Monday, October 20

interview: marina sakimoto (shunkan)




"[F]rom Los Angeles, now in New Zealand," reads Marina Sakimoto's bio on Twitter. It's not a typical transition, but Marina's story isn't typical...and neither is the music that she makes for her band Shunkan. Marina grew up in a L.A. suburb called Santa Clarita. Her sudden move to Invercargill was prompted through a surprisingly profound encounter on Omegle. Several months after the move, she released Honey, Milk and Blood on Shunkan's Bandcamp and, in June, シュンカン I also found its way online. "Shunkan" is Japanese for "moment" and that's certainly what Marina is living in.

What went through your mind when following through with this huge change from L.A. to Invercargill?

I couldn't really stop and think about what I was doing. Of course I planned it out, but when I had to execute that plan, I couldn't think of all the people I'd miss or how life was going to change... I just had to do it.

Where do you think your interest in music and pursuit of making it came from? Is this what helps you get through big life changes?

I have no idea. That's kind of like asking, "so, where did your interest in eating food come from?" and responding with, "I don't know. I have to because I have to eat, otherwise I would die." At this point, it's a natural instinct.

Music influenced all of my big changes in life. It can influence you to become powerful or stay in bed for days at a time. It's quite convincing.

How do you think living in such a remote place like Invercargill contributes to your music?

It's great because I feel like I'm the only one doing what I'm doing here, so I am my only influence and there isn't any noise in the way. I have a clear distinction of what I want my music to sound like.

I loved your remake of Pavement's "Elevate Me Later" featured on NME! Does Malkmus have any influence on your music?

Thanks! Well, he's been a huge influence on my music as far as its attitude... it keeps me grounded, especially on stage, when those jitters creep up.

What bands have you encountered recently in New Zealand that have got you excited? Were you surprised by the music scene here?

I mean, I had looked up Flying Nun before coming here, but there are a vast amount of bands here that are more high quality compared to most of the bands I heard back home... New Zealanders have a thing or two to teach the world.

Kane Strang is like Rivers Cuomo and Jeff Mangum all in one - what an incredible songwriter. Caroles is everything I want in one sucker punch - raw, '90s emo/screamo and noise to fill up a room. Doprah is unlike anything I've ever heard and familiarised myself with - trip-hop, yeah, sure, but there's more to it than just one label...there are very talented people in that band. I should probably stop there because everyone excites me and I'd be sitting here for an hour listing every one of them.

I noticed your love for anime. I have a similar kind of obsession! What makes you drawn to anime? Are you ever like me and become obsessed with certain characters or anime?

Ha, nice! I've been visiting Japan since I was a baby because I'm half Japanese and half of my family lives over there, so I've always been familiar with anime and Japanese culture in general. I didn't really get into anime though until recently.

Yeah, I definitely do get obsessed quickly. I still think about "Welcome To The NHK" and I finished that weeks ago... I think everyone has a special relationship with every anime they watch.

With the start of 2015 soon approaching, what does Shunkan have to look forward to? Any big plans?

We're looking forward to recording very soon and prepping for the new album. I'm really excited for what's to come.

Friday, October 17

bedroom view


Lying in bed, coming to terms with the realisation that this was the first day nothing too random happened...then noticed extraordinarily bright flashes of light through my curtains. The midnight construction on the canteen at one of China's best universities makes me question workers’ rights here…it also makes me thankful for my sleeping mask.

xx
Lou

Tuesday, October 14

interview: doprah

Photo of Doprah by Dan Blackball
On demand like Oprah and "dope" like the pop culture word implies, Doprah are an exciting result of our world's puzzling and increasingly colliding realities. After recently releasing their self-titled EP, Doprah have set off from New Zealand to play shows around the world. I sent them a few questions to see what's up.

What kind of things have you been doing to prepare for touring overseas?

I[ndi]: A lot more than I thought, to be honest. I kind of assumed we would just book the flights and be on our way, but there are things like travel insurance and ESTA and mastercards that need to be sorted out. Primarily, though, we are practicing tonnes so that it's all worth it when we finally go.

Since Doprah's conception in 2013, how has it evolved as a band and an idea?

I: Well it was initially Steven [Marr] who kind of owned the idea and had full creative control. It then turned into a duo, which worked well for the writing process and then we would take the tracks to the live band to perform. Now days, the "live" band are contributing more and more to the writing process and it's a really natural development from where we started. It is far less electronically-oriented than it used to be, but it definitely still retains those elements. We still have no clue what genre we are but I think that's a good sign.

How does the feel and sound of Doprah change when performing at a festival like Laneway and performing at a small venue space in, say, Dunedin?

I: Night-time shows will generally be more atmospheric, and in a small intimate venue like Chick's Hotel in Dunedin you're pretty much brushing shoulders with the audience as you play. In a festival environment the stages are far larger and there are barriers between the audience and yourself. You have to work a lot harder to translate the energy on stage to the audience and to connect somehow. Daytime festival shows have a charm of their own though, they have this great relaxed vibe about them and you can tell that everyone just wants to have a good time.

How has increasing attention and popularity affected you?

I: It's encouraging to realise that the random creative goop that comes out of your head might be worth something to someone. It has helped us a lot with the funding that enables us to create music videos and record new songs. It is a strange limbo that we are all in though, because while we do have a growing fan base, we are definitely not well-known enough to make a living off it. Like I work at a bar on the weekends and someone will recognise me while I'm half way through washing dishes. It's the strangest thing.

Who have you met as a band who has changed or influenced you over the past two years?

I: We met a lot of amazing musicians (like Kurt Vile and Elena of Daughter) backstage at Laneway. They were all incredibly humble and keen to chat. They just imparted great messages of being comfortable with yourself and what you do and to just chill out. I think it's also very rare to find people on the business side of the music industry who are as genuine and in love with the music as Ben Howe and Michael Sherman (our label and management guys), who work so hard to help us every day despite the fact that we have no money to give them in return.

Along this exciting path, have any aspects of (or encounters with) New Zealand's music industry tremendously aided you or, contrastingly, created obstacles for you to overcome?

I: NZ on Air has been amazing, and Outward Sound. We could never have achieved what we have or even contemplated a U.S. trip without the financial support they provided.

And a question for Steven in particular, what do you find to be the most interesting aspect of producing?

S[teven]: Definitely the part where you start with something that makes you want to stick knives in your ears and you slowly turn it into something awesome.​

Monday, October 13

knock out


The final issue of Critic for 2014 is out now and up online! It has been an exciting and engaging year working at Critic and I couldn't thank the team enough for such a dynamic, intelligent and supportive experience. I also want to congratulate them for winning the big awards of "Best Publication" and "Best Design" at the 2014 Aotearoa Student Press Awards. I am also delighted by Lucy Hunter's win for "Best Feature" for her outstanding piece "Why I Hate Psychics." My wonderful friend, Daniel Blackball, won "Best Illustration" too. And it was very lovely to hear that I received the award of "Best Feature Writer." If you're curious about all the results, you can find the press release on the Awards here.

xx
Lou

Sunday, October 12

strips of plastic


1/10/2014

Beyond the heavy strips of plastic that fell over the entrance’s doors (just up from the spiral staircase and security check) was a club of exhilarating scale.  It was an ecstatic world, impossible to interpret and almost impenetrable. A huge disco ball reflected laser lighting throughout the venue and house music filled the rare empty spaces between the tightly packed people. After entering a venue like that in China, I immediately wondered where to begin and how to begin. But I didn’t have to for long - it was decided for me.

Almost immediately after entering the club my friend was pulled from the crowd into a small raised area. Momentarily confused as to where she went, we found her again and she gestured for us to join her. We did so in an attempt to remove ourselves from the persistent men who had already surrounded us (apparently the presence of a female body is always an invitation).

The open booth that we stood inside had a small table with towering stands filled with fruit and glasses of Moet - as I joined the group, a glass was thrust into my hand and refilled whenever I finished it. Centered almost in front of the DJ desks where Fedde le Grand was playing, this group were very deliberately displaying their wealth. No one asked our names, no conversation was attempted (except a string of “I love you(s)” later on). And as I danced I began to feel less human and more a part of the display. I thought I had stepped into this “exclusive” area as a feminist, empowered by my actions, but soon I wondered if I was perpetuating a stereotype and submitting to a lesser status by continuing to be there.

I felt the older man beside me edge closer and noticed the tattoos snaking up his forearms as he reached for me. This wasn’t so much an intellectualised problem that presented itself, but one of safety - of protecting myself and my friends. I looked up at them - from the outset they seemed okay. If anything, the experience at that point remained more entertaining than it was threatening. Staff stood by with grotesquely large and unexplained bouquets of flowers. They were at the ready to do anything the people around us requested, which included telling people who tried to approach the group to leave. I watched my friends being fed pieces of sculptured cucumber, they were laughing so I continued to dance.

However, later, as I sat down to rest briefly the man beside me gestured for me to cross my legs as (I assume) my posture was too masculine and I wasn’t behaving my role properly. Slightly surprised, I reexamined the people around me. That’s when I noticed four young Chinese women sitting in the different corners of the booth, several looked bored and one was sulking. As I watched them, a Californian man, who had been attempting to join the group by showing photos of naked woman on his phone to one of the men, appeared beside me. He lent over and shouted in my ear that he would get free champagne if he kissed me in front of the group. At that point, I decided to extract myself from the stage and disappear.

We thanked the men for the Moet and threaded through the crowd to the other side of the packed venue, but moments later one of the men had found us and started to grab my wrist and waist attempting to pull me back. Perhaps I had misunderstood the influence (or appearance of influence) this group had over the club. Given this, I had also failed to consider how little anyone could or would do to help us if we were in trouble. With recent reports of clubs being shut down at random for mandatory drug testing of every single person inside, trouble can happen so quickly in China. And you can’t ask questions.You can’t resist. Your status as a “foreigner” offers no protection either.

Early morning and with the entertainment of the evening wearing off, we agreed to leave the club. Once outside, we weaved through picnic benches and one man on all fours vomiting into the street gutter. We hailed down a taxi and ended another night in China.

xx
Lou

Sunday, October 5

return to beneath the shadow

Illustration for my last Critic feature "Return to Beneath the Shadow" by Dan Blackball.
1) Return to Beneath the Shadow by myself! Here is my last feature for Critic this year and potentially forever. It reads as a thought diary (uh oh) of my move from New Zealand to China. As always, take a look or not! And, also, if anyone reading this can pay me money to continue to write, you'd most likely be lying or you'd be some kind of magical creature and I'd be incredibly interested.

2) Hikikomori by Kate Stewart One day, overwrought with pressure from his school and family, Haruki shut himself in his shoebox-sized room, severed all contact with the outside world, and did not emerge for nine years. His only human interaction was mediated through the Internet. He spent month after month sleeping all day and slouching in front of a computer at night, devoting the majority of his time to searching the web, playing video games and anime.

3) The Mapuche: The People of the Land and Their Struggle to Retain It by Bella Macdonald Sharing their home with a six billion dollar timber industry, the Mapuche people of Aracaunia are the poorest in Chile. After centuries of land wars and inequality, the Mapuches, meaning “people of the land,” are beginning to break the silence, uniting to fight to get their land back and get the same rights and privileges as non-Mapuches.

xx
Lou