Posted April 1, 2022 by Jeff in Tunes

Kishi Bashi’s Debut Album Receives Deluxe Reissue Treatment

Kishi Bashi photo by Max Rittter
Kishi Bashi photo by Max Rittter

To celebrate the tenth anniversary of his debut album, 151a, indie rocker Kishi Bashi (née Kaoru Ishibashi) and Joyful Noise Recordings have teamed up for a 22-track collection that expands the original album by adding 11 corresponding demo recordings. The reissue also features new artwork by Hsiao Ron Cheng as well as a detailed track-by-track and liner notes by Ishibashi. The 151a 10th anniversary reissue is now available for pre-order in multiple formats: double vinyl (including a limited edition orange variant) and double CD, plus a cassette of the demos only.

“I think when people get emotional about music, they are reacting and connecting to the humanity that the artist has successfully channeled. I poured my heart and personhood into this album in an act of catharsis, and 151a launched my career and remains one of my most popular albums to this day,” Kishi Bashi reflects in the reissue’s liner notes. “As I look back and listen to 151a on the occasion of its 10-year anniversary, I hear how much I’ve matured, and how I’m still the same (I love simple melodies and strings and analog synths).”

Released in 2012, 151a established Kishi Bashi as a formidable one-man orchestra.

A March/April 2022 Anniversary Tour run will take Kishi Bashi and his full band throughout the eastern U.S. and into Canada, and see them performing 151a in full alongside additional songs from his catalog.

In this recent phone interview conducted during a few days off when he was hanging out with his parents in Virginia, Ishibashi spoke about the album and upcoming tour.

What kind of music did you listen to while growing up?

Definitely a little bit of everything. In Norfolk where I grew up, I was a metal head. I liked Tool and Metallica and all that stuff. I liked a lot of shredding. I liked Yngwie [Malmsteen] and Queensryche. I was also into chamber music. I had a string quartet in high school. We played Debussy and Ravel and really famous works. I was also into classical music, which was a big part of it.

How’d you develop your love of analog synths?

Well, when I got a little older, I gravitated toward ’60s and ’70s music. To me, it’s the golden age of recording and experimenting. I liked the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report. All those fusion bands had synthesizers.

I think you studied composing for film at Berklee. What was that like?

I transferred there to really dive into music. I was playing ’50s swing. That’s what I wanted to study. There was one guy that taught it really well. It was one of the only programs in the world at the time. I was always interested in composition, and I wanted something to fall back. That’s why I did film scoring. I wanted a technical skill in addition to being a musician, but I was still practicing all the time.

You had been a session musician prior to the release of 151a. Talk about what those days were like.

I was never the best violinist, but I was a very creative violinist. That was a niche that I filled. I played with Regina Spector. That was really huge for me. As a violinist, you’re competing with the vocalist for the spotlight. Most violinists play over the vocalist and they just hate that. I didn’t do that, and I think that’s why she kept me in her band. With Of Montreal, I recorded a lot of stuff on Paralytic Stalks. [Of Montreal’s] Kevin Barnes was really into contemporary classical music, like soundscapes and noise. I was pretty familiar with that. We collaborated on a lot of stuff, and he just wanted me to go wild, which I did. He had me do all the crazy sonicscapes, which was really fun.

What led you to want to start down this solo route?

I was in a rock band before. I always wanted to make a living playing my own music. When I did side band stuff, I always had that in the back of my mind. I had a rock band named Jupiter One. It was a struggle. When I started the solo thing, I realized I could put on an effective show myself with loops and beatboxing, and I wouldn’t lose money. Four guys from New York traveling on tour was always a losing venture. That’s not a fun place to be.

How’d you wind up on Joyful Noise Recordings?

Back then, it was just Karl [Hofstetter], the president, and he had a buddy working for him. It was I want to say barely a label, but he had distribution. He paid for mastering and some of my mixing. We really hit it off. He was trustworthy, and he seemed to really care about music. He had just put out an Of Montreal box of cassettes. He was doing super hipster stuff. We built the label together and grew together.  

I love that intro the album. What made you decide to start off with that burst of strings and synths?

I like cinematic stuff. If given the opportunity to have an intro, I’ll do it. The album is like an experience, so why not do an intro and an outro? We will play the album from the beginning to the end, but I think the intro will be our walk-out music.

These songs on 151a are so exuberant. Do they reflect your state of mind at the time?

I always like wild and fun things. That’s inherent. At the time when Jupiter One split up, I realized that when you’re not restricted to a band setting, you have a lot of freedom to go wild. I came up with a lot of orchestral stuff and exciting stuff that reflects my personality. I would like something that’s all over the place. It’s like going to a restaurant and having a bunch of different dishes.

“Bright Whites” has such a great Beatles vibe. Is the Fab Four a big influence?

Are the Beatles not an influence on anybody? Maybe some punk bands really hate the Beatles. I’m love melody, and I’m a huge Paul McCartney fan. I also like Pink Floyd and that influenced the sound of the album too. I like the guitars and synthesizers they tend to use.

What made you want to sing in Japanese on some tracks?

I wanted it to be unique, and it’s also about coming to terms with part of my culture. I wanted people to know I wasn’t just a white indie rock guy. Japanese is very rhythmic and to me is easy to use an instrument. It’s like a marimba or something because it’s so rhythmic. I treated it as another texture. You can throw it on top of the English singing, and if you understand Japanese, it adds another element.

 “I Am the Antichrist to You” appeared in a scene of Adult Swim’s animated sci-fi hit Rick and Morty just last summer. How’d that happen?

They sent the script over and described the scene, and it said, “A song like Kishi Bashi’s ‘I Am the Antichrist to You.’” It was in the script. I think the guy is a fan. I was like, “Fuck, yeah.” It’s one of my favorite shows. And then I had to keep the news quiet for months, which was torture.

That song has a pretty somber tone especially compared to the others. Is it a breakup song?

Yeah. It’s complicated. I think the title says it all.

I like that “demo-arigato” remix of “Manchester.” It’s a clever title.

I like puns.

What’s the story behind that version?

It’s the version that I made when I started putting it together. If you compare them, it’s not as intricate as the final version. The way I make music is I work on it over and over. I knew it had potential. I knew it had potential, but I would not have released it the way it was. Once you hear it now, it’s this wilder version of it.  

Can you talk about the Emigrant EP a bit? Did you write and record it during lockdown?

That was my pandemic project. I was also traveling a lot since we didn’t have tours. I had a camper that we rarely used. I had an awesome opportunity take it around the country. I eventually moved to Montana last summer. I just love the area. I took the camper up there, and it was a way to connect with nature and do something to keep me from feeling bad about not touring.

The songs are really twangy. Were you going for a different vibe?

I started to realize that what I play, I always thought I had imposter syndrome playing jazz and country. Then, I realized, it doesn’t matter. You can play whatever you want. Those are just insecurities. I wanted to play some bluegrass and folk stuff.

Will any of those songs make it into the set?


I like “Cascades.”

I think “Cascades would be good. Lemme look at the set list again. I have been so busy, I’ve rarely been thinking about the tour. I need to start thinking more about the tour. It needs to be upbeat, and that’s an upbeat song.

Did you ever play 151a in its entirety?

We just never had the opportunity, so this will be great. This will be a big, high-energy show.

2022 Kishi Bashi 151a 10th Anniversary Tour Dates:

3/20 – Atlanta, GA – Terminal West

3/21- Carrboro, NC – Cat’s Cradle

3/22 – Philadelphia, PA – The Foundry

3/24 New York City, NY- Irving Plaza

3/25 – Washington DC – 9:30 Club

3/26 – Hamden, CT – Space Ballroom

3/27 – Boston, MA – The Sinclair

3/28 – Burlington, VT – Higher Ground

3/30 – Toronto, ON – Lee’s

3/31 – Cleveland, OH – Grog Shop

4/1 – Cincinnati, OH – Madison Theater

4/2 – Pittsburgh, PA – Thunderbird Music Hall

4/4 – Madison, WI – The Majestic Theater

4/5 – Chicago, IL – Thalia Hall

4/6 – Minneapolis, MN – The Fine Line

4/7 – St. Louis, MO – Delmar Hall

4/8 – Omaha, NE – The Slowdown

4/10 – Nashville, TN – The Basement East

Photo: Max Ritter


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at [email protected].