One of 2014's most overlooked records was the soaring pop masterpiece, Lighght, by Georgia-based multi-instrumentalist Kishi Bashi. Its absence from the majority of 2014's end-of-year lists left me baffled, as its huge hooks and meticulous production should have resulted in either a chart-bothering juggernaut or an instant indie classic. Despite neither of these situations truly arising, Bashi (real name, Kauro Ishibashi) commands a passionate audience and has had an incredibly busy year since the album's release, having just completed a successful string quartet tour, which he will soon take to Japan.
Starting out as the violinist at Barnum's Kaleidoscape travelling circus, Kishi Bashi (real name, Kauro Ishibashi) became a familiar face as both the vocalist and guitarist of Jupiter One, and as a session violinist for Regina Spektor and of Montreal. Whilst on tour, late last year, we thought we'd find out a little more about the recording of Lightht, the current tour, and the notion of 'selling-out' in the 2010s.
Hello! How's the tour for Lighght going - what gigs have stood out on the run so far?
KB: All the shows so far have been well attended and absolutely a blast! The sold-out legendary venue, The Fillmore, in San Francisco, was emotional for me, because I once opened-up for an emotional of Montreal, who had just sold out the place as well. I never thought I would be back in two years to do the same!
What can you tell us about your backing on band on this tour? Who's been performing alongside you, and what do they bring to the live shows?
KB: I have my innovative space-banjo companion, Tall Tall Trees, with me, as well as an excellent drummer and bass player. They help me take the shows to 120%, which I can never do by myself. They are all excellent singers, so I have the opportunity to recreate some of the strong three-part harmonies on the album.
After years of touring as a member of Jupiter One, how has it been sharing the road with a band once again?
KB: A portion of my show is still solo and intimate, which is something I could never enjoy with Jupiter One. I think it creates for a very dynamic show. One minute you're dancing, and the next minute you, or your girlfriend, is crying.
Your last album was recorded in your parents attic in Virginia. Where did you record Lighght, and how did the recording process differ from 151a?
KB: I moved to Athens, Georgia for a change of pace, and I set up my studio in the living room of my house here. I hired an engineer, upgraded my gear, and experimented for a while. The process is still a lot of self-recording, but I had a professional to come check on me very often.
of Montreal's Kevin Barnes appears on a couple of tracks on the album. How would you describe you relationship with Barnes, and do you see yourself continuing to contribute to of Montreal in the future?
KB: He's my neighbor, and our daughters play together all the time. I think he was walking his dog, when I invited him to come and play bass. He's my friend and also an inspiration to me as an artist. I just went to El Paso to record some violins on their new album, [Aureate Gloom].
The album' second half, from "Once Upon a Lucid Dream" through to "In Fantasia" feels perfectly thought-out. How important is the sequencing of an album's track listing to you?
KB: Although it's rarely conceived that way, an album, when listened to as a whole, is kind of a story or a movie. The beginning and the end are pretty important. I try to stay conscious of that.
Your lyrics are often abstract and metaphorical. I was wondering if you view music as a form of escapism or catharsis - or perhaps both?
KB: Music is both to me. I'm so immersed in it, it's like breathing for me, but I'm affirmed of this belief when people message me daily on how much the music moves them are how it helps them get through a tough time in their life. That means a whole lot to me.
What were your primarily lyrical and musical influences on Lighght?
KB: My lyrics are always subordinate to the music in the creation process, but for "Bittersweet Genesis", I was inspired by Lou Reed and his causal approach at melody delivery. I was stuck on that song until I had thought about him and his death.
What does the cover art by Susan Pelham mean to your personally, and what is the significance of the various animals, people and objects that surround you in the painting?
KB: She's very much influenced by Rennaisance and magical realism, and I had wanted a regal portrait for the album cover. When I saw her artistic style, I knew it was perfect. We met, and after I approved the overall composition of the piece, I just let her inspiration fill in the rest.
"Philosophize In It! Chemicalize With It!" started life as a Japanese TV jingle, while "Bright Lights" has appeared in advert for Windows 8. The idea of licensing songs for adverts could be seen as a form of 'selling-out', yet your artistic integrity and cult fanbase remains intact and stronger than ever. Do you think the notion of selling-out is still relevant to an independent artist in the 2010s, where a career in music can be tough to justify financially?
KB: Licensing is totally a viable income source for musicians these days. I think fans are very aware that dwindling album sales have contributed to this and are very understanding. In many ways, I'm lucky to be indie and still be 'cool' in commercials. of Montreal and Wilco were crucified ten years ago for selling their songs, but that was a different time.
I'm always interested to hear what an artist consider their best work to be. What are your personal favourite Kishi Bashi songs, or songs you've contributed to in the past?
KB: I really love to see my fans happy when they hear a song. "Manchester" and "I Am the Antichrist to You" are favorites moments during my show.
What's the current status of Jupiter One?
KB: On hold??
What albums have you been listening to this year?
KB: I really like Kimbra's crazy new album. It's wild and appeals to the musician and producer in me.
And finally, what's next for Kishi Bashi?
KB: I'm planning on doing a string quartet tour and also making EDM.
Lighght is out now. Grab a copy.
- Andrew Lindsay