician, and adopting many of the DIY practices?
M: I got signed to a major label when I was 21 with my band, Moses Mayfield. We were wined and dined. I thought I had won the lottery because all I had ever dreamed of was being a rock'n'roll star. We got a big advance and made a super expensive record in some of the country's most incredible studios. But that was 8 years ago. The industry has completely changed and been turned upside down by the digital wave as well as the streaming wave. Artists have to find other means of paying expenses. Everything costs money: gas, food, hotels, guitar strings, drum heads, oil changes...the list never ends. Our expenses are moderate in the studio and insane on the road. So it's important for music fans to realize that buying a record, coming to a show, and spreading the word about the music you love is more important than it ever has been. Supporting independent artists isn't about charity, it's about believing in the underdogs. It's about artists who view music as a true craft, not a means of becoming rich and famous. It's about knowing that if the fans don't make waves and create buzz, the artist will never be able to survive in today's climate. It's brutal.
In every love story there is a potential for both euphoria and pain. as you mentioned, many of your songs focus on post-breakup stories of grief and pain. What about all of the good parts of a love story? Does this show up in your writing?
M: There are good parts?Surely not.<laughs>No I certainly write about the good things.Quite a bit.'Follow You Down' from the new EP is a perfect example of that.It started as a hypothetical.Someone asked me to write a song for a film and all they gave me was a two sentence synopsis of the couple's story.I started with that line 'first time to meet you, or could I be wrong?' and it all spilled out from there.That song quickly became about me, but not a single experience.It's about the idea.The Fight.I've never believed in anything more than I believe in the Fight.Good things aren't easy and human beings are often selfish and extremely hurtful towards one another in relationships, myself included.But that's the beauty of realizing the strength of what we're up against and how helpless we truly are.It's so important to acknowledge that fact, but to never give up.I can't give up.
K. Ishibashi at The Earl in Atlanta. Photo by Stephen Lindley
Soon after being turned on to Kishi Bashi's latest album, 151a, I had the opportunity to see K perform at the Earl in Atlanta. Not really knowing what to expect, I had relatively low expectations going into the show. I mean, after listening to the record on repeat for the entire week prior to the (cramming for the show, in usual mousertime fashion), I had no idea how an artist could recreate the lush sound found on the album, without playing backing tracks. I couldn't have been more thrown off. K, armed only with a violin and a looping pedal setup and a little help from Tall Tall Trees, Elizabeth Ziman, managed to wow the crowd with intricate arrangements of each of his songs. Truly breathtaking. We recently caught up with K. Ishibashi, and were able to get some pressing questions answered. Check out http://www.kishibashi.com for the latest news regarding Kishi Bashi.
You just finished up a headlining tour, how was it overall? Have you had a chance to rest?
The tour was incredibly successful! It was almost 95% sold out and a great feeling to know that I was connecting to so many people around the country.
Were there any specific shows or crowds that blew you away while on tour?
The crowds were all amazing. I noticed that some crowds are consistently crazy and wild regardless of how close the show is to a weekend (Austin, Houston, Chicago) and then there would be some sleeper cell cities that completely got me by surprise (Minneapolis, St.Louis). The Atlanta crowd was really listening with all their heart, which I love.
I had the opportunity to see you perform in Atlanta and found your show to be mesmerizing! I couldn't believe how well the music translated to the live setting. Do you have the live performance in mind when you are writing and recording?
I try and keep my compositions simple so that I can perform them solo if I have to via looping. I have been working with Tall Tall Trees consistently, so I'm definitely beginning to branch out into more traditional song forms again for my next album.
How did you get hooked up with Tall Tall Trees and Elizabeth Ziman? Did you intend on utilizing their talents during your show, or did that just happen organically?
TTT and I have been buddies since our jazz days (he's an incredible upright bass player) and we recently joined forces as we developed into singer/songwriters. Elizabeth is extremely talented and had expressed to me that she loved my music, so I had her join me for this tour... and beyond :)
Who are some artists that you look up to in regards to stage presence and live performance?
I've had the unique honor of having worked with some fierce and inspiring solo artists in succession. Regina Spektor is amazing. She had her audience in the cup of her hand and showed me a level of intimacy that I learned to enjoy and have always strived to achieve. Sondre Lerche could kill the audience with just his guitar, and he showed me the highest level of raw showmanship and stage presence. Kevin Barnes and of Montreal are just completely committed to provoking and entertaining their audience and just putting on a fantastic musical/visual/theatrical show.
How does the writing process normally pan out for you?
I'm generally a very lazy person, so I have to combat it by setting myself up with a "writing schedule" sometimes. I'll give myself 30 minute blocks to come up with song ideas and then I’ll demo them very quickly and think about them later.
Are you a continual writer, or do you write in spurts?
Definitely spurts. Deadlines are my impetus for creation. :)
I am assuming that you originally began playing the violin in a more classical setting, but I am curious if you remember a specific time or period when you realized that you could "make it your own"?
I studied improvisation and jazz on the violin and I had been struggling for a while as an instrumentalist for years when I moved to New York City. After that I focused on my songwriting and being in a band with my old group Jupiter One. Now, I think I've found a place where I've combined the two and it's inspiring me to create music that is both exciting to myself and my audience.
Are you currently working on any new material?
I will be making an album this year come hell or high water.
What's next for you on the schedule?
Europe, Australia, and Japan in one month!
Perfect day, driving in your car with the windows down, what are you listening to?
Nick Drake? Just kidding... I actually listen to top 40 dance music a lot now. I actually love club music and electro so I'm glad there's a lot of it on the radio now.
K. Ishibashi at The Earl in Atlanta. Photo by Stephen Lindley
I first encountered Noah Gundersen's music in the live format, while he was opening for one of my favorite singer-songwriters, William Fitzsimmons. Gundersen and his sister, Abby Gundersen, delivered a stunning performace, captivating the relatively small crowd in Atlanta. Following the show, I dug up his pervious releases and immediately got sucked in. Gundersen seems to have an "old soul," painting beautifully touching scenarios and giving listeners the impression that he is wise beyond his years. Check him out, and keep an eye out for some new material coming out soon! http://noahgundersenmusic.com/
What have you been up to lately?
I just started a two month North American Tour. Our record is almost done being mixed and we're looking into different options for a release.
How did you originally get hooked up with TWLOHA?
6 years ago I was working at Starbucks and struck up a conversation with a costumer, who, unbeknownst to me, was friends with Jamie Tworkowski. I wrote down a link to my music and gave it to him. He later emailed me saying he liked it and had passed it on to "a friend who runs a non-profit". TWLOHA put a song of mine up on their Myspace page and Jamie emailed me inviting me out to play a couple songs before he spoke at a college in Southern California. In the years since, I've done around 15 of these college events with Jamie, all over the country. In February, I opened up the first leg of TWLOHA's Heavy & Light Tour.
Are you currently working on any new projects/records? If so, any idea when listeners can expect to hear them/it?
Like I mentioned earlier, our record is almost finished. We're hoping to release it this fall, but I can't say for sure when it will be out. I also recently produced a record for my siblings band, Le Wrens. That will be out May 3rd.
Are you seeing a change in new material that you are finishing up right now, either musically or content-wise?
Throughout the process of writing this upcoming record, I was doing what I would call "lifestyle experimentation". I was in a new and different place in my life, experiencing life in a way I never had before. I made some mistakes in that time, but learned some valuable lessons along the way. Most of the new songs come from that place. They are very autobiographical. I've always written from a very personal place, but a lot of these songs feel more vulnerable because they come from a place of weakness and uncertainty.
In the past, the questioning of faith was a recurring theme in your songs. Is this theme surfacing in your new material?
Not so much on this record. This one has more to do with questioning myself than it does with questioning my faith.
Have you had any listeners approach you about your songs that discuss faith? What kind of feedback do you typically receive?
Yes, all the time. It comes up at almost every show. And I love that. I love that a song I wrote in an hour in an old girlfriend's basement when I was 18 could have such a strong and meaningful effect on people. The feedback is often from people who grew up in the church and have the same questions.
How does a song normally come together for you? Do you have a set process, or does it differ?
There isn't really a set process. Most of the time I sit down with a guitar or piano and play around with melody and progressions until something sticks and then try and turn whatever's on my mind into something cohesive. Sometimes it's intentional and other times it's stream of consciousness
Over the last several days, I have been listening to both of your records (Family and Saints and Liars) and I have been blown away.In a number of your songs, you seem to write from the perspective of someone who has lived a long, hard life. Have you always had an "old soul?" What initially inspired you to create songs with this specific type of imagery?
I definitely haven't lived a long, hard life. Compared to some, my life would be considered relatively easy. The themes of hardship and struggle are basic human properties. Pain and suffering have existed since the beginning and will exist until the end, in some form. It just seems appropriate to except and address it.
What would you like for listeners of your music to take away from your records?
Comfort. Solace. Questions. The knowledge that they are not alone.
Random question, have you had the opportunity to see this video? Have you gained any new fans from listeners who looked up this song?
Yes, I have. It's very endearing. And yes, I am happy to say that I think I've gained some new fans, courtesy of some drunken singing.
I have had the great pleasure of seeing you and your sister perform several times, and I am curious: Who do you and your sister look up to in terms of live performance and stage presence?
Neil Young, Tom Waits, Josh Tillman, David Wilcox. All of them have a way of drawing in the listener while appearing completely natural and comfortable. The greatest act is when its not an act.