Kishi Bashi is proving he’s more than just a violin virtuoso

Get the latest from Beat

Kishi Bashi is proving he’s more than just a violin virtuoso


Creating an alluring live set can be difficult and limitations often revolve around stringency of instrumentation or composition. Nevertheless, musical dexterity is commonly met with esteem and embellishing a live production with creativity does nothing to lessen the experience.

As a result of a strengthened reputation, American soloist Kishi Bashi now fills his stage with enough medley to warrant an orchestral tag. Captivating on record, his falsetto-garnished art pop is further enriched live, leaving you wedged between classical and alternative imaginations.

A sound previously defined by wily loops and violin delves into more electronic, synth-driven territory on his 2016 album Sonderlust – inspiration spurred from somewhat of a mind-block.

“I started composing for this album a while back and I wasn’t really inspired by the violin or what music I was coming out with,” Bashi says. “I turned to Ableton Live which I’d been messing around with for a while and I created all these synths which assumed the shape of my songs and embraced it and I haven’t looked back.”

Dabbling in vivacious synthesiser pop and ‘70s disco, tracks like Say Yeah and Ode To My Next Life celebrate Bashi’s new movement. It’s a reinvention but not complete identity desertion.

“When I worked in LA with the producer, Chris Taylor, we wanted some strings and we had the budget so I hired an amazing string section who’d just played on Star Wars the week before – it was a blast and a luxury.

“For most people, writing for strings is daunting but for me it’s second nature so I knew that it would be worth it for certain songs. The impetus for doing what I do is to promote string music and violin in general so it was a no-brainer.”

Sonderlust is Bashi’s third LP under his current pseudonym. In 2012, he released his first solo album 151a just months after stepping away from his other project Jupiter One. A radiant yet placated soundscape sprawled the release – not conducive to the electronic rock he’d been previously devoted to.

“My solo career actually started in Australia – I was opening up for Regina Spektor as a solo artist but I was promoting my band Jupiter One – we couldn’t afford to bring them,” Bashi says. “She allowed me to open up so I had these amazing shows stripping down a lot of my songs with my voice and that made me realise that maybe I had something here.

“I wrote new songs that were quiet and wouldn’t be like a loud rock band thing and those went over really well. I brought them back to try them out with my band and it wasn’t working so I realised I needed to do something different, at least for a second.”

Unaccompanied, Bashi isn’t inhibited by the politics thwarting many bands. “I am just one person, I’m not like a band so I’m not jeopardising four or five lives, I’m just jeopardising my own life. It’s a lot less stressful for someone like me to do it as opposed to Radiohead or something. I don’t ever have the internal struggle so it’s rewarding. It’s lonely but it’s also invigorating.”

His first Australian tour since 2014 will see Bashi preserve the melancholy of his solo show without compromising the heightened hooks and turns embodying his radical 2016 release.

“People can expect to be surprised that it doesn’t sound anything like the album. We have a trio coming over. It’s me, Tall Tall Trees the banjo player and then a drummer, it’s going to be crazy. Last time I came solo and that was pretty fun but this time we’re going to ramp up the energy.

“I like playing solo because there’s a certain amount of intimacy you can’t get if there’s a whole lot of other people playing but I do like having the band around because when you need to ramp up the energy it just adds, it certainly doesn’t take away.”


By Tom Parker