By Kanara Ty
Translations by Aiko Iwamuro
If the Beatles were crossed with a Japanese Janis Joplin, LOVE PSYCHEDELICO would be their love child.
Originally known as Psychedelic Orchestra, LOVE PSYCHEDELICO formed in 1997, when Kumi and Naoki were both undergraduates at Tokyo's Aoyama Gakuin University. As members of the school's Music Club, they discovered each other, both sharing a strong passion for music.
"We wanted to do music our whole lives, but never thought about being professional. During Music Club, we saw each other performing and he asked me to make a band with him," Kumi remembers.
On first listen, it isn't hard to believe that Kumi (vocals) and Naoki (guitar) are more familiar with sounds of the British Invasion of the 1960s, rather than the highly popular sounds of today's J-Pop kings or queens. The chart-topping tunes of J-pop have often been criticized by Japanese musicians for being disposable and desensitized, LOVE PSYCHEDELICO being one of its critics.
"Japanese pop music has no roots. If music does not have roots, the music will not be interesting," says Naoki of LOVE PSYCHEDELICO. "There is no love in Japanese pop music," Kumi adds.
What LOVE PSYCHEDELICO sought out to do was not only to find a sound to call their own, but also to find a sound that was different from what was currently popular in Japan. The pair stressed the values they had in both love and peace, which they feel is truly important to express in their music, not only because it is lacking in popular Japanese music today, but also because these ideas are necessary for everyone.
"I feel a lot of energy and passion from 60s/70s [rock] music. Our song titles pay tribute to the artists of that time," Kumi explains.
However, LOVE PSYCHEDELICO is more than just a Japanese band riding on the coattails of the British Invasion. They dislike having to label the music they've produced, but they've accomplished a unique sound that is truly LOVE PSYCHEDELICO. They've infused rock/jazz/blues influences to create positive and infectious music, and, in turn, they've garnered a huge following.
Another defining characteristic of LOVE PSYCHEDELICO is that their lyrics are penned in both Japanese and English. For Kumi, it is a natural experience for her. She says that most of her thoughts come to her in both Japanese and English. Her current command of English is due in part to living in San Francisco during her childhood. This sets them apart from current Japanese artists as they are able to produce well thought out lyrics in a language not native to Japan.
This style became a big hit in Japan. Their first album, ironically titled The Greatest Hits, went on to sell 2 million copies. They've become immensely popular all over Asia and even had their first televised appearance on a popular Japanese show, Bokura no Ongaku (Our Music) with Yoko Ono. Six albums and 3 DVDs later (with a fourth pending a release), LOVE PSYCHEDELICO finally marked their U.S. debut in Spring 2008 with Hacktone Records.
Prior to their official U.S. release, LOVE PSYCHEDELICO performed shows in Los Angeles and San Francisco, where they were greeted by an enthusiastic and overwhelming group of local fans. Although this wasn't their first time performing in America, they were still a little nervous.
"We grew a bit over our first performance in America, more professional. Our capacity has grown and we've gained a lot more fans over the years," they note.
LOVE PSYCHEDELICO has had their share of interesting experiences with fans. During a tour of Asia, where they traveled to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea, their fans from Japan traveled with them to every stop. To them, it was a surprising experience, but it made them realize how loyal their fans were. However, in comparison to American fans, Japanese fans were still more on the reserved side. They felt American fans were a lot more energetic, as they moved and danced along with their performances.
"Our Los Angeles performance was a lot of fun. The audience enjoyed it. It was our first time playing in an acoustic style as well," Kumi says about their performance at Bordello, Los Angeles' oldest bar located in Downtown.
With their recent album, LOVE PSYCHEDELICO plans to remain true to their style. Although they've returned to Japan, LOVE PSYCHEDELICO plans to return to Los Angeles to work on material for a new album, as well as to tour various venues this summer. Even if they continue to produce new material in America, they feel it is best for them to continue writing in the Japanese-English style -- or what comes "naturally" to them.
This is Love Psychedelico, Love Psychedelico's US debut album, is a compilation of tracks chosen from their first three albums, The Greatest Hits, Love Psychedelic Orchestra and Love Psychedelico III. It will be released in Japan on June 18, titled as This is Love Psychedelico – U.S. Best -.