[dropcap letter=”T”]okyo is a megalopolis of possibility, especially for the likes of musicians, artists and creatively driven folk. An astounding 37 million people live within the metropolitan area of Tokyo, making it one of the world’s most populous urban spaces. With so many people living within such a tightly populated space, even with so much opportunity, it may be hard to stand out. It may be hard to create things that are wholly expansive, original or enthralling for a larger audience.
However, Kikagaku Moyo (made up by Go Kurosawa, Ryu Kurosawa, Kotsu Guy, Tomo Katsurada and Daoud Popal) found their sound within the bustling streets of Tokyo and took what they had to the small, underground clubs of Tokyo’s larger music subculture.
“We had a big picture about playing music within a collective. Anyone could join, anyone could leave. We did not have set instruments, we wanted everyone to switch around if possible. We started playing shows and we all kind of asked the question… ‘who wants to play shows often, who wants to be serious?’” drummer Go Kurosawa said.
Kikagaku Moyo was a collective of young friends creating, scheming and procuring the sounds that lived in their heads. Though, it was hard for the group to find their place in Japan early on. Kurosawa continued, “When we first started playing shows in Japan… it seemed like nobody cared. There was not really a ‘scene’ for the music we played. A lot of our friends did not really listen to the kind of stuff we made, being Garage Rock or Psych Rock. So, we thought ‘okay let’s start pushing outside of Japan.’”
So, push out they did.
Shortly after their formation and early rustlings in 2012/2013, Kikaguku Moyo released their self-titled LP and began to tour around Europe, Australia and North America. They quickly started selling out venues, gaining buzz and ultimately established their Amsterdam-based record label “Guruguru Brain”. Using this label to share not only their music but the music of other smaller artists from Eastern Asia.
“Tomo and I started it initially, but in the beginning everyone in the band was kind of helping.” Kurosawa explained. “Tomo and I eventually asked, “Who wants to spend some money, invest and put some records out?” That was approximately around when we started touring a lot and started realizing Rock and Roll has a long history. However, that history is still mainly seen from a Western perspective. We wanted people to realize that music should be seen as global. Music shouldn’t have boundaries. Music shouldn’t only be sung in English. We just wanted to challenge the norm.”
Sonically, Kikagaku Moyo combines the improvisational and scattered musical concepts of Krautrock, the traditional sounds of Indian and East Asia instrumentation and the Acid-washed Psychedelic Rock and Roll appeal. Such varied combinations have brought forth a dynamic discography and an even more mind-bending stage presence.
Kurosawa described with relative directness, “We don’t really like to compose what we will do for a live show. We like the freedom of live settings. We don’t really plan how long a jam will go on for… we kind of just look for each other and then… we know.”
In addition to being seasoned studio musicians, label founders and live performers, Kikagaku Moyo was featured in a Gucci Eyewear campaign titled, #GucciGig. The legendary fashion house’s campaign reimagined the band within a colorful, retro pastiche as illustrator Alessio Vitelli crafted eyewear advertisements reminiscent of tour posters of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Kikagaku Moyo was one of twelve musical acts to be featured in this campaign, which combined each band/group’s aesthetic with a visual artist’s interpretation best curated to represent the sound of the artist. Such a campaign adding onto Kikagaku Moyo’s already expansive repertoire of being artistically multifaceted.
Against the wild backdrop of 2020, people all around the world have been impacted in some way or another. Especially in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although bands across the globe have halted their live performances, the Japanese quintet already had some time off listed on the calendar. “We were planning to take a break this year, so not much actually changed as far as our schedule. However, I have no idea how all of this will impact the music industry. So, we will just have to continue writing more music. Continue to try and survive in these times… as well as continue trying to be sustainable with our music. We also plan on recording new material this coming spring. As for Guruguru Brain, we have some new releases lined up just as planned.” As this year comes to a close… seeing messages of sustainability, self-motivated creativity and planning for the future are surely some of the driving catalysts for change in a calendar year that seemed to have slipped right through everyone’s fingers.