Kishi Bashi | One Time, One Meeting

kishibashi 75It’s just one album in your lengthy career, but it is important to just keep releasing material.


kishibashi 500

Kishi Bashi is K. Ishibashi’s moniker for his new solo project, which has brought forth his first LP, 151a, an indie rock symphony of masterful violin, keyboards, inventive use of loop pedals, and soothing vocals. There is an ethereal joy and thoroughly modern aesthetic that permeates the songs on what has become one of my favorite albums of 2012. One listen tells you that Ishibashi is going to be one interesting fella to have a chat with, and I was so pleased to have that chance.

This is your first time at Firebird, right? When you’ve been in St. Louis before, have you been able to get around and sightsee or hang out anywhere?

Yeah, first time at Firebird. I’ve been [to St. Louis] a bunch, actually, for various situations. I have a friend who lives kind of outside of town; he invited me to come to St. Louis. He was my Kickstarter backer and he actually set up my first show in St. Louis at Off Broadway with this band called The Hibernauts; it was their break-up show or something. It was a good show, a lot of people came. Before that I had been there with Of Montreal [at the Luminary Arts Center].

Your debut album, 151a—can you talk a little bit about the meaning behind that title?

It really translates into “ichi.” Ichi means one, so, ichi-go means “one time” and ichi-e means “one meeting,” so it’s “one time, one meeting.” It came from the Japanese tea ceremony and it’s used in martial arts and the arts in general, and embodies the spirit of a unique performance in time. So if you perform something in front of an audience and it’s imperfect or there’s awkwardness or something like that, you enjoy it for the unique situation, because it’s never going to happen again in the same way.

Nice; I like that! Did that kind of permeate all of the songwriting, too? What is your process when writing music?

It definitely resonated with me, because the way I used to compose music is to try to perfect it and this helps. I always thought I had to create my masterpiece and that kind of hindered me from releasing a lot of music, especially with my previous band [Jupiter One]. You know, I just got hung up on a lot of things here and there. I think, with this album, I started realizing that you just release an album and it’s never gonna be your masterpiece. It’s just one album in your lengthy career, but it is important to just keep releasing material. So, with that in mind, it freed me up to just experiment and just kind of go wild and not really worry about “Is this gonna sell or is this gonna be popular?”—the usual kind of concerns that I used to have. I didn’t have those concerns anymore; that’s why that title seemed perfect.

The album is almost all violin and vocals, correct?

There’s guitars and there are synthesizers. I initially started with this concept, “Oh, let’s make an album just with violin and fiddle,” but quickly learned that that’s just stupid so I decided to abandon that at some point. But I did start a lot of the songs with violin, and also in my performance it’s violin.

When touring, do you have other supporting musicians with you?

I made a point of flying solo so I’ll be able to play just by myself with violin and a mike, and I beatbox and make loops. I think last time I came to St. Louis I had one person; this time around, I’m gonna have two more people come with me. We’ll have some percussion; we’ll have three part harmonies, which I’m pretty excited about.

When you are writing and composing, do you more start with words or sounds? Where do you get your inspiration?

I usually start with music, so the way I outline things is I hear something or something inspires me musically and then whatever words come when I’m improvising, I guess a melody, while I’m singing. Whatever sounds good with the music is what usually comes about, and then those end up being the words, and then I try to make a story out of it.

Who or what are your big influences?

I have a lot of influences. For the album in general, I tried to stay close to a psychedelic, kind of ’60s thing, kind of like ELO meets, I don’t know, Pink Floyd. I like Pink Floyd. I love that era of synthesizers, strings. I tried not to use electric guitars as much, ’cause they kind of pick up a lot of sound.

Looking to the future, do you have a dream project, somebody you’d love to work with or some idea on the horizon that you’d like to do?

I think I’d like to keep experimenting. I feel really good about where I am right now. I’m definitely excited about the violin and looping; it’s kind of new to me— the creating with these pedals. It’s still fresh and I’d like to do more of the same.

I really love it when the artwork for album covers and posters, and/or the look of a video, align with the music, which yours do so well. Can you tell me a bit about the album artwork and who created that?

It was a friend of mine, a guy I work with a lot. He’s actually making these graphic hoodies.

Those are great! I just saw those and liked him on Facebook after seeing it on your page.

I heart JLP. He’s got all these amazing ideas; he’s kind of a genius. It’s really hard to get him to do things for you, but when he does, it’s amazing. He’s done stuff for Of Montreal a lot, too. He did the album cover but he got really busy, like because of this viral t-shirt that everybody was wearing. Have you seen the t-shirt with the pentagram and a cat?

Yeah! He did that?

He did that, yeah. So basically, he was designing my album cover art and then disappeared because his t-shirt was going viral. So the design—he put my daughter on this tiger and I thought it was cool, but I didn’t feel like it was my album yet. So I had just started with this label and he had a graphic designer on his staff that was just great. So he traced over that to make it more organic and added lines, so that’s what you see.

I also wanted to ask about the video for “I Am the AntiChrist to You.” I know you directed and the lead animator was Anthony Scott. What was that collaboration like?

Anthony Scott is like an industry heavyweight in stop-motion. He was the directing animator for Coraline and The Corpse Bride. He was a Jupiter One fan, my old band. I had experience with stop motion, and he was just between movies, so he had a few months off and wanted to do something different and artistic. So we started working on this film ’cause I had the idea and my wife did all the illustrations. It’s all paper cut-outs. If you want to check it out, there’s actually a tumblr site;  it’s all behind the scenes. It’ll show you how we did it. It was originally for another song, a song for my old band and my old band fizzled out, and I was sitting on this and we spent so much time on this and it actually worked perfectly for that song “I Am the AntiChrist,” so I decided to use it for that.

I always like to know what other music musicians are listening to. Is there anything in particular you are really loving?

I like people to just tell me, “Hey, check this out” and what’s hot. I don’t seek out music too much. I listen to a lot of electronic music; I listen to a lot of dance music. If there’s something cool I should check out, let me know.

Thao & The Get Down Stay Down has a new one coming out that I’m pretty excited about.

I’ve heard the name. I’ll check that out. | Janet Rhoads


Kishi Bashi performs at Firebird on Saturday, February 16, with Plume Giant and Ross Christopher. For more information, visit the venue’s website.

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