Daniel Chae

Kishi Bashi

inspiration, life, musicdchaeComment

This morning I've been on a Kishi Bashi binge. I gotta admit at first listen, I wasn't too thrilled and thought, "man, he totally ripped Andrew Bird". Oh silly me. I love it when there's a story behind something. Many times, we see are presented a final product and unconsciously forced to make a split-second decision. I think our minds have been trained to do this with the countless reality-competition based shows (American Idol, xx's Got Talent, Iron Chef, Top Chef, and the list goes on and on and on and on), foodie culture (YELP reviews), and Rottentomatoes. American culture has made us all critics and judgmental asses (raises hand). What ends up happening is we get to play the critic but unfortunately, the story behind the presentation gets lost. It took countless hours, days, many struggles and many victories to get to that moment. That moment culminates in a fleeting five seconds of snap judgment.

Madden 2008 was a videogame that affected me profoundly. At the time I was living in a house in South Central Los Angeles with 3/5 of FNI and Mike Whang of The Nehemiah Band. I kid you not, the TV was always on, literally 90% of the day. And on that TV 90% of the time was Madden 2008 being played by Mike 50% of the time, me 45% of the time, and everyone else 5% of the time. We played Madden so much. We played it so much and got so good that at one point my record was 37-2 online and Mike was ranked in the world inside the top 100 - [aside] Mike will destroy anyone in Madden. [aside aside] He's held his own against the 2009 World Champion at a tournament in LA. My claim to fame is I can kind of hang with Mike. [end aside and aside aside]. Anyway, anyone who's played Madden 2008 can recall the title soundtrack of that album, the song that's being played as you are being matched up with a competitor in Online Mode* (this is a footnote), Jupiter One's "Countdown".

This morning, I'm led to Kishi Bashi's Tiny Desk performance because his name kept popping up everywhere in news feeds, random browsings and blogs. As I make my way through the performance, I become more and more impressed and I quickly find myself thinking "Wow, I get it. I get it". His second is "White Talk" and instantly I say, "WHOA, this is the Windows 8 song!" Every day on my lunch break I watch Jimmy Fallon, and they ALWAYS play this Windows 8 commercial. "THIS GUY'S LEGIT!.. he must've made a pretty penny getting this placed".

Then I get to his third song, "I am the Antichrist To You", and that's the icing on the cake. Wow. This is my favorite song. Below is a performance on The Wild Honey Pie, a troupe that I mentioned previously in a previous post.

  He creates a rich soundscape with not only running melody lines and harmonies, but more so (I love this) a mix of different rhythmic harmonies**. Super impressive, even for a sucky-ass violin snob that I am.

I do a little more browsing and I find out he's toured with Regina Spektor - an artist I really do love because of her unique piano playing, syncopation and melodies - and opened for Sondre Lerche an artist who's got a great voice and even greater hipster cred. This hipster cred trickles down to Kishi Bashi and in my mind gives him hipster points. Score (cue Mario coin chimes). I jump over to his Wikipedia and am quickly impressed with his profundity with things the name of his album, 151a, which means The title '151a' probably refers to the Japanese term 一期一会(いちごいちえ)(pronounced the same way '151a' is in Japanese), which means "live every day as though it were your last" [wikipedia]. He also funded this album, which has been named best new album on NPR for 2012, picked up by Windows, and put him on the map, using Kickstarter (coin chimes). Lastly, he fronted the band that played the song during the countless hours I played Madden in 2008.

I do a little more reading on how he toured with Regina, and I come across this one youtube video that shows him singing solo with a guitar on Regina's tour. The video is titled "Regina Spektor @ Cactus - K Ishibashi's song dedicated to Dan Cho". "Pretty good guitar playing, nice vocals. Who's Dan Cho?"

The description says

What? I do some more reading and it turns out Dan Cho was a talented cellist who was on tour with Regina playing strings with Kishi Bashi. He had also arranged and played strings for Coldplay, John Mayer, Katy Perry, and Of Montreal. He also had a wife and a daughter. Here he is playing with Kishi Bashi in Australia.


People who were at that show left comments on the video saying, "I was here with my my boyfriend... I cried like a baby... this is now one of my favourite songs of all time. RIP Dan. You will be remembered" and "it was oh so quiet ...everybody but i mean like everybody was listening...and it was beautiful...rip daniel". Regina and band decided to perform anyway at the festival, though "looking very frail, visibly upset and crying. Before starting her set, Spektor announced that the band would try to perform, in spite of having lost one of its band members."

It seems Kishi Bashi was especially moved as well. I then come upon this video, dedicated to Dan. My favorite song, "I Am the Antichrist To You".


Directed by Kishi Bashi, dedicated to Dan. By this point, I'm so engulfed in the story behind this music that I don't know what to do. The music video was very powerful to me. The artwork (which reminds me of a friend, the talented Annie Seo) I can see how if I hand't understood the story and quickly passed by the video, I would've thought.. huh? I had to write something, so I started this blog post.

All in all, I'm a fan. A TRUE inspiration.

*Online mode was where you competed against different people from their homes, typical of any online mode in games today. When you would win, you would gain points and vice versa when you lose. Going on streaks would award a greater factor resulting in more points. The more points you move up in rank. Mike was ranked in the top 100. **He'll record bass whole notes, then layer sixteenth note pizzicatos, then eighth note harmonies, then slow it down halfway using his Line 6 Delay, then record in that slowed down tempo a soprano part, then bring it back to normal speed so that