Concert Review: Japanese Breakfast

There is an undeniable lure to the quaint charm of Kilby Court and, to an extent, an artist’s performance in the venue is defined by how well they inhabit the space. With the help of two impressive opening acts, Spirit of the Beehive and Mannequin Pussy, Japanese Breakfast did just so. Boasting ethereal beats and an impressive vocal performance by frontwoman Michelle, the band successfully created a homely but vivacious atmosphere fitting of the venue.

The fact that it was the band’s fourth performance in Salt Lake City in the last year certainly didn’t hurt either. On tour for their latest album release, Soft Sounds From Another Planet, Japanese Breakfast looked as comfortable as the audience within the comfy proportions of Kilby Court, Michelle going as far as to mention the relief of performing at the venue after a long day on the road.

Just last April, her band broke into the music scene with the release of their debut studio album, Psychopomp, and evidently, she’s been keeping busy; on Soft Sounds from Another Planet, released in July, she builds upon the catchy dream pop established on Psychopomp, creating a slicker album that lets her vocals shine.

While, at first, I was primarily looking forward to hearing her perform this newer, slicker material, I was pleasantly surprised by the opening acts. Spirit of the Beehive set the mood with a well-tempered set, exchanging male and female vocals over riffs that would be right at home on an episode of “Twin Peaks”. While their music was the least varied of the acts, their performance was strong.

Mannequin Pussy

Ending their set with a raucous finale, Spirit of the Beehive created a perfect atmosphere for the next act, Mannequin Pussy, and for their part they did not let up, marching through one of the loudest sets I’ve ever heard at Kilby Court. Unlike many loud bands, however, their musicianship was not lost under the crushing weight of their volume; with a healthy variety of music, as well as a couple tamer interludes, Spirit of the Beehive proved to be a formidable opening act, leaving an air of excitement in their wake.

While forgoing the tenacity of Mannequin Pussy’s set, Japanese Breakfast kept the air of excitement alive, starting out their set with “Diving Women”, the groovy opening track from Soft Sounds from Another Planet. From there, Michelle and co. played a well-mixed set of new and old material, balancing a consistency of character with a diversity in sound. A large part of this consistency is thanks to Michelle’s vocals, which floated perfectly atop the instrumentation.

Japanese Breakfast

The only tunes by Japanese Breakfast that did not totally captivate relied upon more studio oriented sounds and instrumentation. For example, “Boyish”, while a personal favorite of mine, includes a MIDI (or a digital rendition) of a harpsichord that simply did not translate well into a live setting. On other songs, however, the band made smart changes to counter this issue; having no saxophone player, they remodeled the outro to “Machinist” to work without one, giving the guitar a more active roll in the mix. The resulting product was the best and funkiest song of the show, Michelle joining the crowd to dance along.

To just see her and her band perform “Machinist” and other such songs would have been enough, but what really made the concert special was how intimate it felt. Japanese Breakfast’s dream pop is already a perfect fit for Kibly Court, but their infective stage presence, and the homely atmosphere they created made them the right band at the right venue.

Interview with Sunsleeper

Following the release of their new EP, Stay the Same, I had the pleasure of sitting down with local emo/rock band, Sunsleeper, to discuss their music, background, and plans for the future.

I met up with Sunsleeper at Kilby Court for their December 17th show. After the band finished up with their soundcheck, we all headed into the green room where I was introduced to the members of the band: Jeff (Guitar and Vocals), Scott (Drums), Eli (Bass), and Thys (Guitar and Backup Vocals).

We started off the conversation by discussing the history of the band and how Sunsleeper formed into what it is today. Jeff began by explaining that before Sunsleeper, all of the members were in various bands around Salt Lake and met up with one another through mutual friends. Strangely enough, before the band had even formed, Scott and Jeff had ended up standing next to each other at a concert without any knowledge that one day they’d be in a band together.

Before the interview, however, I was able to listen to a little bit of their soundcheck and noticed them playing a song from the band, Brand New, an emo/rock band from New York. I then asked the band what some of their musical influences were.

“100% Brand New… Brand New is my biggest influence, [they’re] the reason I started playing music in the first place…,” Jeff explained.

While Sunsleeper is heavily influenced by Brand New, they create a sound that’s unique to them; something that’s genuine and personal. The song “Maple Drive,” especially, is an emotional amalgamation of soft and clean melodies with a gritty chorus and heartfelt lyricism. While listening to their EP, I might’ve shed a tear or two, but I think an album is truly special when it can elicit that much emotion in its listeners.

Apart from their sound, something that truly stood out to me was their album art. The image is a simple flower on top of a light blue background, but the photo is so striking and elegant, and perfectly encompasses the feel of the band. Because album art is such an iconic part of a band’s image, I asked them about their process in choosing the photo. Jeff talked about how one of his close friends Ryan ended up being the photographer for their main album photo:

“He [Ryan] was my best friend growing up… and I randomly went to his company page… and I looked at his header photo…and was like ‘that’s it’…I remember sending it in a group text [to the other band members] and everyone was just like ‘that’s the record cover’… And it’s especially special to me that it was Ryan who took it because he’s basically my brother.”

Lastly, I asked the band if they had any plans for future releases.

“We’re working on some stuff; tentatively want to record sometime next year [2017]. It’s really up in the air, but yeah we probably have 4 or 5 skeletons of songs,” Jeff mentioned.

Thys added: “We are trying to stay as busy as we can, we’ve gotten a lot of traction lately and want to be really action-oriented, so hopefully we can get some music out sooner than later.”

While new music is still in the works, it’s obvious that Sunsleeper is definitely a band to keep an eye out for in the future. If you haven’t heard any of Sunsleeper’s music, take a listen the song “Maple Drive” below and definitely check them out on their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr!

 

 

Arms and Sleepers Concert Reflections

Full disclosure, I had never heard any of the bands and as such, this was my first experience listening to all of them. The show started off later than I expected for Kilby Court with the group Soft Blonde. My hopes for an awesome show crumbled as the two men on stage before me began a warbling croon. This went on for several seconds until the real show began and reignited my hopes with an abrupt shift into their synth heavy music that set the crowd into a trance. Soft Blonde’s slower sounds set the stage for AudioTreat’s entrance. The producer of AudioTreats made the show by putting a ton of energy into his dancing and stage presence which enhanced their “Swanky Grooves.” The group fully came together when their singer took the stage, a 19 year old female vocalist who reminded me of Aluna George. Their performance was the highlight of my evening.

After the energy put into the show by AudioTreats I wasn’t as ready for the slower pacing of YEYEY. I appreciated the projections he brought that added to the music and he held his own. Continuing on, the main act of the night, Arms and Sleepers were perfect for the intimate setting that is Kilby Court. The connection between the band and the audience made hearing their tracks a memorable experience. I left with an afterglow and a satisfaction of hearing the new bands. All the bands I saw are worth a listen and seeing live, with a special emphasis on AudioTreats.

Arms and Sleepers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LucQTHULdBs

https://soundcloud.com/arms-and-sleepers/swim-team

 

YEYEY,

https://soundcloud.com/yeyeyband/sets/yeyey-the-vision

 

AudioTreats,

https://soundcloud.com/audiotreatsproduction/scope

https://soundcloud.com/audiotreatsproduction/farewell-part-a

 

Soft Blonde

https://softblondemusic.bandcamp.com/track/i-should-go