Hailing from Tokyo, Japanese psychedelic rock band Kikagaku Moyo is back in Europe again for an extensive summer tour. With a loyal following, Kikagaku Moyo has been making waves in the international psych scene with their dreamlike, invigorating and often meditative sound
When fusions are formed within music genres, amazing things can happen. Kikagaku Moyo’s sprawling, experiential jams are just that – a novel take on 1960s and 70s psychedelic complexities, fused together with nods to folk music with classical Indian influences. The band was started by Go Kurusawa on drums/vocals and Tomo Katsurada on guitar/vocals in Tokyo during the summer of 2012. They started as a free music collective before adding Daoud Popal on guitar and Kotsu Guy on bass. Go’s brother, Ryu Kurosawa joined the band on the sitar after studying under Bengali sitar master Pandit Manilal Nag in Kolkata. The addition of Ryu completed the five-man band’s permanent long-haired line up.
Sprung from hazy, smoke-filled live shows in small Tokyo clubs, Kikagaku Moyo has generated a massive cult-like following overseas in the UK, Sweden, Greece, and the US with slews of sold-out shows. With their explorative style, the band attracts a crowd ranging from old psych-heads to younger fans of experimental drone. Kikagaku Moyo operates their own label, Guruguru Brain, on which they release the work of bands from all over Asia, pushing often unknown music from the Asia underground into the western market. The label now operates in Amsterdam and Japan, and it remains a mystery whether the name refers to the traditional gurus of India or the Japanese onomatopoeia for ‘spinning around and around’ – or perhaps a feisty blend of both.
Kikagaku Moyo’s experimental sound is uniquely dynamic, often cutting off into long drone sessions, with feedback-loaded guitar and sitar solos. These five musicians keep making headway, with style ranging from experimental, even messy, energetic jam sessions to orchestrated chaos. In true psych-rock style, their live shows often consist of jams that last for hours, building up gradually from trippy dream sequences that keep audiences floating in the cosmos to the all-out planetary chaos of pure energy.
Following the release of their newest album House in the Tall Grass last year, the band has just released an experimental EP earlier this year, Stone Garden. The Forumist had the lucky chance to briefly interview the band in the midst of their busy touring schedule and before their show at Geronimo’s FGT in Stockholm’s own Gamla Stan.
The Forumist: What is the meaning behind the name Kikagaku Moyo?
Go: It means geometric patterns in Japanese.
The Forumist: Kikagaku Moyo released a new EP this year. Where did you record it? Can you share some of the inspiration for this album?
Go: Faust studio in Prague, Czech. We stayed for two days in a recording studio in Prague during a tour. We ended up playing improved jam. It really reminded us when we started playing music together for the first time…really pure energy and the joy of playing music.
The Forumist: You have toured extensively around the world. What is the biggest difference between touring in Europe and in your home country Japan?
Go: We only toured once in Japan, but this is 5th time touring in Europe. In Europe there are many of spots that we can play shows. We have played places like desert, beach, forest, squads, warehouse, etc.
The Forumist: Have you been in Sweden before?
Go: Yes, we have played some crazy shows!
The Forumist: How do you feel about the Swedish vibe at your concerts?
Go: We love the Swedish vibe! We felt people reacted honest to their feelings.
The Forumist: Is it true that Ryu learned Sitar in India? How did that experience change the band’s music?
Ryu: Yes it is true! I found out that there is complicated music theory in the music that I do not know. After this experience, how I listen to music itself and my interest has really changed a lot.
The Forumist: Last question…if you could add one thing to the studio – anything in the whole world – what would it be?
Go: A really really cozy couch.
After navigating listeners through space with a balance of groovy baselines and serene meditative melodies on their 2016 album, Kikagaku Moyo opens Stone Garden with nothing less than an invigorating crash landing onto a new planet. Stone Garden thrusts listeners into an experimental combat sequence of pure untapped energy filled with underwater distortion and heavy intergalactic reverb. With consistent releases over the last five years, Kikagaku Moyo has certainly proved their place in the psych rock world as a formidable band to keep an eye on. Try to catch the band on this tour; maybe if you’re lucky you’ll snag a ticket before they sell out.
Words by Eimi Tagore-Erwin
Images 1-5, 7 by J. Wdziekonski
Image 6 by Kentaro