Q&A - Kikagaku Moyo
A fascinating aspect of the current psychedelic musical renaissance is that it incorporates so many different elements and forces. Kikagaku Moyo are an intriguing example of this movement. Their fusion of folk-music themes, drone structures and abstract, dreamy rock, create an all-encompassing music experience that will open up and mesmerise your rarely stimulated, ‘third eye’.
This Tokyo-based five piece will transport you through space and time and all the tiny turmoils of the soul until you are attuned to and enveloped with, ‘inner peace’. Sounds good doesn’t it? Wanna know more? Of course you do.
We spoke to Kikagaku Moyo about their upcoming performance at Liverpool Psych-Fest, the patterns in nature and how they ended up turning their lunch into a sail boat
Q. You will be coming to Liverpool in September to play Liverpool Psych-Fest. What can the fans expect to see from you?
A. We will start with an improved jam which will express the change of seasons. The album itself is a musical representation of natural scenes, those that are both taken from our memories and imagined. We are interested in creating contrasting visual images, and one can often make the most potent scenes when one works within constraints. To give us these restraints we sometimes look to the patterns intrinsic to nature - the Golden mean, the consistent number of petals on a flower, or legs on an insect… even geometric shapes. Seasons are another pattern of nature, and one that we are looking forward to expressing on stage, through the loose and open medium of a jam.
Q. There is already a musical marriage between Tokyo and Liverpool. Namely, the marriage between Yoko Ono and John Lennon. What do you know about the city of Liverpool and what do you hope to see?
A. I was reading an interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono being done by a reporter from the Rolling Stone soon after the release of John’s first post-Beatles album. The descriptions of how the Beatles were treated as quasi-religious figures in Liverpool and beyond were startling. John describes all the front rows of their concerts being full of people who were ill or injured, and the halls behind the stage lined by people waiting for the Beatles to brush past so that they might be touched and healed.
Our images of Liverpool as a city are mostly drawn from that era, as a legendary working class town. Like a hotbed of manufacturing. That image might be really dated now haha!
We’re really excited to visit and see what’s there these days.
Q. Speaking of those days, what bands from this era that have had a significant influence on you?
A. Yes, we like Trees, Incredible String Band, and Affinity.
Q. You have been called a ‘psych’ rock band. Is this how you see yourselves?
A. We get labelled different things at different times: progressive folk, krautrock, raga rock. It doesn't really matter which genre we are in, because when we began by making music the category we fit in wasn’t in the forefront of our minds. We didn't start by saying “Let’s make a psychedelic rock band”, you know? At the same time, we like the fact that “psych” intimates broad possibilities. No need to wear all black and have lots of tattoos haha.
Q. You started off busking around Tokyo and this has been a recurrent theme in reviews and reports about you. Why do you think this is and what was your favourite experience/memory from this time?
A. We get asked about our experiences as buskers a lot. It seems like people are very interested in the act of performing without a guaranteed profit and with an open audience. One of the nice things that can happen when you aren’t playing particularly for money is that people will make payment to you in other ways. There was a local restaurateur in Takadanobaba who brought us really yummy Masala Dosa for lunch once, to say thank you for the music we were making near his shop. That night Ryu had a dream that the Dosa turned into a boat and we all jumped on and went for a nighttime sail.
Q. There is a lot of improvisation in your live performances. What are the challenges of translating this energy into a recorded album?
A. We feel as though recording and live performance are two completely different things, a bit like absorbing a novel on the page compared with going to see the writer read aloud. Neither one is better than the other, they are just different experiences, both for the performer and the listener.
In live performance, we are focusing on the instant exchange of energy between us and the audience, responding to the stimuli of our surroundings. When we record, although we tend to only do one or two takes, we can put more energy into fine-tuning the details, in rehearsals and post-production.
Q. Your latest album 'House in the Tall Grass' came out this year to much acclaim. What were the motivations and inspirations behind the sound of the album and how does it differ from your previous two albums?
A. This album is the first record for which we had a concrete image of what kind of sound and image we wanted to get. It takes the listener on a number of journeys within their own mind. These are trips out into nature, like one that takes place on a snowy mountaintop. You wake up, take a walk in the woods, see a deer, a fox, a bird, come back to the house, make some hot soup, look out the window, lie down, close your eyes, and take another trip into your own imaginary world.
Q. We know you have toured European cities including London. Can you describe the music scene in Tokyo and how it differs from cities such as London?
A. What I am amazed about London or the UK scene is that there are a lot of people of different age groups attending shows. It’s so rare to see that variety in the Japanese scene. Also I feel like there’s a lot more intersection between people in fashion, photograph, video and music, making it easier to collaborate and do crossovers.
Q. Finally, what other bands/musicians are you looking forward to seeing at Liverpool Psych-Fest?
A. We are excited to see the bands from our label Guruguru Brain -Nawksh, Minami Deutsch, and Prairie WWWW - among many others.