The Songs of Jim O’Rourke: The producer and multi-instrumentalist keeps it simple

Photo by Taikou Kuniyoshi

Photo by Taikou Kuniyoshi

By the time Jim O’Rourke moved to Tokyo in 2001, he’d amassed a body of work—his own music, as part of Sonic Youth, and as producer—that made him a sought-after figure. A mercurial musician whose music ranges from the melodic to the experimental, O’Rourke now prefers a more uncomplicated life than the one in the commercial record industry. Metropolis reached him in Hokkaido ahead of the debut concert for his new album, Simple Songs.

Where are you and what are you doing?

O’Rourke

I’m on tour with [sax player] Akira Sakata in Yakumo for a gig put on by [the] city. People aren’t going to come to see a free jazz show in a place like this. It’s more doing tunes, which is good practice.

Why a solo singer-songwriter album now?

It sounds ridiculous, but if I’d done it by myself I probably never would have put it out. I took about six years to make it and there were three other people who played on recordings we made again and again. The fact I put it out is because I wanted to pay them. But I don’t even know if that will be possible. The last time I put out a record like this was 13 years ago, and the world has really changed—people don’t buy records anymore. So at this point, I still don’t know if I’ll be able to give them any money.

Tickets sales have been good, right?

The concerts sold out in a day or two, which surprised me. It sounds disingenuous, but I don’t care if they sell out or not. I care because I want to pay my musicians, but personally, the only thing that matters is it being better than whatever I’ve done before. This one is really involved because it’s four sets of new stuff. I’m still in the middle of writing it all, so there are going to be a lot of rehearsals. I don’t just want to play the songs on the record—it’s got to be more than that. I don’t want to just do the same show again, which is why I don’t tour as myself. It’s not just the band. If it were just that, it would be fine; but one set’s a jazz band, another a string quartet … so it’s going to be a lot of work. But my way of working is hard for people here to understand.

In what sense?

I’m very particular about things … not that the rhythm is correct, but the sense of rhythm. The hardest thing to get across to musicians here is that tempo does not rule music. The metronome is not tempo; your heartbeat and the air around us are the tempo. Getting them off the metronome is really hard.

Regarding the album title, tell us your thoughts on simplicity in music.

I don’t necessarily have an affection for simplicity in music. I like patience in music, which, in a way, I think of as simple, allowing the material to be itself, as opposed to pushing the sounds around. If I was to think of simplicity in music, it’s just allowing the music to be itself, pared down to the necessities.

Tell us about the creation of the song “Hotel Blue”.

That song was originally written for a Koji Wakamatsu film. He insisted on there being an end roll song for the soundtrack I did. That stuck around as something I thought was worth working on. There were so many songs, and the question was, which made the arc of the record work? And that was probably the last thing we did. In the end, all the sections that weren’t part of the original, I wrote in 20 minutes while everyone was downstairs having a cigarette break. At that point, Wakamatsu had passed away, so I wanted it on the record. He’s a big reason I moved here and finally learned Japanese. The record is dedicated to him.

Do the best songs arrive in epiphanies?

Either that or six to seven years. There’s no “in between” with me; it’s either immediate or takes years of sitting on it. “Last Year” was written eight years ago. Even the basic track is from six years ago. I must have rerecorded it 20 times, and the first was the best. I’m happy to work on things for years and years, because I don’t feel the need to put anything out. It’s got to be right, or there’s no point.

Are they written traditionally on acoustic guitar?

I only write when I have to. I never sit down and say I’m going to write now. I have no interest. It’s only when I’ve got to write something, that’s the only way I’m going to do it. When I have a deadline, or a show. If I’m working with someone else, no problem; but as soon as it’s my music, I’m ten thousand times harder on myself. I don’t think I should bother people’s ears with everything I do, so it’s got to be worth it.

There’s a sense of humor to the songs.

I think all of them! But it depends on your sense of humor. It’s not that humor doesn’t have a place—I think there should be more—but it depends on your sense of humor. And many don’t have the same sense of humor as me. I have a fairly black sense of humor … it’s all just death and sex. That’s all the lyrics are about: dying while having sex, or having sex after they’re dead. Half of this record is sung from the viewpoint of a dead person. Whether you find that funny or not depends on the person.

What brought you to Japan?

I started coming to Japan in ’92, and from ’94 onwards, I came two to four times every year—about 50 times before I actually moved. I had tried moving in my 20s, but was too young and didn’t speak the language. But from that failure, I became determined. Over time, I would come home and felt like I didn’t want to leave Japan; it didn’t feel like I was going home. What finally pushed me to move was Wakamatsu. He asked me to do music for his Red Army film, but said if I wanted to work on the film, I’d have to learn Japanese. Of course, he was teasing me a bit, but that was the kick in the ass I needed. I quit everything I was doing in the States, sold everything, and moved.

What took the most to get used to about the Japanese music scene?

I decided not to get used to it and quit producing. I just decided I didn’t want to participate. The first few years here, I had to work to get my visa, and I was obligated to do stuff because I’d take on the work. But then I decided I didn’t want to be part of it, so I’ve slowly removed myself to the point where I do my stuff off-the-map.

At the same time, you have to make a living.

For me, I’m going to play this tour with Sakata, which is something I enjoy doing. But you wouldn’t usually find someone who’s done the sort of work I have: being content doing a countryside tour for two weeks. But I have no problem with that. And I’ll do that, and be able to pay the bills for a couple months. I don’t want making a living to have anything to do with my own work. Which is why I learned how to engineer—that was my work. I didn’t want the things I wanted to make to have anything to do with making a living.

Are you here from the duration?

Oh yeah, until I fall over.

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Räfven: The Swedish klezmer band’s Martin Nurmi on bringing back the dinos

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One of the joys of Japan’s biggest rock festival is visiting the small stages that dot Naeba Ski Resort, between the mammoth lawns where the headliners perform, and happening upon unknown bands.

So how did an obscure Swedish klezmer collective come to be a star of the festival?

Martin Nurmi

“It started when we met Jason at Glastonbury in 2008,” saxophonist Martin Nurmi says from on the road in Sweden. Nurmi is speaking of impresario Jason Mayall, who boasts a long connection with England’s Glastonbury festival as well as its Japanese sister event Fuji Rock.

“Jason invited us to play his after-party. He said, ‘If you play for me now, I’ll bring you to Japan.’ We trusted him and he followed through, and that’s how we ended up at Fuji Rock in 2009.”

Eight-member outfit Räfven (pronounced “raven”) bowled audiences over that year with their combustible blend of East-European Jewish klezmer and Gypsy music, juiced with the spirit of punk and ska. The group played eight sets and have been back to Japan four times, including an encore at Fuji Rock 2015.

The life of a hardworking Swedish klezmer band isn’t a simple one—wedding gigs and day jobs come with the territory—but Räfven have managed to keep it together since 2003.

“We started out as a street band and didn’t have deep thoughts about which songs we chose,” Nurmi recalls in gently accented English. “We just found we liked the klezmer and Romany traditions, and everyone in the band was composing with inspiration from all these traditions.

“We’ve been together 12 years,” he adds. “It’s pretty impressive and crazy for an eight-person band. We are mostly freelance musicians doing other kind of work, but there’s a lot of time spent together and a lot of love in this band. It’s like a marriage—but with eight people.”

Tonight’s concert is a sedate sit-down event for a classical music audience, but gigs have bordered on the bizarre: one promoter asked them to perform from up a tree. “It was a restaurant opening party, and they wanted us to climb the tree outside the restaurant and play,” Nurmi laughs. “I think it was a better picture in their head than the reality, but we tried—and I’m scared of heights.”

Räfven’s forthcoming Japan tour sees them promoting their new album Bring Back the Dinos. “We stretched out with longer songs and melodies this time, and changed the instrumentation a bit too,” explains Nurmi. “Sometimes, we just had this feeling the dinosaurs will run the world better than humans, and also we are kind of old and now dinosaurs in the band ourselves, so you can look at it from different perspectives.”

For Nurmi, in its own small but determined way, Räfven has meant an opportunity to use music as a springboard to connect with people around the planet—many of whom he can’t even communicate with verbally.

“Music makes people happy, but this specific music—folk music—belongs to all of us,” he believes. “You can feel the connections between the different folk traditions—for example between Irish and American folk, and I think it’s also true with our style of music, it’s easy to connect to in one or another way. It may seem weird, but I think there are even connections with folk music in Japan. 

“Music is the best kind of language,” he concludes. “I’m not so good at any other language. It’s a language for the mind, body, and soul—everything. And it’s so important to connect with each other through music. For me it’s a dream.”

Nisennenmondai: Japan’s hippest instrumental rock exports go electronic

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They don’t sing anime songs or wear uniforms, and they aren’t part of the “kawaii” boom. But instrumental rock trio Nisennenmondai—Japanese for “the Y2K bug”—are one of Japan’s hippest musical exports. Metropolis caught up with guitarist Masako Takada and drummer Sayaka Himeno in Tokyo to hear about collaborating with U.K. electronica engineering wizard Adrian Sherwood on their hypnotic new album #N/A.

Where are you at present, and what do we find you doing?

Sayaka Himeno: In Tokyo.
Masako Takada: At home; just woke up.

What brought the three of you together, and what keeps you together?

SH: We met each other in band club at our university.
MT: Probably the fact that we are not too musician-like helps us stay together. All of us are very honest and serious, and share responsibilities without thinking too much about it.

Your music has a repetitive techno quality. Why use live instruments, instead of computers?

MT: We want to pursue the possibilities that only live instruments have rather than using predictable sounds. Making repetitive music by humans creates a sense of instability and uniqueness that you wouldn’t achieve if you used computers.

What was your first impression of Adrian Sherwood?

MT: I thought he seemed gentlemanlike and kind.

Tell us about the experience of having him mix you live in Tokyo.

SH: During the performance, we couldn’t hear the mixed sound from the monitors onstage, so didn’t really know how it sounded. It looked like the audience was reacting to parts that I wasn’t expecting, which made me nervous. But I listened to the recorded audio and found that he was able to maximize our songs and lay on just the right amount of effects.

Why did you decide to record together?

SH: To be honest I only knew his name but [label] Beatink brought up the idea and I thought, why don’t we give it a try?

MT: I knew Adrian, and even though I had no idea how it would work, I thought he was the right match for our music.

How was the experience different than producing yourselves?

SH: We just released our album earlier this year and this idea came to us on short notice, so we didn’t have any new songs. They were like, “Just do a session and give it a try.” So we did, but I had no idea how this would result in an album.
MT: It was completely different from producing ourselves. We normally write music in advance, but for #N/A, almost everything was session-based. Adrian had some ideas for parts, so some were improvised on the spot.

How does #N/A evolve from your previous albums? Tell us about the making of one song on #N/A.

MT: I forgot which song it was, but Adrian asked me to play like I’d gone crazy and I tried to do so. He seemed very happy with it so I remember feeling relieved.

Tell us about working with New York rock band Battles.

SH: It was 2003 when we first played together in Shimokitazawa. Since then, we’ve opened their shows in Japan, and they also come to our shows in NYC. In 2011, they took us on their U.S. tour and we also played together at Shibuya AX, All Tomorrow’s Parties, and London Forum. Thanks to Battles, we’ve had chances to play to bigger audiences, so we’re really grateful for that.

TV On the Radio: A member down, the Brooklyn band is wiser if not wearier

It’s been almost a decade since Metropolis last talked with TV On the Radio. In 2006, the quintet were the latest darlings of the exploding Brooklyn indie rock scene—part of it, but with a lush sound distinct from the disco-punk leanings of many Williamsburg bands of the era.

Nine years later, TVOTR are, if not wizened, then wiser and more reflective in the wake of the death of bassist Gerard Smith, who died of lung cancer in 2011. Their new album, Seeds, is the first recorded without his presence.

Tunde Adebimpe

“You do a certain amount of creative work with someone who’s basically a family member, and it shifts the notion of what can be accomplished in the band that had five members,” singer Tunde Adebimpe says from their tour stop in Oakland. “For me, when someone passes away I almost think about them more than when they were alive. That’s how your heart is connected to friends. But in terms of music, he was not somebody who liked to make bullshit; so we’re conscious of that now.”

Adebimpe plays down the direct effect of Smith’s death on the album, but considerations of love and loss are central to the urgency of Seeds. On the elegiac, synth-driven “Careful You,” for example, Adebimpe sings “I know it’s best to say goodbye, but I can’t seem to move away.” It’s a sentiment that could be applied as equally to a disintegrating love affair as to the death of a friend.

Having absorbed Smith’s passing and elected to continue on, the four remaining members of TVOTR—Adebimpe, producer/guitarist Dave Sitek, guitarist/vocalist Kyp Malone, and drummer Jaleel Bunton—are currently in a sweet spot. Seeds has been nicely received as a return to form, and Adebimpe says they’re having a blast touring for the first time in several years.

“We’re in a place now where we realize the value of having been able to pursue the band for as long as we have, and the good fortune to have an audience to sustain us,” he says. “We recognize how special that is—because we don’t make the most accessible music. Bands that are willing to explore as much as we do are not always rewarded with a career, and we realize it’s a super lucky thing.”

TVOTR’s music is unconventional, but on a song such as, for example, “Happy Idiot,” it’s close enough to mainstream at times that one can imagine a record exec pushing them in an out-and-out-pop direction. That’s exactly what happened, says Adebimpe. “We’ve been advised a lot to tone things down to find a wider audience, mostly by people in the music industry,” he explains. “They’ll say, ‘If you would only do this and that …’ You have to look at them and tell them it’s like teaching a fish to breathe air. We just don’t do that.”

Despite the gloss of Sitek’s production work, when you look at TVOTR, you see three aging black guys and one geeky white one—not exactly the recipe for mainstream marketing success. Yet, they’re not really part of the black rock movement pioneered by outfits like Bad Brains, either.

“Thinking about Bad Brains or Living Colour, anytime you have an example of someone who looks like you, it’s helpful to a young person,” Adebimpe recalls about his entry into the rock world. “But I’ve never considered us strictly a rock band, because, if we were, we’d probably have a few more awards by now. There are a lot of rock bands with people of color in them now, but with genres melding, it’s become diffuse.”

Adebimpe says TVOTR are looking forward to their first visit to Japan since a quick solo tour and appearance at Summer Sonic those many years ago. He says these days crowds are asking for “Staring at the Sun” off Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, and “Wolf Like Me” off Return to Cookie Mountain.

“We didn’t know what we were doing with those songs,” he laughs. “They just showed up at a time when a lot people connected with them. It was a fresh sound even though we didn’t realize it—we just knew we liked it.

“The best songs come as epiphanies. It’s like seeing a painting that might look dashed off, but it seems more alive than something that’s been labored over for years. I think it’s because you’re getting a message and you jot it down as quickly as you can. You capture the message, and the immediacy of how it’s put down carries through to the song. Especially with new wave and punk—it’s so earnest and barebones, it’s the only thing they possibly could have done, and the energy of that music is still palpable.”

 

Belle and Sebastian: Scottish rockers on not being “indie”

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Keyboardist Chris Geddes talks to Metropolis about the band’s new album, Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, Scottish independence, and why Glasgow still rocks their world.

Are we right to think of Girls as something of a departure?
To a certain extent. We took some musical styles a bit further than we had before, but it was probably all things that previous records had hinted at rather than a complete departure. You hope every record you make will be different from previous ones in some way, but we’ve never gone for a complete reinvention.

What was the backstory behind the approach?


We’ve always been led by the songwriting, rather than deciding a musical direction first, and then fitting things ’round that. Stuart [Murdoch, lead singer and songwriter] said something early on about making the album like a ’70s Eurovision song contest, with each tune from a different country. It wasn’t meant entirely seriously but it conveyed the idea that it was OK if different songs went in different directions.

Chris Geddes

Tell us about your contributions as keyboardist in the band’s working process.
It varies a lot. Sometimes the songwriter has an idea for a part, and you take it from there; other times, they’ll play you the song, and the very first thing you come up with yourself is what goes on the record. Still, other times, I might work trying to find an interesting sound, and then the sound dictates the part, or I might do some programmed stuff and add that, or something I’ve done on the laptop might be the start of a song for someone else. On this record there was more programmed stuff from me and Ben the producer than on previous records.

What’s your own personal favorite song on the new album, and why?

My favorite is “Ever Had a Little Faith?” because, even though it starts off sounding like a fairly straightforward “old” Belle and Sebastian song, by the end, we’ve taken it somewhere else. I really like “Play For Today” as well. I loved Stuart’s vocal on it, and then Dee Dee [vocalist and guitarist of Dum Dum Girls] came in and did a really great job with her part, and I love the way it builds to the end with all the effects and stuff.

How did you end up recording in Atlanta? What did that bring to the album?



We went there specifically to work with Ben Allen. It was really great. Ben; Jason Kingsland, who engineered; and Sumner Jones, who was the assistant, were all really cool guys. It was a very open atmosphere in the studio, and I learned a lot from each of them. We wouldn’t have made the same record anywhere else. Ben contributed a huge amount in terms of sounds and the direction of some of the songs. I think everybody really enjoyed being in Atlanta as well, the vibe of the place and the food.

Tell us about the press shot that shows the band holding newspapers with Scottish independence referendum headlines.



It just so happened that the photoshoot took place on the same day as the referendum, so the photographer, Søren Solkær, brought the newspapers along to use in the shoot. I was a bit hesitant to do it, from the point of view that all of the mainstream media was against independence, and I didn’t want posing with the papers to be seen as an endorsement of that. I’d been getting most of my news from social media, which was why I was surprised when it was a comfortable victory for the “no” side.

What song do fans call for most in concert, and why do you think that song touched a chord with folks?

People shout a lot for “This is Just a Modern Rock Song,” which we never really play, or “Your Cover’s Blown.” I guess when people shout for things, it’s often not because they expect you to play it, but to show that they are the kind of fan that wants you to play a seven-minute-long track. The song that connects most with the audience is probably still “Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying,” because the lyrics are a manifesto for the early days of the band.

Over two decades of Belle and Sebastian, what’s changed the most, and what’s stayed the same?


Within the band, it’s been the changes in personnel that have made the biggest differences: Isobel, Stuart, David, and Mick leaving; and Sarah, Bob, and for this album, Dave McGowan joining. Everybody had brought something different to the group when they’ve been in it, and making this record with Dave as part of the group was really good. His playing on every song was amazing, and made everybody else raise their game. There’s certain things within the writing that have stayed broadly the same. We’ve always written songs based on the harmonies that evolved in ’60s rock and pop, and not followed recent trends. The records almost always consist of melodic, lyrical songs, rather than any other form of music.



How has “maturity” affected the band?


In terms of the music we make, not much. It’s more people’s personal circumstances that have changed over the years. But we’re in a band so that we can avoid maturity!

How does Glasgow continue to shape your sound?


It’s still important for me. I hear stuff recorded at Green Door, the studio next to our rehearsal space, that really excites me. My friend Holly, who puts on a psych weekender called Eyes Wide Open, has been really good at turning me on to touring bands that have come through. My friend Andrew still does his club Divine, where we heard a lot of stuff that shaped the sound of the band.

What do critics get right—and not—about the band?



Sometimes, I’ve read critical stuff about the band and thought there were some fair points, and other times there’s been both positive and negative things where I’ve read it and thought the person just doesn’t get what we’re doing. Maybe the main thing is, we think of ourselves as more pop than [the] critics, who put us very much in the “indie” or “twee-pop” box. It’s fine, it’s just a label. I sort my record collection by genre myself, although there’s no “twee-pop” section. I’d have us filed under “other”!

Eri Uchida: mystery at the heart of Kodo

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Tokyo Flow spoke with Eri Uchida, one of a few women members of legendary Japanese taiko drum troupe Kodo. Uchida told us about Kodo’s new work Mystery, its first to feature women in central roles. 

How did you come to join Kodo?

I decided to attend Kodo’s apprentice center when I saw Kodo in Vancouver while I was at high school in Canada. After two years of apprenticeship, we are able to perform on stage with the other members.

Women seem relatively new to the world of taiko: What are the challenges?

Women are not so new to taiko as a performing art which has been around only 50 years or so. In fact, most amateur taiko groups are composed mainly of women. However Kodo is composed mostly of men, and there are lots of challenges as professionals. First of all, the size of the taiko. The taiko that we use are so large that even some men can barely make a good sound. Therefore it is even more challenging for female taiko players.

Tell us about your role in the new piece Mystery.

I think the audience will enjoy the presence of women in Mystery, because we have created both theatrical and comical pieces featuring women in the production. Women are usually not heavily featured in Kodo’s productions, so Mystery is a rare opportunity to enjoy the female presence.

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Why do you think artistic director Tamasaburo Bando chose to feature women strongly in Mystery? Are women mysterious?

Bando has thought about the role of women in Kodo since the very beginning. As he plays female roles in Kabuki, he taught us how to behave and act as women on stage. I think women are mysterious in that they have the ability to create a new life inside their body. However, women are not central to the mysterious aspect of this production. Female performers have an important role to lighten the atmosphere on stage, and to provide a sense of comfort and humor with their charm. I think it was a big challenge to feature women in Kodo, which has a strong image of male performers.

Taiko seems to be getting very popular worldwide. Why do you think this is?

Taiko is essentially one of the easiest instruments on which to make a sound. So it is very easy to start. Taiko cannot be done alone; whether it is for performance, preparation, or actually building the drum, a sense of togetherness is required. I think as individualism becomes a common value worldwide, people’s hearts need this sense of community.

Tell us about your most special experience so far as a member of Kodo.

It is very difficult to choose one experience. The entire experience is special to me. Touring is life-changing. Your views and values change a lot in a short period of time. The sunset from the tour bus, the freezing weather I have never experienced, communication with local staff without language barriers, the encounter of dangerous suburban areas…the ability to find new answers when I’m feeling stuck. These are some examples of touring experiences that lead up to my performances. I am very thankful to Kodo for giving me this opportunity.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

That’s a hard question. I feel like I am reborn every time a tour ends. I don’t know what I will be doing in ten years since my priorities change quickly. All I know is I’d like to have a child someday and want to live for others.

What does music mean to you, and why do you think music exists?

Music for me is healing, joy, and makes my life rich and prosperous, but also the biggest worry since my job is music. If I limit this topic to taiko, I’d like to introduce an idea that a psychologist once offered on the subject: “Human beings have an element of ferocity. Unlike robots, we kill other species in order to survive. Humans may develop mental illness when the balance of these ferocious instincts collapses. The action of hitting the drum provides a very important influence to achieve that balance mentally. Therefore, taiko drumming  maintains wellness for human beings.” Expanding from this idea, I believe that music has a universal power to heal anyone’s mind in our current society.

Kodo perform at Brooklyn Academy of Music, March 19-21.  http://www.bam.org/music/2015/mystery

Dot Hacker: The LA experimental rock outfit comes Alive

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LA outfit Dot Hacker are perhaps best known for the membership of guitarist Josh Klinghoffer in the Red Hot Chili Peppers—but the quartet’s atmospheric meditations are worlds away from the Peppers’ funk­tastic explosions. The band (named after one member’s grandma) debuts in Tokyo, courtesy of crowd­funding site Alive, which conducted a winning campaign on their behalf. Metropolis spoke with bassist Jonathan Hischke.

Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way: What’s it like having the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ guitarist in the band?

That’s an interesting question … we were all close friends and had started Dot Hacker—and had recorded our first album Inhibition—before he became the guitarist of Red Hot Chili Peppers, so we knew him as something other than a member of that band for a long time. We are very proud of him, and it is always interesting to hear stories from that part of his life. His experience being in that band has brought out more confidence in him which is a great benefit for our band, as well.

Tell us why you decided to release two albums back-to-back in 2014.

There were a few reasons for that decision. We had too many songs to fit comfortably on one album, and we didn’t know what to leave off. We didn’t want to put out an exhausting album that was too long, nor did we want to release a double-album set; we felt that it would be overwhelming for a listener. Also, we couldn’t come to an agreement about what order the songs should be in. Since our time is limited as a band due to scheduling, we also felt that staggering the releases would be good for the band in that it would extend the life of the album since we can’t tour much or be a public presence in other ways.

What are the main differences between the two?

Well, the songs were recorded together as part of the same “batch,” and the idea of making two releases came much later, so there was no attempt to make them separate or different when we were writing or recording. We feel the song order makes the most sense the way they ended up, thankfully.

You’ve been together for a while, but the recording and touring came quite late. What were you up to?

We are all busy making music and touring with other people, as well as our band, much of the time, so touring has always been a difficult thing for us to schedule. We wish we could tour all the time! However, we started recording early [in] the band’s life; it just took a long time for the first album to be released. We had to find the right label and circumstances; thank heavens for ORG Music!

Members of Dot Hacker have backed the likes of anyone from Beck to Charlotte Gainsbourg. How have these experiences shaped your sound?

We are able to reference different styles and sounds easily because of our experiences, and we can convincingly play live under most circumstances. It also informs our writing and recording because this band is our chance to not be guided or commanded to do anything differently! It’s very liberating. It’s our own safe little world we’ve created.

Tell us about the personalities of the band members and how that translates into the music.

We are all very different personalities, but there are many overlapping interests and tastes that keep us close. We love each others’ company, and we hang out together all the time. We’re all kind of best friends. I can’t imagine the band being any other way, really. Eric is very practical and organized. Clint is emotional and knowledgeable about many things. Josh is sensitive and quite artistic and literary. I am stubborn and idealistic. The other three love sports, and I don’t care at all. We all share our politics and humor. It works out great!

Tell us about Dot Hacker’s place in the current LA music scene.

We rarely play, so I don’t know! We have many friends in a lot of bands in the city, so we do have peers we see often. I don’t know if we sound like any other bands in town, though.

What does music mean to Dot Hacker in the grand scheme of things?

It’s our lifeblood! We all have been playing music as our main focus for most of our lives, and we hope we will always be able to do so. If anyone else hears it and it makes their lives a bit brighter, then that is an incredible bonus.

How did you come to be part of the Alive project?

We were approached by Alive and it seemed like a very constructive and efficient model! Our fans in Japan apparently had suggested the campaign to them, and they are the whole reason this is happening. We are very much looking forward to getting over there!

Shinjuku Marz. Feb 23, 7pm. ¥5,500. Nearest station: Seibu-Shinjuku or Shinjuku. Tel: 03-3202-8248. Tsutaya O-Nest. Feb 24, 7pm. ¥5,000 (adv)/¥5,500 (door). Nearest station: Shibuya. Tel: 03-3462-4420. http://dothacker.org