Tokyo band Magro.
I met a great Tokyo based band while they were performing at the Harvest Moon Festival that took place in Ibaraki. The band’s leaders are a husband and wife team with Miyuki on vocals, and Masaru on guitar and piano.
Magro’s recently recorded Yoimachigusa, which also includes a Shibuya based Reggae Artist from Good Wood Records.
The band’s debut videos can be viewed here. Magro will also be heading down under to tour Australia this coming January.
Masaru and Miyuki of Magro Band.
Here’s a quick interview I had with Miyuki and Masaru about the band, and their philosophy on life before their live performance at the Harvest Moon Festival
Stack Jones: What made you decide to dedicate yourself to a musical career?
Miyuki: I used to work like a slave at a Japanese company. Sometimes I’d work shifts that were longer than twenty-four hours. It was very unhealthy, and I felt like a robot, existing in an unnatural environment. I broke! I just couldn’t do it any longer. So, I quit, and chose the way of music, which is where I belonged. Music keeps me mentally healthy, and brings great joy to my life.
Stack Jones: Talk about your family, and where you’re from.
Miyuki: Both Masaru and I are from Tokyo. Masaru was born in Azabu and raised in Gotanda, which is right in the middle of the city. Masaru’s parents are Edokko. His father runs an offset printing company. Masaru’s father plays guitar, and performs in a band with his long time friends. He taught Masaru how to play, going all the way back to when he was very young. His mother is a kindergarten teacher. She’s a very intelligent, and educated woman.
Masaru: She encouraged me to attend the Berklee College of Music. My grandfather also played the guitar; classic guitar, and composed original music. This influenced me greatly in my early childhood.
Stack Jones: What are your cultural backgrounds?
Miyuki: I was born in Setagaya and raised in Shinjuku. I moved to Tama as a child. It’s a suburb of that area. Both of my parents were from Kagoshima and worked for an American medical company. My father was a strict, old school Japanese father. But he loved jazz, so I was forced to listen to that kind of music when I was a kid. Ha ha. Although he was a strict Japanese father, he wanted me to be international, and sent me to study in Canada. I have a younger brother. He’s an Otaku type of person, and Hikikomori. He has difficulty dealing with people since he was about seventeen.
Masaru and Miyuki performing live.
Stack Jones: What are you doing with music these days?
Miyuki: We just finished recording our new album. Currently, we’re working on the cover and packaging, and preparing to tour Australia.
Stack Jones: Tell me about the latest project?
Miyuki: The title is Niji No Sakanatachi, which means, The Rainbow Fish. We recorded this project with our band, and a reggae dub mixer.
Stack Jones: Do you have any other releases?
Miyuki: The first CD we recorded is an electric mini album simply titled: Maguro. The second is an acoustic album titled, Akai Hana, which means Red Flower. Our third album is, Tabi No Tsukiyo, which means Traveling In The Moonlight.
Stack Jones: What genre are you working in? What would you say best describes your style of music?
Masaru: I’d call it Japanese alternative jam rock.
Stack Jones: What genres influence your style?
Miyuki: We both like rock, hip-hop, reggae, jazz, blues, and afro-Cuban music.
Masaru: Mostly world music and jam bands. We also love older traditional style Japanese music like Gagaku (traditional Japanese ceremonial music). Especially influenced by Haruomi Hosono and Arto Lindsey.
Stack Jones: This question is for Masaru. What guitar players do you like?
Masaru: I like John Lee Hooker, Jimi Hendrix, Joe Pass, and Shigeru Suzuki There are just too many to name.
Masaru and Miyuki performing live.
Stack Jones: What music do you listen to, and who has influenced you?
Masaru: I like all kinds of music, especially hip-hop, rock, blues, and jazz. Talib Kweli used to visit me almost everyday when I was living in Manhattan, so I was directly influenced by him. Also Lisa Loeb was in the same class as mine when I was at Berklee. She and I became good friends, so she influences me as well.
Stack Jones: (To Miyuki) What other influences do you have?
Miyuki: I used to listen to jazz and hip-hop when I was younger. I like the east coast, styles of A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Digital Underground, and DJKrush. I also like a Japanese hip-hop group called Soul Scream who are good friends of ours. For jazz it’s Sara Vaughan and Bessie Smith. Recently, I’m listening to Haruomi Hosono’s work, and I’m beginning to enjoy Phish, and The Slip, Jammie Saft, Marco Benevento, and The Bad Plus.
Stack Jones: Masaru, what did you listen to when you were growing up?
Masaru: When I was younger I listened to Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix everyday, also bands like the Grateful Dead, and Phish influenced me in the jam realm. Recently, I enjoy Bill Friesel and John Scofield. When it comes to world music, I prefer middle-eastern sounds these days.
The interview comes to an end as Magro take to the stage. The atmosphere was great, as the weather was a bit cool and brisk. The location reminded me a lot of southern California, yet I was in the mountains. Somehow it had the vibe of a beach community, and one could expect Jackson Browne, or Jack Johnson to walk in at any moment and jump up on the stage for a song or two. Unfortunately, they didn’t.
I sat by a well-lit fire that gave the scene and orange-ish, and amber hue. I ate a bowl of fresh, homemade miso soup, and drank amazake, which is a sweet Japanese rice drink. I loved it. Oishi! The drink was warm, and so was the soup as I sat and listened to Magro perform their set.
This was a great evening, complimented by the music Magro was supplying, and the people that were there but for one purpose, and that was to share in a good time.
I listened to Magro surrounded by scores of new friends, many who I could barely communicate with. No worries, as the smiles, nods, and appreciation for a great evening was accompanied by a great band, and a leisure day in the Tochigi mountains that would follow. A day that would take me to Nikko National Park, Kegon Falls, Lake Chuzenji, wild monkeys, and yet another undertaking for a stranger in a sometimes strange, bot often not so strange land.