You wouldn’t think just by listening to their music that domico is merely a duo and not a full four-piece band. I know I didn’t. This Japanese indie-rock duo featuring Hikaru Sakashita on vocals/guitar and Keita Hasegawa on drums is full of explosive sounds, dynamic beats and creative tricks that can make 1 + 1 > 2. While other guitar-drum duos like Death From Above 1979 and Slaves (UK) are often identified with a raw, fast-paced sound, domico pursues a layered, funky, psychedelic vibe, of which duos are rarely seen amongst bands in this genre.
After two EPs, their garage-hip-hop fused style, fuzzy effects and energetic live performances have gained them a considerable fan base and caught enough spotlights from the media to attract major labels’ attention. They were signed to Red Project (Sony music JPN indie label) two years ago and subsequently released two full length albums “Soo Coo?” and “Hey Hey, My My?”. Both received very positive reviews. This time at SXSW, we invited Sakashita to have a chat with us on his music influences, the band’s vision, and of course – the famous Texas BBQ.
KKS: How is SXSW so far? How did you get this chance to come here?
Sakashita: It has been good! I have always been interested in American music and have some American friends so I wanted to come here a long time ago. Then Japan Nite gave us an opportunity to attend SXSW. So far we played an unofficial showcase the day before yesterday, and this one we just played. Then we will play six more with Japan Nite tour in different cities all over the US. Through playing here I can feel that we are getting more fans and that’s awesome!
KKS: How did you start this band? What made you decide “This is what I want to do”?
Sakashita: After graduating from college, I worked as an office worker for a while and I got tired of it. That’s why I started this band. There wasn’t really a specific moment like you said though…I just couldn’t bear with it anymore and naturally I had quit. I’m the type of person who does things before even thinking (laughs). That’s probably part of why I can make the music that I’m making now. It’s casual. Just like me.
KKS: I saw your photo with American band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah when you opened for their show in Japan. How was the experience?
Sakashita: I used to listen to their songs before I started playing my own music so it felt a bit unreal and weird.
KKS: What kind of music do you listen to growing up?
Sakashita: When I was a kid, I didn’t really have the environment to enjoy good music because I lived far away from the city. Then I went to college and got to know American indie music. My favorite band is Atlas Sound (Solo project of Bradford Cox from Deerhunter).
Bradford Cox (Photo from: 4AD)
KKS: Really? Deerhunter is one of my favorite bands too! I saw them in New York several times – your music doesn’t sound like Atlas Sound at all (laughs).
Sakashita: No (laughs) but yeah I love their music a lot.
KKS: Can you describe how your taste in music has evolved?
Sakashita: When I was little I didn’t have a music player so my only access to music was songs played on TV and radio but I didn’t know who played them. It wasn’t until college that I got to really understand a lot of things about music.
KKS: What song is on your music player right now?
Sakashita: I’m listening to an album of Neil Young. It’s an acoustic live album.
KKS: How do you define domico in terms of music identity? What do you think of “indie” music?
Sakashita: Probably not everyone would agree with what I think but domico is rock’n’roll. And I don’t think indie music and commercial music are two completely different things. The Japanese indie scene in these years has become a bit commercial too. One difference could be that indie musicians would sing about small, simple things in life. But after all, the word “indie” is an outdated term anyway.
KKS: What do you think indie music will be like in 5 years? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Sakashita: Hopefully it could be more original. I wish the music that I make and like would become better accepted among ordinary people and no matter if it is 5 years or 10 years I just want to do whatever what I want to do.
KKS: The cover art of domico is always very unique. Who did the cover?
Sakashita: I did them myself for the first two EPs. That’s why they have the same style. Actually everything for the first two EPs was DIY including the recordings, album cover and releasing. Then for the albums we had a big beautiful studio to make music with sound engineers working for us and instructing us so it was great! We had the chance to ask someone else to do the album art too so we reached out to an artist called Kelly Bastow. Then we worked together to create these two artworks. It’s really nice to have a team to help you do things while you can still make your own decision.
Domico and Kelly Bastow
KKS: What’s the next step? What do you think of overseas music market and audience?
Sakashita: In this past year I traveled around the country and even went to China for tour. It was such an unusual experience for me so I want to go to more places in the future. Definitely I noticed that the audience reactions in China, in America and in Japan are quite different but I don’t usually think about it too much. I just do it my own way.
KKS: Tell us three things that you think are “Kawaii”, “Kakkoii”, and “Sugoi” for each respectively.
Sakashita: Puppie videos on Youtube can be “Kawaii” (laughs). I used to have a dog. I love dogs. Cool mechanic design is “Kakkoii”. For “Sugoi” – Being able to go to difference places and try different things especially delicious local food is the BEST!
KKS: Have you tried Texas BBQ here yet? You won’t regret it!
Sakashita: Not yet but sure I will!
Live photos by: Mena Ru