Friday, 15 October 2010
Interview with David Best, Fujiya and Miyagi
There are very few bands who are really unique - pretty much everyone has influences that filter through into their own sound. One act that I think is more unique than most are Brighton's Fujiya and Miyagi. OK, so you can occasionally hear the motorik bass of Can or Neu somewhere in their sound but this backing underpins hypnotic synth melodies and lyrical content about breaking bones, knickerbocker glories and photocopiers. The overall effect is one which brings to mind shoegazing, acid house, chanson pop, krautrock and synth pop into one glorious whole.
They've released three albums to date - each representing a massive step forward in sound. Debut, Electro Karaoke in the Negative Style was released in 2002. Transparent Things (2006)was undoubtedly one of the best albums of that year with its hooky melodies and hypnotic vocal loops and Lightbulbs (2008) saw another step change with the double a-side Um/Knickerbocker Glory receiving extensive airplay and critical acclaim. The band are currently recording the follow-up, tentatively named Ventriloquizzing. I was lucky enough to grab the band's vocalist and guitarist David Best for a quick chat.
It’s been a while now since Lightbulbs, how’s the recording of new material going?
We are really pleased with how this record went. We worked with a producer (Thom Monahan) for the first time. After we had demoed the songs in Brighton we recorded the record in Sacramento and at Thom's studio in LA. That was at the end of 2009 and this year has been spent mixing it and getting it exactly how we want it to sound.
The last album seemed to be a real move forward from Transparent things in that you seem to have developed your own identifiable sound (Transparent Things perhaps being more obviously Kraut influenced). Will the new material continue in the direction of Lightbulbs?
Well, that was the aim with Lightbulbs, we tried to make our influences less transparent. I don't think it was a complete success, but it was in the right direction. Hopefully this record really does sound like its own thing. In a lot of ways it’s very different from anything we have done before. It’s fuller sounding and more musical.
What are your key reference points for the new material? I see you’ve been watching Dead of Night...
I only saw Dead of Night after we had finished the record, but with the ventriloquist dummies we had made of ourselves it seems appropriate. There weren't really any musical reference points with this record. Maybe Iggy's The Idiot, but that’s mainly due to using the Arp Solina synth on a lot of the songs. I guess what I'm getting at is that the direction of the record was dictated by the sounds we used rather than by the influence of other specific records we like.
Lyrically you’ve always pulled in a wide range of subject matter – and a lot of it seems to be fairly observational of modern life. How do you write?
I've got lots of notebooks which I carry around with me and if I hear a nice phrase or think of a good line I'll put it down and come back to it later. Then fitting them together is a bit like a puzzle. I tried to write a bit differently on this record. Before, I'd get a title or an idea for a lyric then follow that to its conclusion. This was OK but I felt sometimes the results were a bit one-dimensional. If the listener can instantly get what the song is about, I think he or she is going to get tired of it quicker. On most of the songs from this record I tried to leave the words hanging in the air more. They are deliberately vague in places. I don't like preachy lyrics that tell people what they should think. It’s better to describe a situation or how someone acts without it being in front of a billboard with right or wrong painted on it.
Do you lay down tracks quickly in the studio or is it a meticulous process?
Initial ideas always seem to be pretty quick but turning them into records is a meticulous process. Steve and Thom worked really hard at this. I enjoy the initial idea more than the tidying up.
What kit do you use?
On this record we used an Arp Solina String Synth, a guitar triggering the Korg MS 20, Nord Wave, Mini Moog, Pro Tools, numerous guitar pedals and quite a bit of piano. There is also a cork rattling around a metal tin on one of the songs, which was Thom's idea. It strangely sounds really good.
Your cover art is clearly important to you – anything sorted for the new album yet?
Yes. An artist called Jirayu Koo has done the artwork for Ventriloquizzing. I think it looks great. Before Jirayu got involved I thought the the cover would look good in a Tadanori Yokoo style, but once we saw her work we thought her style would suit the record best.
You strike me as quite unique. E.g. You don’t really sound like anyone else at the moment. Is there anyone else you rate right now?
Thanks. I've been listening to Matias Aguayo's ay ay ay quite a lot. I like Jamie Lidell and I am always interested in what Beck does. I'm enjoying the new Arp record too. I do mainly listen to older things though. I'm getting a bit obsessed with Terry Riley's music, especially the more electronic sounding stuff like Lifespan and Persian Surgery Dervishes. That Jacky Chalard record on Finders Keepers is another current favourite, as well as the Shangaan electro compilation and Charanjit Singh's ten ragas to a disco beat. I don't know if that’s reflected in our music or not. I suspect not. When we were making Lightbulbs I was just listening to RnB and 60s soul music, and Lightbulbs doesn't sound anything like either of them.
Any live shows planned?
We've got a handful at the beginning of December in London Paris and Lisbon. We won't be touring properly until next year once the LP is out.
What’s the scale of your ambition for the band. I assume you aren’t too bothered about Radio 1 daytime airplay for example!
I want the group to do well and for people to hear it, but I think if you make a good record that will happen anyway, and if you don't it won't. I'm not the best at self-promotion I must admit.
Fujiya & Miyagi are set to release their fourth album 'Ventriloquizzing' in January 2011 via Full Time Hobby and headline London ICA on the 1st December.
Download new track 'Sixteen Shades Of Black and Blue' here: http://soundcloud.com/fujiya/sixteen-shades-of-black-blue