Based out of Tokyo, Soul Kitchen is a Japanese pop band with a multitude of dimension. Consisting of members Shunsuke Tanaka (Vo.& Gt.), Iori Furukawa (Ba.) and Kuniharu Tsujioka (Dr.), this trio brings an array of sounds through the use of multiple support members, cross-genre influence and VOCALOID programming. If that isn’t enough to secure your interest, Tanaka’s vocals are sure to lure you in with their warm, soothing tone. Read on to discover this new & upcoming band!
Q. Happy New Year! There’s no better way to greet the new year than by getting to know some new music! Please introduce yourselves to our readers, and also tell us what new music you yourself have discovered recently.
A: Happy New Year! We are Soul Kitchen. Last year, we were selected as one of the recommended artists in NTT Docomo’s* high-resolution music distribution project. Also, at the end of last year, we participated in a contest on the website GetStage, and we were chosen as one of the 2 winners from among all 7,000 participants. We got the Judges’ Special Award. This year, we plan to expand our activities more based on these successes. We would really appreciate your support! For new music we discovered recently, we had the chance to meet one of the top Japanese reggae artists, MINMI the other day. We were glad to get to know her because her music is quite different from the kind of music we play. So it was really an interesting opportunity.
(*NTT Docomo: a Japanese telecommunication company)
Q. How did each of you connect to form SOUL KITCHEN?
A: We knew each other through a Japanese social networking service called Mixi. We participated in a jazz festival together with other members in the community. Since then, the three of us started to talk about the idea of forming a band — Shunsuke Tanaka on vocals, Iori Furukawa on bass and me (Kuniharu Tsujioka) on drums — and we did! That’s how Soul Kitchen was formed. We still communicate with each other through various SNS’s such as Facebook and LINE.
Q. On your OHP you describe the music of the band as composing songs of the everyday, of ordinary things. It has often been said, that music can be found in all aspects of life. What is it about the day to day life that influences you to make your music?
A: As you have mentioned, we think our music is nothing extraordinary, nothing hard to relate to. In our songs we mostly deal with daily themes such as work, love and human relationships that anyone would experience, although there are some exceptions — we actually have a song like “What if Cinderella was a witch?” — but anyway, most of our songs are about daily things in daily life. We get naturally inspired by everyday events. The lyrics are also something that comes out naturally in our daily lives.
Q. You debuted in 2013, releasing your first, self-titled single, ‘Soul Kitchen’ shortly thereafter. A year later your first album,’A:LA:CARTE‘, came out. During that time, how did your music develop as you found your sound? Did you spend a lot of time exploring your music, or did you find a rhythm fairly quickly?
A: When we released our first single “Soul Kitchen,” we had already composed and played most of the songs on the album at our shows. At that point, we already had around 10 songs, including demo tracks. From all the songs we had, we chose 3 songs for the single as an introduction to people who were listening to our music for the first time. The basic ideas and the concept for our sound came from our vocalist and composer, Shunsuke. He knew what his songs should sound like as a band and we all worked together to improve and evolve his ideas. That’s how we figured out our sound.
Q. About 14 months later, you released ‘Stardust‘, your latest single. Both the original, and Hatsune Miku versions were uploaded to your YouTube account. I will admit, I much prefer the original version; Tanaka san, your voice suits the track very well. And one can not deny that the emotion it holds makes the song speak to the listener more. What do the lyrics signify to you? Is there an element to the song that you feel is better portrayed by one version compared to the other?
A: Actually, we have been playing the song “Stardust” since our very first show. It has always been the most popular song among our audience. The reason why we didn’t put the song on the album is that since it was really popular, we wanted to put out a single featuring that song — and it eventually came out as our second single. The reason why we made two versions for the song, the Soul Kitchen version and the Hatsune Miku version, is that we thought it would be a good way to promote Soul Kitchen’s music to the fans of Shunsuke’s solo works (*Shunsuke has been working as a Vocaloid producer). There are not many artists releasing two versions for their song at the same time, so we thought it would be interesting. This idea reflects on our videos as well: the main character in the Hatsune Miku version MV is a girl, and in the Soul Kitchen version, it’s a boy. The story behind the song is a long-distance relationship of these main characters, seeing each other only once a year — see, we are not making videos without thinking! (laughs) Comparing both versions, I think what’s the most different is the sound. The original version represents our musical style better, especially the combination of the drums and bass. Also, Shunsuke’s high-tone vocals are very distinct and we think it has a bit of “anisong (anime song)” sound to it, which has been popular in Japan.
Q. How did you get involved with the use of the VOCALOID program? What is it that appeals to you as a platform for your music?
A: Around in 2009, Shunsuke started making music by himself. He’s actually an “anime otaku!” (laughs) He’s such a geek and he always stays at home, doing the Internet and watching anime and one of the ways he found to express himself was through Vocaloid. He wanted to compose and share his music with the world and Vocaloid came his way — it was a perfect platform for him, as he always stayed inside and wasn’t really feeling like making music with a band at that time. (laughs)
Q. Your music contains many elements, including a variety of instruments and a host of support members. Is it challenging to work with so many elements? Does it affect the flow of your music, or developmental process when there are so many variables to work with?
A: Me (Kuniharu) and our bassist Iori have worked as professional musicians and we have played with a lot of different artists. We both love fusion and crossover, so we used to play a lot of instrumental songs. We love jazz as well, but when we first heard our vocalist singing, his vocals made us really want to create music with vocals for the first time — we virtually became his fans! Me and Iori were formerly in a band called Canopus which had a vocalist, but what amazed us was Shunsuke’s vocal style which was quite different than that of our former band. You may notice when you listen to our album there are not just songs with a rock beat, but also a song that has a bit of R&B sound, and a jazz waltz for example. We all have different tastes in music and that reflects on the music we produce ourselves.
Q. With a pool of talent to draw from, where does your inspiration come from? Are there any artists, or life experiences that guide you?
A: Shunsuke likes to listen to Western music such as The Beetles, The Who and U2. Needless to say, he also likes recent Japanese “anisongs”! (laughs) These bands and music influenced him a lot, but as he mostly sings in Japanese, he tries to compose melodies that fit our language well. Our bassist, Iori, looks up to bassists such as Chuck Rainey and Anthony Jackson. She loves fusion, funk and disco music like Earth Wind & Fire. For my influences, I would mention drummers such as Tony Williams, Keith Carlock and Buddy Rich. The genres I like to listen to are jazz and funk.
Q. A new year brings forth, we hope, another release! Given the pattern so far; single, album, single….can we expect a new album this year?
A: We actually finished recording our 3rd single at the end of last year. It’s coming out in February. We also plan to release our 4th single in May, which we have already finished recording. Why we didn’t put these songs on one single record is that we wanted to make each record as cheap as possible, so that many people can get their hand on them. That’s our sales strategy! (laughs) We have plenty of songs that we have made demo tracks for but haven’t been finalized yet, so I think we could still record another album right after these releases.
Q. In February you will be celebrating your 3rd year anniversary, congratulations! In celebration you have an event scheduled February 14, 2016 at Harajuku Crocodile. Might perhaps we hear some new music? Will any guests be sharing the stage with you that evening?
A: At the show on February 14, we are planning to play some songs from the album and some new songs as well. Some of our friend musicians will be joining as guests, mostly the ones who were involved in making music with us in the past. We will also have the keyboard player Keizo Kawano from T-SQUARE, the most successful fusion band in Japan. We have a bunch of other musician friends and we have asked them if they could be on stage with us, but due to their busy schedule, I think that’s all for this time — anyway, we are sure that it’s going to be a fun show where you will be hearing both our old and new songs.
Q. We’ll be sharing this interview with music fans who have likely not yet heard your music. Many of which are overseas. Since I am sure they’ll love your sound, where can they purchase your music? Is there a message you would like to pass along to them?
A: Our music is available on iTunes Music Store and Apple Music. You can also download it through Amazon mp3. The physical CD’s are available on amazon.co.jp. I think overseas shipping is also possible. We are currently working hard to make our music available in many places, but so far, unfortunately most of the services are only available in Japan — so if you live overseas, we would say iTunes Music Store and Apple Music are the easiest ways to have access to our music. Our songs are also available for streaming on Spotify. We would really appreciate your support! Thank you very much!
Thank You & Good Luck in 2016!