Kishi Bashi: I make music to inspire or provoke
Photo courtesy of the artist
The easiest way to explain the music of Kishi Bashi to someone who is unfamiliar with him is to say that he kind of does the Andrew Bird live-looping with a violin thing. Except the Japanese-American multi-instrumentalist -- whose full name is K (short for Kaori) Ishibashi -- does it like his brain is hemorrhaging creativity and emotion.
A classically trained violinist, Ishibashi has toured with Regina Spektor and Of Montreal, and recently released his debut full-length solo album titled 151a, an work of such intricate, textural artistry that it's almost unfair to condense it down to "indie pop." You'll hear classical, surf, Japanese wind instruments, electronic, and more combined into a beautiful work. What's more is that he accomplishes all of this alone, with his starling falsetto voice, his violin, and a little bit of technology.
Kishi Bashi is currently based in Virginia, where he lives with his wife and six-year-old daughter. The release of 151a marks his first headlining tour promoting his own solo work. Ahead of his show this Friday at the Triple Rock, Gimme Noise caught up with the artist to talk about how he creates those crazy sounds.
Gimme Noise: I watched your Tiny Desk concert with NPR and I was filled with both joy and confusion. Can you walk me through how exactly you are creating music?
Kishi Bashi: [Laughs] I mean, I have loop pedals, and it's basically that I record directly into these loop pedals, and I can slow them and speed them. I press this button, and it'll do it twice as fast. I can also do half speed with these swiling orchestral textures, so I use that to my advantage as much as I can live.
How did you discover that you were interested in creating music like this?
I've been using pedals for a while. I used to get into jazz and improv on violin, and I would create sound pieces. So I was always into experimenting, but it wasn't until I started working with Kevin Barnes from Of Montreal on the album he left me a lot of space to create experiments, and I tried to stick to the violin and do what I could do with that.
How did you find yourself comfortable with the strangeness of your voice and what you're doing?
I had always sung... there was a whole decade where I was dedicated to instrumentalism, but I had a rock band after that called Jupiter One, and people started caring more when I started singing. I never thought of myself that way... I was always less of a singer and more of an instrumentalist. Now, I always find a balance between the two.
I imagine a sort of mad scientist situation with lots of gadgets hanging around in a cramped room, creating odd sounds. What is the creation process like for you?
[Laughs] You might be right. I'm sloppy and disorganized. A lot of times, what I'll do is make a loop with a violin, and if it's a cool idea I'll record it and write songs to it, and then I'll kind of leave it. I'll record it with a voice recorder, and then I'll do another idea... I forget stuff really easily. I'll come back to it the next day, and see if I still like the idea.
When you're creating music, what is the ultimate goal for you?
Well, I just want to create music I like, to make people happy. I think more and more people are listening to my music, so I make music that will hopefully inspire or provoke. First, I have to like the music, and then if I like it, I think, "I hope people like this." I think that's what a lot of people that make music do.
You've got quite the tour lined up now through March. You're going all over, and there are a few sold out dates on your roster. Is there any scene in particular that you're excited to check out?
I have a day off before San Francisco, so I'm hoping we can hang out at the Redwood Forest. I'm pretty excited about that.
What can we expect in your live show? Are you taking people on tour with you or is this a one-man show?
I have two members in my band now, so we're going to have three-part harmonies. Elizabeth Ziman [of Zim Zim] and Mike Sevino from Tall Tall Trees are singing, and there'll be set installation. It'll be fancy.
Are you taking your family on the road with you, or are they remaining at your home in Virginia?
Yeah, they're staying behind, which is always kind of a drag. I try to communicate as much as possible, though.
Is your daughter musical?
[Laughs] Yes! I bought her a pink drum set for Christmas, and she also plays violin. She's great.
Kishi Bashi will be performing at the Triple Rock Social Club on Friday, February 15. Doors at 7 p.m. $12. 21+.
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