Japanese psych-rock band Kikagaku Moyo have gone from humble beginnings busking on the streets of Tokyo to their current international recognition. Last in Australia for Gizzfest 2017, Kikagaku Moyo incorporate elements of classical Indian music, Krautrock, traditional folk and 70s rock with improvisation a key element of their sound. Known for their transcendental sound, they have toured across the globe and come out with several albums. ALEXIA LARCHER chatted to drummer and vocalist Go Kurosawa about releasing their own music, why their sound didn’t take off in Japan compared to the rest of the world, and their upcoming show at Amplifier on Tuesday, March 10.
Gizzfest back in 2017 was the last Australian show Kikagaku Moyo played. Why has it taken you so long to return to Australia?
We have been touring since then non-stop, so we finally get to come back to this side of the world.
Your sound incorporates elements of psychedelia, classical Indian music, Krautrock, traditional folk and 70s rock. What artists or further genres have inspired your sound? What kind of music did you grow up listening to?
We generally like music that makes the listener travel to a different world. Also, I like political songs without lyrics. I grew up listening to classical music and Japanese pop songs.
Has the band’s focus always been psychedelia, or could you see yourself venturing into further genres?
Not sure if you still call it psychedelia, but we want to make music that makes us feel different emotions by listening to it.
Improvisation seems to be a key element to your sound. Why has this become an important aspect of your style?
It’s mainly for our live set, where we are trying to expand our ability to forget ourselves while we focus on sounds that we make on the stage. I like to jam because it’s scary, and also it is different every time we play.
Your following seems to be largely international, rather than domestic. What do you think caused this international recognition, and why didn’t your sound take off as much comparatively in Japan?
We play far more shows outside of Japan since we started, so it makes sense how it is. I felt like in Japan you had to choose if you are going for the “major” way or an “indie” way. If we are not playing major pop music then it is hard to see ourselves getting any popularity in Japan.
Your latest album Masana Temples was released in October 2018. Has the album received the reception you were hoping for? What were you aiming to bring across with this record?
We didn’t really expect much from releases because we release our records by ourselves. We didn’t need to impress any label people or anyone. We could focus on what we wanted to make at the time and the sound that we wanted to hear within our ability. So most of our music is coming from how we think we want to hear, rather than what other people want to hear.
Masana Temples was co-produced and recorded with Portuguese jazz guitarist Bruno Pernadas. Are you a fan of Pernandas’ sound? What made you decide to work with him on the album?
We wanted to work with him because we loved his solo records, specifically how he mixes different genres.
Do you have plans for a new album? What can we expect sound-wise?
We are writing songs now, and we are trying to focus on what we really like to play, and listen to, ourselves. If we are playing those songs on tour 100 times, we’ve got to love the songs.
Could you tell me a bit about your label Guruguru Brain? What kind of artists are you aiming to popularise? How many artists are signed to you right now?
Tomo and I have run the label since around 2014. We are focusing on current bands and artists in Asia, because we feel the scene there is underrepresented. We have released 21 records so far.
Your next Perth show will be at Amplifier Bar on March 10. Are you looking forward to this show? Will you be performing songs off all four albums?
Yes, we had such a lovely experience last time we played in Perth. We hung out at the beach and met many cool people. As far as the setlist, I think so. But I’m still not sure what we are going to play.
Amplifier Bar, being a smaller indoor venue, allows for a more intimate set – as opposed to your festival appearances last time in Australia. Do you prefer a festival atmosphere or do you like playing indoor venues?
We have no preference over that because both are really fun experiences for us. I prefer indoor venues if I am in an audience.