Birds of Tokyo on performing with the MSO: ‘You really need to be there, all the way. Which is terrifying’

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Birds of Tokyo on performing with the MSO: ‘You really need to be there, all the way. Which is terrifying’

Birds of Tokyo
WORDS By Sosefina Fuamoli

Birds of Tokyo frontman Ian Kenny is excited and slightly terrified to be performing with Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

August and September will see Birds of Tokyo re-enter the orchestral space, performing selections from their extensive catalogue with symphony orchestras around the country.

Under the banner of Birdsongs, the tour comes to Hamer Hall from September 21 – 23, under the direction of acclaimed composer and maestro, Nicholas Buc. The last time Birds Of Tokyo were in this space, they performed arrangements of their music by Buc, conducted by the talented Vanessa Scammell.

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For this 2023 edition, Kenny says the excitement he and the band have towards this new production is more than just refreshed. The curiosity that naturally presents itself when their music is reinterpreted, is what makes it intriguing, compelling, and terrifying.

“When it comes to our music, it really is a surprise to hear – each time – songs we’ve been sitting with for a long time, presented in such a complex way,” Kenny says.

“The amount of moving parts, the additional parts of the arrangement…there’s so much to it. It’s incredible to hear it so much bigger than we thought it would be, on a sonic presentation. That does make you think, it’s always holding a lighter to your creativity in thinking where else we can go as a band.”

Working with Buc for a second time too, has meant that Birds Of Tokyo have become more comfortable in the classical space when it comes to making that shift from the rock world into this one. Big fans of his approach to music in general, Kenny praises Buc for the way he has given extra space and nuance to these original Birds Of Tokyo arrangements.

“He himself, he’s a captivating dude, for his love of all sorts of music. He’s right into where our heads are going with these sorts of things,” he explains.

“I think we’re going to learn a lot more about Nic when he commands an orchestra and of course, commands us, to a point. Although we are a band that are so locked in our ways, there’s this wonderful learning thing where we’re like, “Are we going to play to the orchestra for this song, or are they going to play to us?” You don’t really know until it starts happening, it’s really in the moment. It’s exciting and terrifying at the same time. That’s going to be a fairly significant change to this presentation of the tour, it’s super cool.”

Such an immersive experience and process has made Kenny perceive his own original songs differently, for sure. But as the basis of a new Birds Of Tokyo album is starting to come together, stepping up to the challenges of an orchestra tour is a move Kenny is excited to grow and elevate as a musician through.

“We’re very fortunate that we can have multiple nights, it’s a pure joy,” he says.

“We really get to immerse ourselves in just how much of a different performance it is. We’re basically sitting in the middle of a 30-odd piece orchestra, which is such a cool performance space to be in. We didn’t know how it was going to go, the first time we did it. We didn’t know if this was going to be our world, or if we were going to fit. We were purely just interested in getting something else out of the music. It went really well and caught us by surprise, on a few levels.”

“I can’t believe that the band is still so engaged, but there’s still something to be engaged with. It’s really wild.” he continues.

“We’ve been at it for a long time, and we’ve never really taken the foot off the gas. It’s wonderful. It’s a true joy. What we share, we share with a lot of people – the band, music fans, the music community. We’re very fortunate and there truly are some wonderful people in there who make it work. It’s mind-blowing.”

Birds of Tokyo and the MSO present Birdsongs from September 21 – 23 at Hamer Hall. Tickets are selling fast, get them here.

This article was made in partnership with MSO.