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Category Archives: Interviews

Interview: Canopies And Drapes

Make Believe Melodies recently interviewed Canopies And Drapes’ mastermind Chick, who also used to be in the duo Nu Clear Classmate. She released a new cassette, Stray Sheep’s Delight, late last year, and one of her songs from that tape appeared on the recent Ano(t)raks) compilation album Upwards And Onwards. We talked to her about Delight, religion and women in Japan’s indie music scene.

Make Believe Melodies: In the summer of 2011, your previous band Nu Clear Classmate broke up and you started recording as Canopies And Drapes. How did that all go down?

Canopies And Drapes: We used to be signed to a label called Good On The Dancefloor when I was in Nu Clear Classmate, but we couldn’t move much forward after releasing an EP. I’ve always wanted to release materials and play shows constantly, so I moved out of the label. And I put an end to Nu Clear Classmate as well, starting my solo career as Canopies and Drapes. I’ve been in touch with my former bandmate Zak recently, and we are planning to play a show together next time.

MBM: Was it challenging moving from a band to a solo project?

CaD: Nu Clear Classmate was a unit, but we made songs individually, so there is not much difference. Canopies and Drapes is my solo project, but the mixing is done with Kome from Nile Long and I play shows with my support members. So I don’t feel that I’m doing everything by myself. I’m really gifted with people who support me.

MBM: Your songs as Canopies And Drapes, to me, have a very short-story feel to them. How do you go about writing your music? Do you picture them as stories?

CaD: Yes. I want to create music that creates scenery. I like novels that emphasize the process, that lead to a conclusion. So my lyrics do have stories, but the conclusion is not necessary good or bad. It’s for the listeners to imagine however they would like; comparing it with their own life or simply to imagine some colors. I believe that imagination is the most important thing in life.

MBM: What sort of books do you enjoy reading? Why?

CaD: I really like situations or sentences that have humor. I’m not really interested in stories with well organized structure that feature a strong climax. Rather, I like stories that are simply based on the characters’ emotions, that moves smoothly like our daily lives. This might be because I feel importance and love to some small things that happen everyday. My favorite writers are Ayako Miura, Banana Yoshimoto, Mieko Kanai, Naocola Yamazaki, Miranda July, Aimee Bender and Lorrie Moore.

MBM: Last year, you released two EPs, “And Putting Love Away” and “Stray Sheep’s Delight.” In your mind, what are the major thematic differences between the two?

CaD: After finishing the EP Violet Lilly Rose Daisy last year, I was working on songs to release as an album, but those didn’t fit with one another. So I thought it was too early to release an album. And Putting Love Away was 3 songs that were the most Canopies and Drapes style. I believe it was the darkest out of the three. After the earthquake, I tried to write simple and easy to understand songs, and that was how I came up with Stray Sheep’s Delight. Those songs indicate what I’m really trying to do. Right now, I’m thinking about writing shoegaze and dreampop style songs from now on.

MBM: Where does the title “Stray Sheep’s Delight” come from? Why did you choose that?

CaD: “Worship” was one of the key words for the cassette, so I wanted to have a title indicating the term. A scene in Souseki Natsume’s Sanshiro where the main character repeats the word “Stray Sheep” came up to my mind, and that’s how I decided to use it. And there is the term “stray sheep” in the bible as well, so I thought it was a perfect term. “What is the real joy or happiness for us stray sheeps?” is the theme of the song. I appreciate if the song makes the listeners think about that. I believe that my song will reach only those who have a bit of loneliness anytime, so I want them to find something through my songs.

MBM: How was the recording process for the EP?

CaD: Vocals are recorded in the studio, but everything else is done at home. I used real guitars and bass, which I asked Kome from Nile Long to play for me.

MBM: On Stray Sheep’s Delight, there is a lot of religious imagery – you mention Jesus, and, as the title hints at, the song “Eve” has references to Genesis. Why did you do this?

CaD: My songs are mainly about the inner self, so there is always a wonder if it is possible to understand or love others truly. Though I’m always thinking about difficult matters like that, just by feeling that “God is always watching over us” makes me relaxed and feel strangely sacred. And I felt that the only things we could do are to allow and pray, so I felt that I should know more about the Bible and God. And the image of one giving a prayer appears so beautiful, even despite the religious context. But I didn’t want my works to be heavily religious, so I purposely made it romantic, rather than making it look like an occult.

MBM: You told Lights + Music in an interview last year that you think the Bible is “God’s love letter to us.” When did you first read the Bible? You also said you aren’t religious – what draws you to something like the Bible?

CaD: It started when I read “Hitsuji Gaoka” by Ayako Miura. The novel is about the Christian way of love and allowing, and I really liked the line “loving is allowing.” I read the Bible after that, and I liked the romantic touches and that it’s not forcing it.
And that it’s difficult to understand. You have to read it many times to realize things. This is just a coincidence, but Akiyama from Timothy Work who remixed “Eve” is a Christian. I think God connected us two.

MBM: Who exactly are Giovanni and Campanella? Are they the characters from “Night On The Galactic Railroad?” The human versions from the story or the cat ones from the anime?

CaD: “Night on Galactic Railroad” by Kenji Miyazawa came to my mind when I was writing the lyrics. I like the line “What is god like for you?” a boy said as he laughed. “I don’t really know about him. But despite that, He is the only god for me,” because it is really honest. The lyrics are about the moment that we fall in love. Through the song, I wanted to point out that though we have different beliefs and religion, we are still able to share happiness. I made a setting where Campanella is a girl who is in love with Giovanni. The last stop is Spring, and the train is running on a Winter sky. And Campanella is having a beautiful dream about her love, Giovanni.

MBM: That song appears on the new Ano(t)racks compilation that came out in February…how did you get involved with them?

CaD: We got in touch through Twitter. Dai Ogasawara from Ano(t)racks told me that he’s been listening to my songs for a while. I listened to the former compilation album and thought that it’s interesting, so I’m glad that I was able to participate this time.

MBM: You perform live both solo and as a band. Which do you prefer? What are the challenges involved in both for you?

CaD: You can play solo anywhere by just playing the tracks. Not necessarily in a live house. So it’s convenient, but there will be no dynamics that a band would have. A band has the groove and we can perform differently live. It’s more fun to sing with a band, so I want people to see my band set. But the arrangement is a bit different, so it might take a while to get used to it.

MBM: What is your opinion of the state of women in Japanese music today, in particularly in the indie world?

CaD: I believe that there are girls with a strong belief “to go my own way”, not being influenced by the latest music or the boys around them who make music. And they are also good at visuals, videos and things that are not just music. But as in interviews, I feel that overseas artists are better at explaining their music in their own words.

Interview: Cold Name (Nobuyuki Sakuma From Jesse Ruins)

Nobuyuki Sakuma is no stranger to new names. For years, he DJed and produced music as Nites and a few years ago launched a new project, one that would eventually grow into a trio and grab international blog attention, called Jesse Ruins. Now Sakuma is recording solo again under the moniker Cold Name, and so far has released a mix and a “Twin Peaks” sampling song called “She’s Filled With Secrets.” Make Believe Melodies talked to Sakuma about Cold Name, the state of Jesse Ruins and Lil B.

Make Believe Melodies: When did you decide to start the Cold Name project?

Nobuyuki Sakuma: I’ve been planning it since two or three months ago.

MBM: Why start Cold Name now?

NS: It’s mainly because I had a little bit of time after finishing the recording of Jesse Ruins’ new album. I wanted to make a mix, but my Nites project had ended earlier this year, so I just made a new project.

MBM: How will Cold Name be different than the Jesse Ruins project, or your Nites project? In particular, what sonic differences do you hope to achieve, and why?

NS: First of all, my main project is Jesse Ruins. That’s for sure. It was my solo project, but now we’re releasing and performing as a band, and have some plans for the future. Also, I finished my Nites project after releasing a free EP through Bandcamp earlier this year to focus on Jesse Ruins. I didn’t really mention it, but recently, I have used my real name when I’m DJing. So I focused on working on Jesse Ruins materials, but since I had some time after finishing that, I decided to have another project to release something that enables me to release something different from Jesse Ruins. Right now, Cold Name is like a side project I work on when I’m not working on Jesse Ruins. It’s similar to my Nites project that way, but it’s musically different from both Jesse Ruins and Nites.

MBM: Does the Bermuda Triangle mix you made hint at the Cold Name sound? Why or why not?

NS: Bermuda Triangle is a hint for Cold Name’s sound. It’s like an industrial interpretation of the situation in the Bermuda Triangle right now… It’s half joke, half serious. There’s varieties of genre in it if you listen to it closely, but the dark, industrial and cinematic atmosphere is more of my roots than saying it’s the purpose of the project. How to express those details depends on the concept of the project, and Cold Name is a project to let out what ever I felt like doing at the moment.

MBM: The most surprising moment on Bermuda Triangle was the inclusion of a song by rapper Lil’ B. What about Lil B are you attracted to? Do you listen to a lot of his music, or just the ambient stuff like “I Am The Hellraiser?” Why?

NS: It’s not like I’m really into Lil B. But I love the album “Rain in England” that features the track “I Am the Hellraiser.” I don’t have the other works by him, and I’m not interested in those. But the whole of “Rain in England” is non-beat and features similar synth and ambience throughout the album, which is ridiculous and unlike hip-hop, so I love it.

MBM: What’s Jesse Ruins up to?

NS: We’ve finished recording, and are playing shows while practicing new songs. Jesse Ruins started out as my solo project, but (vocalist) Nah joined, and (drummer) Yosuke joined after being a support member, so the bedroom project has slowly evolved to be a band. I’m still leading the band, but the band members have started giving me advice, we’ve realized more than ever that we’re a band, and others have told us so as well. It’s becoming really positive for Jesse Ruins.

MBM: What’s the status of a new Jesse Ruins’ album?

NS: Some people might know, but Jesse Ruins has left Captured Tracks in the US. I can’t tell why we left, but Jesse Ruins is not stopping, and all I can say is that it’s not a negative thing for the band. I can’t talk about details, but we’re negotiating about the album release with several record companies. The label is going to change, but Jesse Ruins debut album is going to be released as planned. Please look forward to it.

MBM: What are your plans for 2013?

NS: We’d like to do a foreign tour that we’ve been planning on after releasing the album. And I’ll work on materials for Cold Name when I’ve got time, and hopefully have a physical release. I also have a plan of doing a remix, so I’ll announce about that later on. Cold Name will be something I’ll do with my own pace, to express anything that I want.

Interview: Magical Mistakes

Erik Luebs, who records as Magical Mistakes, has been busy as of late. He toured America this past summer, released a new full-length album called Everything Uncertain on Day Tripper records and he helps put on the electronic-music event INNIT in Osaka. This Saturday, Luebs will appear on the same bill as English producers Clark and Lapalux, plus American producer Traxman, at Osaka’s Namba Hatch. We talked to the Shiga-based producer about his new album, working with violinist Jake Falby and his recording process.

MBM: You did a tour of the United States this past summer. How did that go?

Erik Luebs: It was really good, I had a good time. I played 11 dates in total. I had really good shows in Los Angeles, where I played at The Smell, and San Diego. San Diego, in particular, was oriented towards the same sort of stuff that’s going on in Osaka. The people who presented that show were actually collaborators I’ve worked with before. They worked with us on the INNIT magazine and they did a remix for me. They have a crew there called Kill Quanti, they put on a lot of cool events. They are really open-minded people and they were interested in what I was doing. I felt very at home with that crew. Matthewdavid played as well, he has kind of become a good friend of mine as of lately.

He also played at the Los Angeles show. The Smell was a place I used to go to a lot when I was younger, and I was more into DIY and noise and punk music at that time. It was kind of weird to go back there now, now that I’m doing my own thing that is different than what would traditionally characterize that venue. I think it is a very open-minded space, and people were receptive. I also saw a lot of friends I hadn’t seen in a really long time, they came out.

MBM: How did you meet up with Matthewdavid initially?

EL: We ran into each other at a show for a musician I was putting on a tour in the United States for, a Japanese guitarist named Yoshitake Expe. That was three years ago. At the time, Matthewdavid was just playing support on the bill. We kept in touch, just occasional e-mails back and forth over the last two years or so. Seiho encouraged me to reach out to him to do mastering for the album Everything Uncertain. That was around early June when we reached out to him. I didn’t think he would have time to do it, but he was very interested in it . He also contributed a remix.

MBM: How did the recording of Everything Uncertain go? How did it differ from the recording sessions for your last albums?

EL: Some of the first songs started coming about after I finished a small, self-released EP I put out last winter, called Special Friends. That was more of a collaborative effort of me trying to develop and define my own unique sound amongst other creative minds. For this new album, I was less trying to go through hip-hop beats and beatmusic. I don’t know whether it was intentional or it just happened, but I’ve always been drawn to things like post-rock and pop music as well. Like, the song “Don’t Need Much” is pretty poppy.

Recently, I’ve been listening to a lot of spiritual jazz, jazz from the 70s. Pharoah Sanders and…mostly John Coltrane, him and Alice Coltrane. Miles Davis as well. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Pharoah Sanders, but I wouldn’t say that was a big influence on the recording of that album. When I was listening to a lot of the sounds on those records, I wanted to experiment with timbres and try to bring out some of the sounds, mostly with keyboards. There was a certain kind of organ sound I was going for on some of those old records.

MBM: Where was the album recorded?

EL: About 60, 70 percent of it came together while I was up in the mountains [of Miyazaki]. Almost all of the editing and mixing and getting really deep into that happened here in Shiga. The majority of it was finished prior to moving out here, but it wasn’t perfect. And I spent quite a bit of time working on little minute details. That was quite a process.

MBM: How did being in Miyazaki affect the recording of the album?

EL: I would say the Special Friends EP was more specifically really deep with the philosophical state I was in at the time being in the middle of the forest and nature. This newest record was more of a culmination of a lot of things I’ve been up to musically. It’s more of a well-rounded statement of other places I’ve been as well, not just one specific headspace. I think that first EP is quite a bit slower, it is a bit more meditative, it’s more focused on one overall philosophical idea. This new one, being an album and not an EP, I feel like if you are going to do 40 minutes of material or so, it might be nice to try to see how many places you can go.

This one wasn’t affected by any philosophical idea, like being up in the mountains or anything. One of the songs, the last one, originally started three or four years ago. I stumbled upon it and I said “Oh, shit, I made that!” I made it sound a lot better.

MBM: Everything Uncertain features samples of what sounds like Japanese announcements and, on the song “Metemorphosis,” a sample talking about caterpillars. Why did you choose the samples you did on the album?

EL: The announcements were recorded from a daily broadcast box in the village I used to live in, and a woman would broadcast things three times a day, announcements. It was mostly about emergency broadcasts, so like if there was a landslide. I just recorded her speaking and I thought it was interesting. I’m not particularly interested in what she was saying – I think she was mostly talking about really mundane things. I think the stuff I had in there was mostly about looking out for your health. It was more about the mood, of having this voice and juxtaposing it with melancholy chords and melodies. A lot of bands I liked growing up did that a lot. I just really like the way you can change and affect how you feel about something, and then you add this voice and suddenly it takes on this extra meaning. It might be completely irrelevant, but it still resonates with you somehow. I like having voices in there.

The other sample…that might have more of a didactic meaning of some sort. The voice on the sample is talking about when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, literally all of the cells dissolve into one sac of fluid. It kind of brings up a lot of questions about consciousness, like do we even identify as an organism. I think that’s an interesting idea – I wouldn’t say that’s an overarching philosophy of mine in particular.

I don’t really sample anything else. Aside from some 808 bass drums, I try to put together all the sound myself.

MBM: What is your personal relationship with nature?

EL: With my music, I try to create a canvas on which the actual music takes place on. For me, that canvas is trying to occupy a physical space that we can hear, feel, touch and see. The palette that I chose was organic sounds – plants and paper. Sounds of my room as well. Water. Actually, the entire “With Love” song is a shochu box , I just recorded percussion off of that. I wouldn’t say I was particularly stringent – I didn’t have a whole lot of rules.

MBM: How did you connect with violinist Jake Falby?

EL: We went to college together, at Pitzer College. We didn’t meet specifically as music buddies, but we did begin to work on music together. He’s a really good violinist. We ended up living in New York together for a little while, and we played music in New York too. I asked him if he would be down to arrange some strings, and he was able to. And it worked out really well. He also played on nine of the eleven American bills…he missed the West coast shows, but he played the rest.

MBM: You’ve mentioned that you were a fan of psychedelic music, and you come from a psychedelic and shoegaze background. How did you incorporate those influences into the new album?

EL: Inevitably, those influences come out of the music that I’m making because that occupied a very long portion of my creative life. And I’m still into it. But now, I’m more or less involved with the electronic music community. And I think that community is in a sort of renaissance where you kind of do what you want to do, without a whole lot of rules. I’m sure it has always been more or less like that, but nowadays there are more people who are more successfully touring the world and playing music that’s really their own thing. I don’t want to say it too much, but like Flying Lotus or anyone coming off of the Brainfeeder label are like no rules, do what you want. And people are digging it.

With me, I’m coming from a range of influences. It isn’t deliberate, but the way my creative voice is coming out is mixing a lot of things together. I definitely love bass, and I try to get things pretty bassy, but I like the wall of sound and I like dynamics and I like post-rock music so I try to get that in there. And most recently it would be this more soulful jazz thing.

Interview: Taquwami

Up until now, Tokyo music maker Taquwami has been making a name for himself form his bedroom. The young producer has flooded SoundCloud and Bandcamp with dizzying homemade electronic songs. He released his first proper EP, Blurrywonder, via the online label Void Youth this past August and recently remixed the song “Life & Limb” by Nadja. Taquwami will be stepping out of his room for his biggest moment yet – he will play on the same bill as electronic artists Clark and Lapalux on October 12. Make Believe Melodies talked to Taquwami about Blurrywonder, the Internet and time travel.

MBM: When did you realize that you wanted to make music?

TAQUWAMI: It was in January 2011. I was in a band before that and the first real moment I was motivated to write music came when I performed at a high school festival as part of a cover band. I switched to the type of music I’m doing now because it’s easier to do it all by myself. I also wanted to produce music that I’m really interested in, stuff I learned about when I started listening to chillwave and bands such as Washed Out and Toro Y Moi.

MBM: You’ve released all of your music online, the majority of it for free via SoundCloud or Bandcamp. Why go this route?

TAQ: I wanted to see each element of my work, not just the music. CD covers and designs are really important, and choosing the right website is also necessary to maintain a certain aesthetic.

MBM: What has the reaction been to your music online? What sort of people find it and how do they discover it?

TAQ: I’m not well-known enough to receive a lot of negative criticism … but I think more people outside Japan are listening to my songs than Japanese people. The Japanese listeners tend to be people that I know, or their friends. But websites like SoundCloud and Bandcamp have started to become more popular here, so maybe there’s more people who will be able to find me there.

MBM: For your new EP, Blurrywonder, you hooked up with the new label Void Youth. How did that come about?

TAQ: Void Youth is more like a collective than a label, started by a Canadian trackmaker named Hollow Pigeons. He invited me to come aboard and I was told that another Canadian, Ruddyp, was also joining. I knew of both of them so I didn’t hesitate to say yes.

“You R Everything” From Blurrywonder

MBM: How has the response to Blurrywonder been so far?

TAQ: It was smaller than I thought it would be. I need more improvement in mixing and mastering, and I think that’s why it couldn’t stand out. My songs need some improvement, too, and I still lack the ability and the technique to output what is in my mind. But I would like to thank those people who liked my songs even though I still had those difficulties.

MBM: You told us before that the theme of Blurrywonder is “love,” but that you didn’t start recording with a particular theme in mind and instead everything just sort of fell into place. How did this theme develop during the recording process?

TAQ: There’s not much meaning behind it. I came up with the concept after I recorded all the songs. I looked at the title of the songs of the EP, and just thought “Oh, this is about love.” I just came up with it on the spot after thinking about the image of the songs. I’m going to try to be more poetic from now on though!

MBM: What jumped at me while listening to Blurrywonder was the vocal samples and how heavily they contribute to the mood of the songs – like how they turn “Ohhh Lover” into something really joyous or “Attraction” into something sensual. How do you choose the samples you use?

TAQ: I just decided to put them on the songs that I liked, I didn’t really care about the mood. I tried sampling for my first time with those two songs, as well as on You R Everything. I’m looking forward to do more sampling in the future.

strong>MBM: You told the blog Simon Says that your idea of a good show “isn’t so much how the artist performs, but how much I am able to be completely absorbed in my own world.” How did you try to bring this ideal to the recording for Blurrywonder?

TAQ: That might be true. Taquwami is pretty much about myself and the way that I enjoy writing songs, and it might be similar in that way.

MBM: You record your music in your bedroom. What’s your bedroom like? How does this setting influence your music?

TAQ: Its just a plain simple room, nothing fashionable. Maybe that blank space is making me imagine of places like haunted mansion or theme park, a place that I cannot really see.

MBM: Do you feel connected to any sort of musical scene in Tokyo, or do you see yourself more as a part of a larger Internet-based community?

TAQ: I don’t really consider myself belonging to Tokyo’s scene – or any scenes in particular. I think it’s more about the Internet. There’s electronic music out there on the Internet that focuses more on beats than chillwave does, and takes its influences from witch house, trap and hip-hop to name a few, I’m talking about artists like Giraffage, XXYYXX, Beat Culture, Selva Oscura and Dose for example. I feel I’m moving in a direction toward them, and from the responses I’ve been getting I think that people also see me starting to be a part of that community.

MBM: You also told Simon Says that if you had to choose a person you admire, it would be Doc Emmett Brown from the Back To The Future movies. This stood out to me because you have a song called “Edo Dream” and you use a lot of samples from the past in your music. How does the past influence your work?

TAQ: Ah! That was supposed to be a joke, it doesn’t really mean anything. I just thought the name Emmett Brown sounded cool. Of course, I am influenced by the past. About 80 percent of the motivation for me to write music comes from nostalgia. But I wouldn’t want to travel back in time because there would be no Internet.

Chat: Hotel Mexico

We spoke to bassist Kai Ito and vocalist Ryuyu Ishigami from Kyoto’s Hotel Mexico ahead of their first overseas performances in Brooklyn this weekend (Aug. 24 at The Knitting Factory and Aug. 26 at Glasslands Gallery). The band have released the album His Jewelled Letter Box on local imprint Second Royal and last year they released a single on Double Denim in the U.K. They’ve played gigs with acts such as Jesse Ruins, Pictureplane and Seiho. With two Buddhist monks in the band, we wanted to know how a Japanese indie act works around the demands of the temple and prepares for a show overseas.

MBM: Hotel Mexico will be playing shows overseas for the first time this weekend. How are you preparing for them?

KAI ITO: We’ve been practicing a lot, but I don’t think we can do anything more than what we usually do at a practice. I’ve found that it’s more difficult preparing for the trip itself. We’ve never had the experience of moving our equipment via airplane, so that’s been the biggest concern.

MBM: Are you excited for the shows?

ITO: Yeah, we’re really happy about the opportunity. The band has been discussing the need to try playing overseas for the past year, so we’re excited to finally have the chance. We also wanted to play shows on the West Coast, like in Los Angeles or San Francisco – or even Vancouver, but due to our personal schedules we could only fit in a weekend in New York. We’re really gutted about that, after it was announced we’d be playing in New York, we started getting lots of emails from venues on the West Coast asking us to come. Like I said, time doesn’t allow it. However, it will be incredible to play the Knitting Factory and Glasslands Gallery in Brooklyn. It’s great to be playing at venues that host the kind of bands we like to listen to.

MBM: Are you nervous at all?

ITO: We have some concerns, I don’t know what it’s like to play in front of an American audience or how to behave with the venue owners. There are certain “ways to behave” in Japan. We’re mostly just worried about our equipment though, preparations regarding the equipment must be different overseas … I don’t think I’ll relax until we’ve finished a successful show!

MBM: How have your shows in Japan changed over the years?

ITO: The biggest difference is that we now play live with six members as opposed to just five. We always had six members in the band, but just for recording. We’ve also changed the structures of our early songs, so that’s different as well. Also, we usually play in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Kyoto, but this spring we played Okayama and Hiroshima. It’s like an American band playing New York, Chicago and Los Angeles branching out to maybe Portland or Denver? We are also setting up shows in Shizuoka and Shimane (maybe like Memphis or Phoenix). There’ll be a difference in the crowds there.

MBM: You’re based in Kyoto, what is a typical Hotel Mexico show like on home turf?

ITO: The Kyoto shows are really fun for us, and we live close to the venues so it’s easy to get home! We’ll often play at a club called Metro when our label, Second Royal, does an event. Usually the other bands and DJs are our labelmates. There are a lot of regulars, so we’ve grown out of the band-fan dynamic and now we just hang out and talk about our everyday lives after the shows. It’s the same when we play at OZ, an event in Osaka. However, the vibe is so comfortable that I find it’s easier to make mistakes. And regulars can catch those!

MBM: How did the band come together?

ITO: We all went to the same university. We are different ages, but we were all in the same music club. We didn’t form a band when we knew each other in university, but after graduation I got together with Ishigami, (guitarist) Hitoshi Kikuchi and (drummer) Masaaki Iwamoto to try playing together. We started writing material in 2009 and played our first gig in 2010. We were joined by (synth player) Jiko Kobayashi and (second guitarist) Jiro Mizushima in time for our first gig.

MBM: Three of your members are also monks, how does that impact the band?

RYUYU ISHIGAMI: What we do as a band and our religious activities don’t have any direct link to each other. Some of the lyrics could come from our religious views, I may use metaphors in the songs to express them, but I’m not referring to a specific religion (in the monotheist sense). It’s my own interpretation, but I feel that religion isn’t based on one’s thoughts and beliefs but rather that religion is built on human actions and experience. Actually, for me Hotel Mexico has been my way of momentarily escaping the role of a religious person or worker.

MBM: Is it harder to schedule around a monk’s schedule or a salaryman’s schedule?

ITO: Monks are generally busy in the middle of August and around the New Years holidays, so we can’t get together as a band at those times. There are other religious events during the year at which monks have to perform their duties. However, salarymen [the Japanese term for a businessman] are always busy, so we usually have to limit band activities to the weekends. That’s why it is difficult to have longer tours.

MBM: Finally, what kind of music are you influenced by? There tends to be a division among Japanese fans who listen to either only Japanese or only foreign music. Do you listen to one more than the other?

ITO: My favorite Japanese group right now is Jesse Ruins. We’ve done some events together with the Cuz Me Pain crew. One of the shows we did in Kyoto had Jesse Ruins and Faron Square, who were really good live. It’s difficult to say what the other members like, we all have different tastes. We all grew up liking Phoenix, maybe that’s why we try to play pop music that will make people want to dance. We don’t limit ourselves to listening to indie, but the band members tend to like music that’s edgier, weirder and darker than most. If you can combine the edgy and strange into a pop song? Then that’s really cool. I don’t like songs that are easy, they’re boring. Japanese chart music tends to be like that. But then again so-called underground music gets too dark or too weird so it can be less accessible to average listeners. If today’s music was like the music our parents listened to (a genre called Showa Pop), then we’d probably listen to more Japanese artists.