Archive: Fujiya and Miyagi interview

This originally appeared in the Event Guide

Bright Lights of Brighton

By Aoife Barry

They may sound like a pair of Japanese martial arts experts, but Fujiya & Miyagi are in fact a quartet from Brighton who specialise in synth-rock electronica with a kraut-rock edge. A three-piece up until early this year, they’ve now got a live drummer and are after releasing their third album, ‘Lightbulbs’, this month. Aoife Barry spoke to lead singer and guitarist David Best before their show at the 2008 Dublin Fringe Festival.

Every band has their Spinal Tap story, the one they pull out at parties to entertain people; and perhaps David Best’s anecdote will be about that time he played a gig in Rome – and wound up suffering from gout. “I’m alright,” he half-whispers, when asked how’s doing. “I don’t know [how I got it], ‘cos I don’t even drink that much,” he sighs. “We had a show in Rome so I got ferried through the airport on a wheelchair…I think I might have to drink less cans of pop and change what I eat. I’m taking it easy so I can stand up when I get to Ireland.”

Let’s hope things do improve for him, because he has a big night ahead when Fujiya & Miyagi play in Dublin during the Fringe Festival. They’ll be playing in the Hennessy Spiegeltent in the Iveagh Gardens, at a special night which they have curated. So who’s going to be playing with them? “Our friends from America who we played with in Brooklyn, Project Jenny Project Jan, it’s their first time over in Europe and they’re really excited. I think the Irish people will really like them – they’re fantastic, really entertaining with good songs,” David explains. “Then in Dublin we’ve got a band called the Violet Roadkills playing as well, who I heard on myspace or something. I don’t know if I contacted them or they contacted us, but I liked them and I said the next time we play in Dublin if you wanna play with us, if you’re around, that would be nice – so that’s how that happened. It’s nice to choose the people you play with as well, you don’t always get to do that, so it’s nice to.”

Fujiya & Miyagi are a band that have played in Ireland a number of times. One of the highlights for David was their 2007 gig at the Electric Picnic. “If [the Fringe Festival gig] is anything like when we played in a tent in Electric Picnic, it will be great,” enthuses David. “Cos that was a great atmosphere there. It was so good. I didn’t go this year but last year was amazing. I was a bit worried because we were playing the same time as Iggy and the Stooges, who I really like – I’m a big Iggy fan. I was a bit gutted I couldn’t see him. And I thought, I wonder if anyone will be there, but there was [people there]. There was a really good atmosphere and people really seemed to enjoy it. It was just one of those moments, it was just like ‘Yeah!’. We do so many shows and you kind of forget a lot of them, but I haven’t forgotten that one.”

The band’s first foray onto Irish shores was similarly successful, although the crowd was not quite as large. “When we first came over to Ireland we played in Dublin, we played in a pub but downstairs underneath in a place called the Tap, and there was only about 30 people there,” remembers David. “Two guys called Mickey and Darren brought us over. But it was the first time that people knew the songs, and they were singing back. And even though there wasn’t many people, it was just like ‘This is brilliant!’”

“For years and years you’re trying to win people over,” he smiles. “It’s nice when you think that they want you to be good, rather than just wanting to see what you’re like.”

The band’s success worldwide has meant that the members have been able to become full time musicians, something which David is delighted with. “We’ve done it full time for about 18months now. It’s good, you gotta remind yourself of how lucky you are sometimes,” he muses. “The pluses are you go around the world – earlier in the year we went to Brazil and Argentina, and we’ve obviously been to America a lot. And when you do a show, you meet people who genuinely like it. So if someone’s telling you they really like what you’re doing, it’s not bad. I didn’t really get that in my last boss: ‘Great spreadsheet David!’, d’you know what I mean? I never got that!”
The band’s third album, ‘Lightbulbs’, has just been released – so how has being full time musicians benefitted the making of the album? “It was kind of weird because Transparent Things was done over such a long period of time, when we were free at weekends or evenings. We probably spent the same amount of time on [‘Lightbulbs’], but it was more condensed,” explains David. “In a way, it’s good that you can do it all in one go, but sometimes it’s also nice to do two songs and take a few months to go back to them. Obviously it’s better to have time to do it, and we didn’t do so many shows and just concentrated on the record, so hopefully it’s worth it.”

With the addition of a new live drummer, the band are no longer relying on programmed beats when playing live – how does that effect their live sets? “It makes it a lot more exciting – it also makes us play much faster,” laughs David. “We’re almost like a trash band now; the initial reaction is to play everything fast so you’ve got to make sure that you slow everything down. Especially when there’s a song with a lot of words in – by the end I’m hyperventilating. I think it’s much better – it’s nice to have a friend in the band, it freshens it up a bit. I think a lot of people thought we should get a drummer, especially [band member] Steve.”

With ‘Lightbulbs’, Fujiya & Miyagi kept the synth-pop sensibilities of their previous work, but surprisingly, there’s less of the kraut influences on it. “It’s not like a giant leap from ‘Transparent Things’ – if people like that, they pretty much will like this, but we didn’t want to repeat ourselves.”

“We tried to make it more like how we are live,” says David. “So it’s kind of a bit sparser, and also before when we used to record we used to record little bits and Steve would cut and paste it, but now we try and be more like a proper band and play the songs, and if there’s any mistakes we just leave them in. There’s less kind of kraut-rock. There’s a couple, but we just felt like we’d done that and we wanted to do something else.” The ‘something else’ turned into some curious choices. “We decided to do different types of songs. There’s a song that’s trying to be a bit R’n’B – it ended up sounding like Bollywood, that’s what Steve reckons,” he chuckles. “But I like it – that’s called ‘Pickpocket’. I tried to sing about different things, not the same things – I didn’t want to do a song about my broken foot!”

And what about the gout? David laughs. “That’s a concept album!”


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