A standout act from the lineup of the indie music festival at Gardens By The Bay, KOM_I from Wednesday Campanella chats with us before Laneway kicks off
From synth-pop songstresses like Aurora to r&b pixies like Nao, it’s no exaggeration that the St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival is stuffed with whimsical musicians. But if there’s one technicolour-oozing dynamo who we’re particularly psyched for, it’s Japan’s Wednesday Campanella.
Fronted by the eccentric vocalist-rapper, KOM_I, Wednesday Campanella tilts perceptions of contemporary music from the land of the Rising Sun. A much different shade from the saccharine, formulaic J-pop that dominates the Japanese music industry, their sound unconventionally borrows elements from polished future and tropical house, to grittier Chicago footwork and hip-hop. It’s no wonder then, that the outfit has already crossed over into Western markets, and plans to make their splash next at Laneway Singapore.
In the meantime, we chat with the face of the group, KOM_I, on why it’s so important to be different, recommendations of things to do in Tokyo, and what Japanese people really think of the Merlion.
Konnichiwa KOM_I! Will this be your first time coming to Singapore?
I have been to Singapore a few times now; the first time was on my way to Bintan island. Singapore has all the delicious food of Asia, such as laksa, fishball noodles, nasi biryani – I love to walk around and eat! To anyone visiting Singapore, I would recommend going to Haw Par Villa. Oh, and Night Safari is also very fun.
Japanese tourists seem to be infatuated with the Merlion… Would you care to enlighten?
The Merlion is – I really don’t know why – very famous in Japan, and little kids actually like to imitate it. Japanese people like to link the landmark of an area to that area, like the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty. But compared to those, the Merlion is smaller than expected, yet everyone seems to enjoy going there and being disappointed.
Your music is extremely unique. Is it important for you to make sure that your music stands out?
There are just so many things in the world. Music, too, is also exponentially evolving. So if I am to do something new, I would rather it be something out of the ordinary, and something that people can feel a new sense of strangeness towards.
Is it stressful performing alone on stage? Do you wish you could perform with a band?
It’s sometimes fun to be on stage with many people, especially in a festival setting. But if you are alone on stage, you can change the atmosphere of the audience with your own will, and that is really exciting. I think I will continue to stand alone on stage for a little while longer.
Do you find it more comfortable to sing or rap?
When I’m rapping, I don’t have to worry about pitches and notes, and you can do it without actually hearing your own voice. The track is done more freely, and that’s fun.
Everything about your performance style seems so colourful and flamboyant. But actually, are you a very shy person in real life?
I have grown up without actually fighting with my best friend, and I am not used to expressing my feelings out loud to people. But the clothes I wear are colourful and bright!
I notice that you like to dance in your music videos!
Yes, I love to dance! Sometimes, I wish I could stand on stage without singing, and just keep dancing. I think dance is the most primitive expression that’s triggered by music.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a musician?
Since I like farm work, I might have been living in the countryside. I can’t wake up in the morning, so I think I wouldn’t be able to work for a normal company.
What is the hardest thing about being a full-time musician in Tokyo?
Although Tokyo may be a place where you are allowed to express yourself freely, compared to other countries like China, I still feel that the city is full of oppression. The environment is serious, and people tend to make decisions using their heads and not hearts. If you are a true freedom-based person, it might be tough to live in this city where playfulness has lessened. Creating something, sometimes, can be a bit difficult.
What were your musical influences growing up? Were they mostly from Japan, or did you listen to bands from all over the world?
Since starting this new project as Wednesday Campanella, I have taken interest in music from abroad. What I am lately listening to is Solange, Hiatus Kaiyote, J.Cole, D’angelo, and Demdike Stare.
What do you like to do when you have free time?
I usually go on vacation, or see traditional Japanese performances like Kabuki and Rakugo. I also go clubbing with friends, and watch movies.
And lastly, please give us some tips for visiting Tokyo:
Recommended romantic spot?
Robot Restaurant or Hanazono Shrine.
Sushizanmai in Tsukiji.
And ideal clubs to go partying?
UNIT or CIRCUS.