Spirit Fest is an avant-pop supergroup built around acclaimed Japanese duo Tenniscoats. Featuring members of Notwist, Jam Money and Joasihno, their beautiful self-titled debut LP has just been released. In Winter 2016 long-time fan, Markus Acher (Notwist) jumped at the chance to invite Tenniscoats to a small apartment studio, together with Mat Fowler (Jam Money) and Cico Beck (Aloa Input, Notwist) and producer Tadklimp. The band are on tour in Europe in December (see dates below). We were delighted to catch up with Markus again to find out some more about the band, the new record and his thoughts on recent political developments in Germany.
Hello again Markus, thanks one more time for answering our questions, I feel like this is becoming a regular feature!
Hello, and thanks so much for asking!! It’s a pleasure.
There were a lot of artists at the Alien Disko, how did the particular group we call Spirit Fest come together? How did you first come to know Tenniscoats? Have you worked with them before?
When we visited Japan in 2005 with Lali Puna, I was looking for Japanese ‘Indie’-music. I got recommended the CD ‘Songs for Nao’, which is a wonderful compilation of bands and projects mainly centred around Saya and Ueno and their label majikick. It was a revelation and became one of my favourite listens until now. From there, I started to buy every Tenniscoats CD, I could get..(which is hard, if you’re not living in Japan and not speaking Japanese.) They became one of or maybe my favourite band, and I listened to their music so much.
As we returned to Tokyo, I asked my friends Taka and Kyoko from the label afterhours, who are friends with them, if I could meet them. So we met and it was really nice and welcoming, and when they suggested a collaboration, I was very happy, of course. From there, I started to think, how this could happen. And when we planned the festival, they were the first band, I invited. I organized a studio, asked my friends Mat ( a big Tenniscoats-fan, too) and Cico, if they would like to join, and Tadklimp, if he would like to record and produce.
Is there a particular significance to the name “Spirit Fest”?
The first song, we recorded together was the song ‘Hitori Matsuri’, and it became somehow the centre-piece of the album.It’s about a spirit or ghost, walking over the houses at night when everyone is sleeping. Saya translated the title as ‘Spirit Fest’. She later suggested to call the band like this, and we all liked it a lot. It describes quite good the intuitive, jetlagged and somehow sleepwalking coming together in a small apartment studio in Munich.
Did you all come to the project with ideas for songs, skeletons of songs or was everything written from scratch?
Saya and Ueno brought songs, and I had songs, too, I had written for the project. Mat and Cico brought their unique sounds and instruments and toys, and we also improvised together. The instrumental ‘Inklings’ came from Cico and Mat improvising with drumcomputers and other small electronic toys, and all the arrangements we developed together while playing in the studio.
Did everyone know everyone else previously or was this a first encounter with some of the artists?
I was the only one, who knew everyone. Saya and Ueno only knew me. It was a nice and funny coming together of a Greek ( Tadklimp), an English ( Mat Fowler ), two Japanese and two German people in a tiny apartment with lots of instruments and only one couch to sit on. Wonderful times 🙂
How did the collaboration work? Certainly to produce nine beautiful songs in such a short period of time in exceptional in my opinion.
The combination of people worked so well…it was so easy. We chose a song, the instruments, played a bit and recorded. On all of the songs, we played everything together, like you hear it on the record, and did some overdubs. I normally don’t use this word, but it was somehow magical…we didn’t have to look for a sound, it was just there. And Saya and Ueno, Mat, Cico, Tadklimp.They are very exceptional musicians and people….they can do everything and always have their own voice.
Are you worried about the gains in the recent German elections by the far right?
I’m very worried. As it’s a development all over Europe, all over the world, to fall back into nationalistic and reactionary thinking as the world opens up. Simple and stupid solutions for complicated times.
It’s scary to see in numbers and on the streets, what you already know…that there’s such a big number of Germans, who are afraid of everybody, who looks different, comes from other parts of the world and doesn’t speak their language. Especially Germans should know, what the end of this story is.
Is there an underlying political or social message to the record?
I think the band itself, the combination of people and how they think about music, art, and politics is the opposite of every conservative and nationalistic world-view. But that was never the intention or content of the record. It’s our natural way of living. There shouldn’t be any borders.
Do you have a favourite song on the record?
I like Saya and Ueno’s songs so much, it’s hard to choose one…but ‘Hitori Matsuri’ is a favourite…it sums up the whole record and the time when we recorded it.
Will there be a follow-up?
Oh, I hope!!
2017-12-01 Geneva (CH) — Festival Face Z
2017-12-02 Lyon (FR) — Le Périscope
2017-12-03 Luzern (CH) — Sedel
2017-12-04 Crailsheim (DE) — Jugendzentrum Crailsheim
2017-12-05 Landau (DE) — Grauflächenkultivierung
2017-12-06 Liege (BE) — Kultur A
2017-12-07 London (GB) — The Islington 1 Tolpuddle Street
2017-12-10 Berlin (DE) — @Roter Roter Salon / Volksbühne
2017-12-11 Hamburg (DE) — Aalhaus
2017-12-16 Munich (DE) — ALIEN DISKO # 2 Festival @ Münchner Kammerspiele