Someone once said that it’s highly egotistical to quote oneself. But I’m not sure who said that because they failed to quote themselves, so I’ll proceed—on first hearing the music of Kishi Bashi last year, we wrote:
“Kishi Bashi creates beautifully complex, layered, orchestral pop that sounds like it comes straight out of the beak of some magical bird you’re happy to be near but fear looking at straight-on. Or it comes from some really talented guy. One or the other.”
We stand by that statement—to this day, Kishi Bashi (the pen name for Kaoru Ishibashi’s solo work) continues to entice us with his deeply textured, highly accessible, inventively soaring music. So we were thrilled to speak with him yesterday as he embarked on a five week tour supporting his coming sophomore release, Lighght, out next Tuesday.
As the former member of Athens-based Elephant Six giants, Of Montreal drove through the bayou on his way to the first show of the tour in Baton Rouge, we talked about the new album, his many-layered writing process, and our mutual abandonment of New York City.
Read on and listen to the first single from the album, “Philosophize In It! Chemicalize With It!”, below
“I guess there’s a lot of pressure—my first album did pretty well, you know, in an “indie” kinda way, and a lot of people really like it,” Kaoru told me regarding his second solo album. “So there’s a lot of pressure to kinda recreate it…. I went a different direction. It’s still a lot of the same creativity, but I think it’s a little more aggressive—there’s a lot more experimentation going on, I tried to feature a lot of musicianship, and I focused on the song-writing and the lyrics.”
Listening to his first album, 151a, though, you’d never guess that he’d never not focused on the song-writing. Ishibashi’s music is highly orchestral, extremely layered, and musically complicated while still presenting itself as extremely accessible pop music.
“I think the approach, I think I got it from Of Montreal—(founder) Kevin Barnes is a good friend of mine and my neighbor and he’s a real inspiration. But I take an approach where I layer as much as I can on top of each other…when I’m writing a song, I put so much on there…like, any idea I have, I just put it on there to the point where it’s too much. And then, when I’m editing it, I’ll leave things and I’ll take things out; I really see what work.”
And the seemingly enigmatic title of the album—Lighght—comes from a poem that proved inspirational to the classically trained violinist. “The poem’s by Aram Saroyan,” Ishibashi explains. “He’s a minimalist poet. I studied minimilist composition—like Philip Glass, Terry Riley—and I didn’t realize there’s a parallel movement to minimalism in poetry…. Like, you don’t read it, it’s more like an instance. You just kinda see it and experience it…. That poem was really profound—it’s one word—”Lighght”; just how it felt, in the middle of the page. It was a pretty profound poem at the time in that it kind of broke a lot of conventions and inspired you to really think about words and the functionality of words. But the whole idea was that it breaks conventions and that’s something I can truly relate to. And that’s why I used it for my title. It’s a one-word experience…. I see the album as a burst of a general idea of being in one point in time…. I found out about his work, like, a year ago, and I was really excited about it. And I looked really hard for another word because I didn’t want to steal it—I thought maybe I could find another word with a silent ‘GH’ which I could double…but I couldn’t—this was the perfect one.”
In the past, Ishibashi performed solo, singing and playing violin live over drum loops and pedal-looped vocals to support his first release. He’s now recruited a full band to support Lighght for the next five weeks, enhancing live shows with performance visuals created by Athens-based artist, Dana Jo Cooley.
On what brought Ishibashi from New York to Athens, Georgia in the first place—”Of Montreal, I guess. I used to play them and I rehearsed with them and I really fell in love with the town. It’s a small city, but it’s got a lot pop culture, really lovely people, and it’s got a very vibrant live music scene. For the size of the city, it’s best I’ve seen on the east coast. There’s always a band playing and people will come to see you.”
And it sounds like there’s no looking back or romanticizing the ten years he and his wife spent in New York City. “We started okay, before we had kids,” Ishibashi says “We were in Brooklyn, in Park Slope…and then we were in Queens…and then we ended up in Jersey. And we were just like ‘What are we doing here?’…I’m so glad I don’t live there any more…the quality of living was just getting really bad.” What to do with all that newly discovered disposable income? “I live in Athens, which is like, the middle of nowhere, so I got a lot,” he say with a laugh. “You know, I bought a house. I have a grill.”
Living the dream.
You can listen to the rest of Kishi Bashi’s new album below and pre-order it on yellow or black vinyl, CD, and/or digitally via Ishibashi’s label, Joyful Noise, and directly from Kishi Bashi’s bandcamp page. You can also get it via iTunes. Catch the band on tour too—they hit New Orleans tonight, Austin tomorrow, and will be in LA next Friday as they play the Fonda. Full tour dates on Kishi Bahsi’s Web site.
To the right, the album cover for Lighght and the two winning designs from Kishi Bashi’s recent t-shirt design contest, created by Yiming Qin + Paige Bowman, respectively.