Music: Interview - Kafka On The Shore

"The perfect season for Kafka" *

Where do I start when writing about Kafka On The Shore? They are the type of band you hear playing in the background at a friends house and listen up instantly.
As Franz Kafka once wrote:
"I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn't wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? ...we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us."

Kafka On The Shore seem to think the same about music (their name, however, has nothing to do with the author) and that is exactly what defines their distinct style, a kind of unreal torturing misery and desperation that finds it's way into every song. Brutal but beautiful in it's own way.
The band has recently signed with La Fabbrica Etichetta Indipendente, an independent label from Bologna and is planning to publish their first album in January 2013.

by Poppy

* "Bob Dylan" by Kafka On The Shore

The following questions were answered by Vincenzo Parisi, pianist and composer, on behalf of the band.

How did you meet and decide to form a band?
I am a pianist and a composer of classical music. I have always composed music for piano and chamber music ensembles (this is the link to one of my compositions before Kafka). One and a half years ago I needed some new musical lymph for my compositional style, and so I decided it might be a good idea to create a rock band. Everything else that happened was a consequence of this decision. I met the singer at my girlfriend's place and the drummer was one of his best buddies at that time. Since June 2012 Kafka on the Shore has a fourth member, a guitarist, he's Federico Agosta, known as Freddie Lobster.
Your band is called 'Kafka On The Shore' -like the book by Haruki Murakami. What's the book about and why did you decide to name your band after it?

The first name we thought of was “The Unanswered Question”, just like the title of one of Charles Ives’ masterpieces, an American composer of the 20th century who has been very important during my compositional studies. But then we thought it would be difficult to pronounce in Italy, the country where we are presently living. “Kafka On The Shore” was an almost natural idea during a period in which I was reading anything written by Murakami. The main reason for this choice relies in the fact that the music I had, and that I actually have in mind is supposed to be oscillating between dream and reality, between an illusionary world and the heavy materiality that surrounds us. The characters of our songs are thieves, women lost in the woods, pirates that were Napoleon yesterday and who are today transformed in rivers on a mountaintop. Just like in Murakami's stories. 

Who or what inspires you?
Our greatest muse is Carla Bruni, that’s important to say. Anyway, now seriously, inspiration comes mostly from those moments we shared together: many of our songs were born like this. A theme that is sung accidently by someone in our surroundings is immediately taken down on my digital recorder which I always carry in my pocket (I am a bit obsessed, I admit!). The other source of inspiration are, of course, the novels I read, particularly Murakami Haruki and Paul Auster (one of the songs of our first album is dedicated to Paul Auster's novel 'Moon Palace'). We can't forget the dreamlike world of David Lynch and the poetical surrealism of Tim Burton, just like the mythical Spaghetti World of Sergio Leone. Finally, I hope that all minors reading this interview have already stopped, we have also taken inspiration from some really low porn movie...

Who are the musicians you admire most and who influence your music?
The list is very long, mostly because of our different musical backgrounds, but I will choose five of them:
Kurt Weill, for the theatricality of his music
The Doors, because we think we are alike and maybe even better!
The Beach Boys, for the harmonic richness and the inventiveness of Brian Wilson, because behind the College Party’s facade there hides a world full restlessness and unanswered questions.
Philipp Glass, because of my strong minimalist music background (for those who don't know him, I recommend his beautiful album “Songs From Liquid Days” from 1986, with some lyrics also by David Byrne from Talking Heads)
Frank Zappa, that’s our drummer’s musical obsession, he listens to him day and night!

Describe your process of writing songs.
Fortunately we have a very fast writing process, in a year we have written about 40 songs, all at a good level, in our opinion. We hope we will keep up this way in the future too! The eleven songs of our first album, coming out in January 2013, were selected simply by tossing a coin….! Usually, I write songs which are already harmonized with lyrics written in bad English (what is known as macaronic English), the singer then rewrites the lyrics. Writing can also be a very spontaneous act, we can get very creative when improvising during rehearsal sessions. The best ideas are often born from mistakes while we’re rehearsing.

How would you describe your sound using images, feelings, tastes and smells?
The person listening to our music can go with its flow, sitting comfortably in a bathtub full of whipped cream, transformed into a space shuttle, departing directly from Berlin all the way to Venus, accompanied by an old drunk pirate who is a megalomaniac and who was conceived on the runway of Chicago Airport by Bob Dylan during a full moon with Lily Allen dressed in green who got lost in the woods and is desperate because she has stained her Mickey Mouse underpants with Campbell's tomato soup…

   Picture by Katharina Kanthak