Kishi Bashi, formerly of Jupiter One and still of Of Montreal, is an american multi-instrumentalist stemming from the musical lands of classical violin and rock guitar. His latest solo album, ’151a’, is a fantastical whirlwind of strings, rhythmn and voice. He is currently touring with and supporting Of Montral throughout North America and Europe this Summer. Here’s what happened when I caught up with him for a brief chat:
Although your music comes across as predominantly American (in terms of rhythm, tone, structure), your use of Asian instruments and vocals, the delicacy of your compositions, and the philosophical depth in your lyrics inject a strong Asian aesthetic into your music. How important is your heritage to you as a musician?
In creating this album, I dug deep into my strengths and discovered that I had access to this very percussive and beautiful language that could be used to add another dimension to the music. I don’t think I use any Asian instruments, but I definitely am not afraid of singing.
The exploratory nature of the sounds, and the imagery within the lyrics of many of 151a’s compositions to me strikes up imagery of foreign lands, fantasy and imagined voyages (Atticus, In The Desert; Bright Whites); to what extent have landscapes and the imagination inspired your work?
I’m in love with imagery. That being said, when I create my music, the first thing I see and hear is always musical. From there, words appear, which are still sounds to me at that moment. I let the words that appear inspire me to create the stories and scenery.
So on tour lately, you’ve been playing with your band of Montreal, then supporting of Montreal as a soloist. How does your relationship with an audience differ when you play solo to when you play in of Montreal?
I have a deep intimacy with my audience that I enjoy when I perform solo. With of Montreal, I’m just a cog in the incredible party machine that they are, which is also extremely satisfying in it’s own way. Basically I “get off” in two great ways every night.
Your latest two albums – Room For Dream and 151a – seem similar in terms of rhythm and in their positivity to Jupiter One and of Montreal, yet your poetry and overall tone seem markedly different. Have your two latest solo albums musically grown directly from your style in Of Montreal, or has going solo been more an opportunity to inhabit a completely new creative playground?
Of Montreal is the sole creation of Kevin Barnes. I helped him with some of the production of the album, but in general, it is the manifestation of his wild creative mind. I wrote a lot of songs for Jupiter One, so my solo album comes from that lineage. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I’m not as tortured as Kevin is so my songs tend to reflect my more positive outlook on life.
Do you think you will always continue to shift between being part of a band and going solo, or do you see your solo endeavours as the next logical step?
I foresee my show jumping between solo and full band. I played with a drummer in Europe and I was able to take my songs to a new level of excitement. I also would like to switch it up as often as possible.
In your latest album you’ve made serious use of looping – you’re basically a one-man orchestra! What attracted you to this method, and is it performing that way live not pretty daunting?!
I forced myself to really experiment with looping with violin when I started working on the latest Of Montreal album. I found some very exciting sounds and it all kind of started from there.
151a is so creatively rich that it seems wrong to view it only in a musical context. What non-musical art forms have influenced you as a musician?
I love film very much, and I have a background in film scoring, so my music tends to be cinematic at times. I’ve always loved orchestral movie sound tracks, so I’m sure it’s made it’s way into 151a
…and what music has influenced you?
I love all music. It’s hard to say specifically, but I think a lot of my early classical music background has had a large impact on my songwriting. I love simple and beautiful melodies and songs as well.
Words: Mariota Spens