Talking with Kishi Bashi about his new record and tour


Kishi Bashi performs in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo courtesy of William Neuheisel and Flickr Creative Commons.

The Mac Weekly

Kishi Bashi performs in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo courtesy of William Neuheisel and Flickr Creative Commons.
Kishi Bashi performs in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo courtesy of William Neuheisel and Flickr Creative Commons.
Skip your Wednesday night class because Kaoru Ishibashi, better known by his stage name Kishi Bashi or “K,” is bringing his dreamy, synthy, electro-pop to First Ave on October 12. Minneapolis is one of many stops on his extensive North American tour for his latest album, Sonderlust, and he is excited for you to be there.

Sonderlust is Kishi Bashi’s third album, and it breaks from his orchestral pop roots. K’s loyal fans know him for his poppy violin scores. His ability to electronically loop and layer his violin and voice to create a full-sounding song live has distinguished him from the start. The accessibility of songs like “Bright Whites” and “Philosophize In It! Chemicalize In It!” built his fan base, but now he has made an album that departs from his safe space of orchestral pop. The new album, released in September, has been primarily generated from a music production program called Ableton. The style of K’s producer, Chris Taylor (Grizzly Bear), breaks significantly from K’s classically-trained violinist roots. An NPR review described this change as “opting for shiny electro-pop that whizzes, squeals and often feels as if it’s about to fly off the rails altogether.”

This artistic shift in his recorded music pushes K into new territories in his live performances. K throws himself into the challenges of producing a live show from a digitally-produced album. He pays homage to his original fan base through a “good amount of looping and beatboxing.” He takes the show in a fresh direction because his old style “doesn’t dominate the show as much.” K said, “I have a Wurlitzer now, so I’m playing a lot of keyboard and singing at the same time. It’s definitely forced me to practice my piano chops.” Adapting Sonderlust musically is a challenge, but his extensive experience touring with all different sorts of bands in a large diversity of venues has helped prepare him for the latest tour.

K is a versatile performer. He has played venues ranging from bar basements with banjos to arts theaters with a full string quartet. “I like everything. I kind of cater to the intimate. I understand as a concert-goer that there’s love for a small venue and also a big venue with a lot of fans. That’s exciting too,” K said.

K played First Ave when he was a member of Of Montreal, but is very excited to come back to Minneapolis. “It’s a big deal for me to be headlining there, all by myself,” K said. “It is a landmark in my career. It’s going to be fun. We have confetti canons, a light show, and I might crowd surf. Who knows?” K has described the tour so far as being a whirlwind. “It’s kind of crazy because you go on the road and thousands of people come to see you, and it’s kind of like your birthday everyday, all day,” he said.

Playing First Ave will be fun, but that doesn’t mean the show will be without its more intimate moments. “[Playing in a band] is a total breeze. It gives me so much more power when I’m performing, but I still understand the value of a lone instrument. It could be equally as powerful, and so I do my best to keep my arrangements interesting … We strip it down to one microphone, and we have some new acoustic arrangements with four-part singing and three-part harmony, and it’s really beautiful … We have this whole new dynamic performance,” K said.
Touring may be engaging, but it takes its toll. “It’s difficult to keep grounded, but I really enjoy performing for people. It’s my job, and I understand my shows give a lot of joy to a lot of people, so I’m very happy to do it,” K said. Members of the crew do their best to enjoy themselves on the road. They often play soccer to stay in shape and have fun. By himself, K sometimes plays games. “I get addicted to phone games, like Candy Crush, and I’ve had to delete them. It gets to the point where I’m looking forward to playing Candy Crush, which is stupid, you know? You shouldn’t be looking forward to playing Candy Crush,” K said. In his post-Candy Crush days, K watches movies on tour. He watched Karate Kid the day I spoke to him.

K gracefully navigates a wide diversity of complexities through his music and tour. He departed from his musical comfort zone in Sonderlust. This departure accompanied a need for a change in performance style and arrangement. He plays in diverse venues. On top of it all, he must balance the mindfulness of home with having fun on the road. Talking to K demonstrates the complex life he navigates within his art. K titled the latest album Sonderlust, which is the realization that “each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own,” he said. In a way, his tour represents the very idea of Sonderlust itself.
Be sure to catch Kishi Bashi live at First Avenue in Minneapolis on October 12.