Gaijin Sounds LIVE Profile: Semi-On
Cover stars of Japanzine’s Gaijin Sounds issue earlier in the year, Nagoya five-piece Semi-On certainly ain’t flaccid. Their sound is unpredictable but never less than inspirational, and with their good nature and love of music they’ve become darlings of the Nagoya live scene. Osaka gets to experience this awesome band at Gaijin Sounds LIVE on Friday, September 18th. They’ll be on stage from 23:50 – bring it!
When you’re studiously working your way through a library of close to 200 songs, it’s unfortunate but somewhat inevitable that longer tracks tend to have a greater chance of being overlooked – which is why it’s remarkable that the near seven-minutes-long epic "Well I Was" had no trouble attracting plaudits from the panel. This is a perfect example of Semi-On’s distinctively Bohemian sound, and while it rocks in its own idiosyncratic way, it’s a world apart from the verse-chorus-verse formula used by so many guitar/bass/drum-driven outfits. As Emily rightly pointed out, "the gypsy-flavored carnivalesque style is a real departure from the straight rock stuff we usually get." In part this is thanks to the use of additional instrumentation, with Semi-On bravely bringing in the violins when necessary, but it’s also down to the band’s exquisite sense of timing. The soothing tones of Bryony’s voice appear only after a minute of gradual instrumental build-up; four minutes in, Semi-On confidently make a u-turn, finding a completely new string-led direction that ultimately spirals the song into a heady crescendo of fiddle and non-words. It’s pure fireworks. As, indeed, are Semi-On’s not-to-be-missed live shows.
myspace.com/semionsemionsemion | semion.org
Q&A with Semi-On
Welcome back from Earth Celebration! Did Semi-On have a nice summer?
John: Yeah, we did. We have been able to remain busy playing (even with our sixth member being only three months old). The extended rainy season is much better for 3/5 of us because none of us can really stand the heat, except for Lesley (Aussie) and Kaz (Tajimi-jin).
Looking forward to playing at the first ever Gaijin Sounds live event, then?
John: It really is fantastic. We have never played in Osaka before and the rumor in Japan is that the Kansai brethren are real party animals. We are really looking forward to it.
What can we expect from your live set?
John: We are trying to get some of our new songs ready to perform, but it takes a lot of time. Our first CD was a real crazy mix of genres and styles; so, likewise, our second CD will be much the same. Hopefully we will leave people a little surprised by our genre diversity. Basically, we plan on playing our originals and hopefully throw in a new song or two, as well as a couple of our favorite covers.
Have you been to Osaka before? Do you like the place?
John: Yes, we have all been to Osaka. It is a city that never seems to sleep. Last time I was there we kept finding cool little bars that were open late on a Tuesday night – which is definitely different from Nagoya. I think, though, that like Nagoya, the coolest places there are the ones that are more difficult to find.
What are your hopes for the international music community in Japan? Do you think more recognition from the Japanese media is due?
John: It would be a nice thing, but I think that money in the music industry, in Japan, is focused on mainly on J-pop. For us as a band, we really like playing live, so I guess we would hope that more live houses in Japan would be more accessible and not pay-to-play. It’s great that Japanzine is helping to make foreign live music at gaijin bars more common as well. We really need to start a Gaijin Sounds’ bands tour across Japan…