At the end of next month – Sunday May 29th to be exact – Far Out will join forces with Karma Fest in Leeds to present one of the most vibrant all-day events on the psychedelic calendar.
Headlining our very own stage down at Eiger Studios will be Japanese psych-folk visionaries Kikagaku Moyo. We sat down with them just days before the release of their new record to chat late night jam sessions, fishing in the mountains and of course Yorkshire puddings.
Your sound is one that straddles a host of genres, is this free- flowing approach something that is at the heart of Kikagaku Moyo’s philosophy? It’s not so much a part of the philosophy of the band, as a function of our process. In Japan it’s more common to live with your parents late into your 20s, or alone in some tiny flat.
Because we all live together in a big old place other people are always dropping in to our lounge room to hang out. We’ll end up listening to whatever music we and our friends are into at the time, and because of the variety of people, they bring with them lots of different kinds of records. We’re often influenced by whatever it is that someone puts on the player.
We’ll take a walk in the middle of the night to the rehearsal studio, and end up jamming until the early hours of the morning. Those jam sessions are the spaces where we create the nuggets of sound that, when expanded upon, become our records.
What kinds of influences were most prominent in your minds when you first started the band?
Because of the diversity of our musical influences they change quite often. The one thing that has remained a constant is the presence of non-musical influences in our tracks.
Just one or two days in the countryside can contain really rich inspiration. Some of us hitchhiked around Kyushu a while back, and from the car window, framed by the voices of the drivers who picked us up, we watched the backwater towns and fields go by.
In the evening, we were camping. It was the night before a typhoon, and the insects were so loud, with the clouds rolling in across the stars. Those kind of aural, kinetic, and visual snapshots are the things that have been finding their way into our music from our earliest tracks.
You took to the streets and busked quite a lot in the early days, did these experiences help form the band we see before us today? Is there an extra freedom that comes with busking?
There are all kinds of constraints that go along with performing a set on stage: a limited time frame, a specific set up. When we’re busking we don’t have to worry about that, and that looseness translates itself into our music.
Playing on acoustic instruments permits us to communicate more delicately with one another. Then there’s the opportunity to play with other musicians, which we can regularly do when we busk.
What are your opinions on the music scene in Tokyo and Japan as a whole at the moment? Does it excite you?
The things that are most exciting are those that combine something essentially Japanese with a universal sense of experimentation. Organisers will put on all-day music shows with local bands at music studios like DOM in Koenji that are fun, inexpensive, and have a pretty daring lineup that caters to the underground culture.
Sometimes it’s events that aren’t strictly music, like a gig in an old Japanese bathhouse that was put on by an art gallery called Space Space (really close friends of us).
It had art plus a bunch of Japanese bands like Hikashu and Melt-Banana playing for free, and people went wild because the building was getting demolished the next day. We’d like to see more of that kind of event in Japan that promotes free expression.
Do you see much of a difference in the reception your live show gets at home as opposed to Europe or the States?
Yeah, everywhere we go we find that there is a different vibe. That can influence the way we prepare for, and wind down from shows. Crowds in Japan are quite introspective. There we spend as much time as possible in the lead-up to gigs in the hills, away from the city, quieting our minds.
Conversely, on tour in Europe, there’s a lot of intense movement, and energy fed into us by the crowds, so after shows we find we need to let off steam. We like to swim! Tomo ([Katsurada] – vocals/guitar) likes to fish in the river. The States are so social! You really have the feeling of a procession, when we’re driving to our next gig.
You’re headlining the upcoming Karma Fest in Leeds in association with Far Out, what can we expect from your performance?Have you ever played in Yorkshire before?
We’d really love to play an improvised jam session if we have time before our set. We’re excited to connect with the fans in Leeds.We haven’t been there before. Daoud ([Popal] – guitar) wants to eat Yorkshire Pudding. The Animals are from Yorkshire aren’t they?
Do you find all-day events like this provide a more communal atmosphere, compared to one-off shows where the audience are straight in and out?
Yes, definitely. Getting a feel for the surroundings and the audience often influences how we play. Psych music as a whole is very much about community and ‘communing’. It’s easier to make those connections when you are able to settle in to the atmosphere and surroundings over the course of the day.
Are there any bands you’re looking forward to seeing at Karma Fest?
We are excited to see guys from Wild Birds of Britain again. Also TAU sounds really cool!
Where do you see the band going next?
We’d really like to visit Southeast Asia, South America, and South Africa at some point in the next year. Also just to spend as much time as possible in nature. It’s our goal to go to three really tall mountains over summer, and jam together. After that, we’ll see!
Kikagaku Moyo’s new album ‘House in the Tall Grass’ will be released on Friday May 13th on Guruguru Brain Records.