Interview: Math-Rock connoisseurs Kusanagi look toward the release of their debut album ‘Yugen’

Instrumental four-piece Kusanagi

It’s apt that when writing this piece, I’ve been listening to a lot of Brontide.
When I initially heard the debut EP from Liverpudlian four-piece Kusanagi, It was almost as if Brontide had taken on a new member and moved up North. The brilliant four-track was awash with that familiar blend of crisp, intricate guitar work, a drummer with seemingly more limbs than most, and songs diving head first into frantic, heart pounding crescendos.

Having hit the ground running, a follow up was released in the form of ‘They Will Come back For You…’ in early 2014, a five-track EP that was just as interesting and enthralling as their debut, developing on their already accomplished sound (check out the opener ‘Spires’  – what a jam!)

With two EPs out and having shared stages with the likes of Alright The Captain, Maybeshewill, And So I Watch You From Afar and Tera Melos, Kusanagi are now set to release their debut album ‘Yugen.’ The album release will see them take off on another small run of UK shows – the quartet making their way to Sheffield, Chester, Bristol and Nottingham, before returning to Liverpool for the release of Yugen at The Well Space.

Before the manic week of release begins and the band are inundated with questions from left and right, bassist Dan was kind enough to answer some questions for Birthday Cake For Breakfast. 

BCFB: Your debut album ‘Yugen’ is mere days away from coming out. How are excitement levels in the Kusanagi camp?
Dan: We are pretty excited as its our first album, so we’re just in that stage now where we want to get it all packaged up and into peoples ears. We usually find the weeks leading up to release are the worst, as you’ve done it all but it’s just waiting to go. You just hope people like it, as we’ve heard it for a while now and have people asking us how it’s going, which is really nice but you want to just give them a copy and say – listen, it’s here now. We’ve played a few songs from the album live and they’ve gone down well. We’ve had a lot of support making Yugen, off friends/family/bands and promoters, and people off KickStarter who helped fund the album, which was brilliant and showed us people want to listen to it and have faith in us, which is really nice.

It recently premiered over on Echoes and Dust prior to its official release. How have people been responding to it?
We’ve had a great response from a lot of people. People have messaged us saying they were loving the new tracks or shared our music on their Twitter or Facebook pages, which is really cool. Two of the tracks we released a few weeks ago have already had airplay on BBC Radio Merseyside and Lancashire, which is brilliant. Also, the guys at Echoes and Dust have been great with us and it seems to have had a lot of hits over the last few days. Just have to keep faith in what we have written and hope people like it.

Yugen is your third release in as many years – What was the studio process like this time around?
This time we did the whole album in Crash Studios in Liverpool with Andy Fernihough, as opposed to last time doing drums in Crash and guitars and bass in our friends home studio. The process was great this time; we had a very enthusiastic engineer in Andy, who was brilliant throughout the whole process. His ear for detail and his enthusiasm was great to be a part of; it felt very relaxed. We took all our tracks and got the album recorded in about two weeks. Crash is a brilliant practice room/studio in Liverpool; we practice there too, so it was like a second home and I think that helped when playing through the songs.

How long has it been on the cards? When did you get stuck into the writing process?
We pretty much had about two songs and a few ideas around the time we released ‘They Will Come Back For You’ , so we got stuck in straight away. We aimed for about 10-12 songs altogether and probably wrote about 15 songs, trimming the fat on some. It took us about ten months to get all 10 songs that we were happy with down. Picking song titles and the album title was just as hard as writing the songs, as we wanted there to be a sort of theme or words running through the album that create a kind of image in your head when listening to the tracks. We Eventually chose Yugen, an idea Ben had for a while, and the titles came off the back of that idea.

Kickstarter played a part in the release of the album; were you chuffed to go down that route given the joyous results?
Yeah, definitely. We were made up with the response, really. It’s one of those things; you feel cheeky asking people to help fund your album, especially as times are hard. But prices of studios these days are a lot of money and something which we don’t have. So asking people via KickStarter to fund it was a scary thought, as you’ve got to deliver and hope you meet a certain target and hope people have faith in you. Fortunately for us, we met our target and were able to fund our album. We owe a lot of thanks to everyone who pledged via KickStarter. Our friends, families and to all the bands/promoters we know who helped share or support us/gave us advice – we cant thank them enough.

For me, you pretty much hit the ground running with your debut EP. How do you feel the album stands up against that release and ‘They Will Come Back For You’?
Cheers for the nice words on the first EP! Personally, I think this album is the best stuff we have all written together. The last two EPs got a lot of great responses, and writing those songs/playing them live helped us write for this album. Yugen for me is a nod back to the first EP, with synth sounds and better written/sounding versions of the songs on ‘They Will Come Back For You’. Songs are a lot more developed, with more of an ethereal vibe going on with the guitar effects and added synth sounds. I think gear helps a lot when you’re writing. When we first started, it was very minimal and we had to work with what we had, but that is a big factor in the way some of the songs sound. I think Yugen is also the heaviest and the lightest we have ever written, and i think the album has a lot of dynamics which we were all keen to explore when writing it.

LADS LADS LADS! Kusanagi and ASIWYFA

Late July you bagged yourself a support slot with And So I Watch You From Afar in Chester – Was that a pretty mind blowing experience?
It was brilliant and unexpected. We owe a big thanks to Dan, from the Core in Chester, for asking us. But yeah, we ended up being main support for them, which was massive for us as we’re all pretty big fans. We got to watch them sound check and then talked to Rory, Niall and Chris for ages, about bands we like and gigs we’ve been too etc. They were the nicest dudes ever; very humble and appreciative of what we did as a band, which was very nice of them to watch us and unexpected. They even offered for us to use their gear! They were awesome live too and we couldn’t recommend them more to people who haven’t seen them. At the end, they let us get a picture with them and we just had a laugh. It was a good way to spend a Sunday night in Chester!

You’re rounding out the end of October with a run of shows across the UK – where are you looking forward to getting to?
Yeah we cant wait, it’ll be our first tour around the UK. Were looking forward to all the nights really, as we’re playing with really good bands on all the nights. I think we’re all looking forward to Bristol, as we’ve never played there before and have heard great things from bands we know. Sheffield is a great city and we had an awesome time playing there in the summer at MADE festival. Line-up is top too. Chester is a cool venue, at the compass – great sound and good line-up. Nottingham is always brilliant, and we get to see our bud Marty from Alright The Captain. Should be a party atmosphere and the line-up looks amazing. Then we’re back to Liverpool for our album launch with our buds in two awesome bands, Alright The Captain and Pocket Apocalypse, so again hopefully it will be a party atmosphere with friends and family and a great night to end the tour on.

Yugen, the debut album from Kusanagi is out tomorrow. If you’d like to bag yourself a copy, click the image below:

Like what you see? Why not stick around and check out the other articles and interviews!
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