K. Ishibashi is no stranger to success -- he's a founding member of Jupiter One, and has toured with of Montreal and Regina Spektor. But his solo project, Kishi Bashi, has a very grassroots feel to it. For instance, Ishibashi funded his debut album 151a through a Kickstarter campaign which promised everything from original compositions to private concerts in exchange for a contribution. A St. Louis backer scored a private show that he opened to the public at Off Broadway (3509 Lemp Ave) in January.
The music -- a dreamy, experimental combination of lilting vocals, violin and beatbox -- is an organic experience of its own, as Ishibashi sews the melodies together live with a looping machine. Each performance is as unique as a snowflake and an utterly different experience than listening to the album. This Saturday, Kishi Bashi returns to Off Broadway for one of these fascinating and sometimes nerve-wracking performances.
We caught up with Ishibashi at his home in Virginia, where he was enjoying some unexpected downtime due to the abrupt cancellation of a leg of Passion Pit's summer tour.
Jessica Lussenhop: You recently announced that you've left of Montreal and will now play full-time as Kishi Bashi. What lead to that decision?
K. Ishibashi: I have a family. I have a wife and kid in Virginia. It was just like, being in Of Montreal and also in Kishi Bashi was kind of dominating my life to the point where I couldn't get home very much. Because, if I wasn't doing of Montreal, I'd be trying to squeeze in some Kishi Bashi stuff and actually my album is doing really well right now, so I have a lot of opportunities and I have a booking agent who's basically just waiting for me to give him open dates so he can book me, you know? So it just made sense to just kind of part ways with them, and they let me open up their entire floor in April and I'm really good friends with them. So, it's kind of a thing where I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, you know? When your own music is doing pretty well and people are pretty excited about it. So I just had to jump on it.
It does seem like there's a fair amount of momentum building behind you.
I've been in bands where there wasn't any momentum, and I know how that feels and this is definitely the kind of thing you don't want to pass up. This kind of opportunity when people are excited about your project and your album, you know?
So what's it been like?
It's great. It's a little busy. I have a manager to keep me sane, I guess, but it's great because it's like, all the sudden people are willing to book me and willing to open doors for me, and it's really based, probably, on the album.
How long did it take to put the album together?
I had an EP last year, I based some it off two of the songs from the EP. I put it together in about half a year -- a few months.
Tell me about your live performances as opposed to just listening to the album.
They can be totally different. The way I create my loops, I just kind of -- they're not exact. So a lot of it has to do with a feeling and it might be faster, I also like changing things up, so I'll change things and kind of make it different, and I also like the audience to have a different experience. The repeat customers, I like to give them something different. Has a loop ever gotten so messed up you had to stop?
Absolutely. It's embarrassing, but it's like, there's nothing you can do about it. You can either torture your audience for another minute or two, you know, or you can just stop it and just laugh it off. That's what I usually do if it's really bad.
How did you learn looping?
I'd always been doing, making ambient loops, experimenting like that, but when I started doing my solo thing I wanted to be... because I come from a band, you know, where you're just this huge monster of a touring entity. It's just so expensive and I thought, 'How can I do this?' I just wanted to be solo, you know, so I could choose what shows I wanted to do and I could fly and do shows, and I tried to keep my rig small. So I found out about the looping thing. There are people who do it really well, so I kind of checked them out on YouTube, and yeah, I basically, I copied a lot of people for ideas.
Any particularly strong influences?
You know tUnE-yArDs? ... She's really great. There's tUnE-yArDs, Andrew Bird, of course, is great, you've probably heard of him. Who's the other guy -- Yann Seznec. Owen Pallett is really great. He's a violinist who loops and stuff, and he's really, really good. It's funny, there's a message board where there's these, like his fans are arguing about me on his message board.
What are they arguing about?
Not arguing, but they're like, 'What's up with this guy, Kishi Bashi? He sounds -- he 's, like, taking from Owen, he's not the first to do it, Owen Pallett's the first one.' And I never claimed to be the first one, but his fans are like trying, you know, there's contention about me, the origin of what I do. So, actually, I wrote to Owen Pallett - well, normally I don't interact with those weirdos, but it's like, these guys are strange, you know, they're debating nothing. But then I noticed that Owen Pallett actually comments on these things himself.
What was his comment?
He's just like, 'Guys, leave him alone, he's actually pretty good' kind of thing. So I noticed that he did, so I posted too, and so I'm going to have lunch with him in Toronto. I'm going to meet up with him.
So there's peace in the world of looping.
Exactly. The big loop peace accords are happening in Toronto.