Japanese Art Rock band, KAO=S, founded in April 2011, blends hypnotic vocals with acoustic guitar and Japanese traditional instruments to create a world all its own. Combined with Kaori’s mesmerizing sword dance, their performance will make you feel transported to somewhere mystical. This will be their third SXSW appearance, the first being in 2012. I personally attended their 2013 performance and it was breathtaking. Find out more about this unique band after the break.
Band Name: KAO=S
Kaori (Lady Samurai) Kawabuchi (vocal;sword performance)
Jack (Tsugaru Shamisen)
Shiji Yamagiri (acoustic guitar)
1. Introductions: Please tell us a little about yourselves. What makes your band unique? Are there any interesting facts about the band or its members that might surprise us?
KAO=S’s sound is a blend of vocals and acoustic guitar, overlaid with traditional Japanese instruments such as the three-string Tsugaru shamisen, using a full range of effects. Also, the Shamisen player JACK plays a musical instrument he invented, the “Yomisen” that has a very unique sound by four strings. It is complemented by AKA “Lady Samurai” Kaori’s spellbinding and powerful sword dance.
2. Favorites: What is your favorite thing about making music? What are some of your favorite tools to use when writing or composing?
I use guitar when I compose, and Jack uses Shamisen. I get inspiration when I see beautiful scenery, listen to guitar or shamisen sounds.
3. Influences: Was there a particular moment in your life where you knew you wanted to make music? What artists have influenced you on your journey?
I got many influences when we visited other countries and saw the beautiful scenery. Also I got lots of inspiration from other countries’ music and culture.
4. Food: Is there any food you can’t live without? When you are away from your country, what food do you miss most? What new foods are you most excited to try?
I can’t live without pure water, not bubble. Also I can’t live without rice and soba noodles, because I’m Japanese. Maybe I will feel excited if I eat delicious steak.
5. Performance: Besides the music itself, what do you feel is the most important element of a live performance? How do you ensure that this element is present in your performances? Have you ever had a performance where it felt like everything went wrong?
I think the most important element is communication and respect to each other. We had trouble from lack of communication in the early days.
6. Past: How did your band come into existence? Was it much different than the way it is today?
The live-show tour in America was our first tour. It was totally different in Japan. So we were stressed and argued with each other many times. But that experience made a good relationship.
7. Present: What important lessons have you learned in your journey as a musician? If you could go back and give your younger self any advice, what would it be?
I want to say the following words to our younger selves: Thank for an encounter. Always think about the people supporting us. Keep calm if you have some trouble.
8. Future: Where do you see your music in the future? What role will changing technologies have in the evolution of your music and the music industry in general?
KAO=S plays traditional musical instruments and acoustic musical instruments mainly, but we do not deny technology. We wanted to do a more interesting show with technology and tradition or technology and acoustic instruments. So KAO=S showcased the futuristic musical instrument “KAGURA” in our show. Transforming motion into sound with no physical contact, KAGURA can recognize movements and gestures using a camera.
9. Survivor: It’s the zombie apocalypse! Name three things you would need to survive.
I’d destroy the zombie’s head. I’d go inside where I can lock, and run for escape.
10. Last words: Do you have any final message for your current and potential fans? What makes this Japan Nite experience special?
You can see a very unique band and musician in Japan at Japan Nite. Also you can see an unusual and very special performance if you come to KAO=S’s show.
Special thanks to Audrey Kimura of Benten, Tomoko Davies-Tanaka and the members of KAO=S.
Additional US Tour Dates
3/19-20 Con-Nichiwa Tucson, Arizona
3/24 Japan Nite San Francisco, California
3/26 Akiyama Wellness Center San Jose, California