Bill Cummings 30/08/2010
"All I know is that we're keen to avoid letting Takeda become about three people who make music, rather than music made by three people."
Alt-folk three piece Takeda release their debut EP 'Hufsa' on September 6th through Dustbowl Records. These small town Norwich dwelling folk and self-proclaimed hermits grew up playing music together. After a recent support slot with critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Jesca Hoop and ongoing support from BBC Introducing, it looks like the rest of 2010 is going to be full of new experiences for Takeda. Their free track 'A Million Years' was our first contact with this wistful folksy outfit here at GIITTV towers. Intrigued by their other material and hungry for further insight into their world, GIITTV sent Takeda singer Josh some introductory questions, here are his answers.
How did Takeda form, were you playing solo and joined by the others or was it more of an organic process? Also why the name Takeda?! And what does it mean?!
Well we've been playing music together for a few years now, with various line up, name and style changes. In autumn last year we hit upon the more traditional band layout with bass, drums and guitar at the heart and a few of the other bits and bobs we'd been playing with before like the organs. It felt really good. I had a load of songs that I'd been playing on my own for ages, we played them together and they sounded great.
The name itself really doesn't mean a lot to us. It's a Japanese surname if you're really interested.
The Takeda songs I've heard so far are really haunting and very personal, capturing a feeling of the past, are they based upon your experiences Josh (vocalist) or a mixture of personal and fictional narratives?
I definitely don't see myself as a poet or lyricist of any particular merit on any level at all. Although the lyrics themselves do mean a lot to me personally, I don't think they are any more important than the rest of the music. Our music tends to be much more about mood than narrative anyway.
How does the Takeda song writing process work, do you write in isolation and bring them to the group or do the songs emerge when you're playing together?
Well a lot of the songs we're performing now were written by me over the last few years, before this incarnation of the band got together. Usually I write the bare bones of the songs and we get together and it becomes whatever it does. But there are no rules in the Takeda household; if it feels good then it's part of the family.
You've describe your sound as 'raga rock' in the past what do you mean when you call it this? What do you think of the emergence of the term 'nu-folk' into the mainstream with acts like Mumford and Sons and Laura Marling do you think this is a bit of a generalised term or a reflection of the fact that stripped back roots and folk sounds are making a comeback? What's the Norwich alt folk scene like?
To be honest the raga-rock thing was a bit of a joke. None of us have actually properly studied raga form or anything. I'm quite keen on genuine raga music and we noticed that we seem to favour a certain 'Indian' vibe and a few of our songs have a very vague and abbreviated raga structure with an Alap, Jhor & Gat. It sounds quite cool too; Raga-Rock!
The folk thing does make me giggle a bit because the vast majority of what's labelled 'Folk' has absolutely nothing to do with actual Folk Music except that the key instrument is acoustic guitar and most of the musicians have beards. I used to go to a folk club near where I live. If I went in there and played Blue Ridge Mountains or something I would be a bit of a laughing stock. That's why I stopped going.
I think it's important to ignore classification. If I sit down with my guitar and think “right, I'm in a folk band” I guarantee nothing worth keeping will come out. But I guess it's kind of inevitable that we'll be bundled up in this whole nu-folk thing. Not that is necessarily bad.
I'm a little undecided about Mumford et al. Although I just read that Mumford & Marling are releasing some stuff they did with Dharohar Project. It will be interesting to hear them do the 'Indian' thing. (Probably not as good as us though. Just kidding. :P)
There seems to be a fair amount of mostly decent alt-folk music coming out of Norwich at the moment.
How do you set up live? And do you like to experiment on stage or stick rigidly to the setlists you've prepared beforehand? Do you feel it's important to connect with an audience?
Our live sound is a little simpler than on record; there are only three of us. We've been working on beefing up our live sound actually. Beth sometimes plays drums & organ at the same time!
We tend to rehearse a fair amount. Probably not enough. And the set is usually pretty open to alteration during the show. We have a song called 'Dusk Raga', which will be on Hufsa, that we play differently every time.
We did a show with Adelaide's Cape a couple of weeks ago, and 5 minutes before the show Sam (from Adelaide's Cape) asked us if we would play Nick Drake's 'Black Eyed Dog' with him at the end of his set, so we improvised our way through a kind of droned out version. That was fun.
I think playing music is the best way to connect with anybody, so anything else would just waste potential music time.
Your track 'A Million Years' reminds me of Nick Drake, in its guitar playing style and wistful vocals, are you a fan of Drake, and what are your formative musical influences? And what acts or records you are enjoying at the moment?
I like Nick Drake, inevitably. But I've only recently started listening to him properly. So I wouldn't call him a formative influence, though we're very flattered that you likened A Million Years to his music.
Davy Graham is a big one for me as a guitarist as well as other guitarists like Robbie Basho. And Sigur Ros as well. Growing up I listened to Smashing Pumpkins almost non stop.
Either I've been a bit rubbish at keeping up this year or the music has. I was excited about Jonsi's album but a bit disappointed with it. Fyfe Dangerfield's too, what was that about? I was hoping for another 'Through the Windowpane'.
I was recently put onto Rameses III. I've had their album 'I Could Not Love You More' on a lot recently. Josephine Foster & the Supposed, Lau Nau and Juana Molina, but they're not exactly new, does that matter?
As I write this I'm actually listening to Arms & Sleepers. Joanna Newsom's new one is the only new album I've really loved this year so far.
Your debut EP, entitled 'Hufsa', will be released on September 6th through Dustbowl Records. Have you finished recording and mixing the record and can you tell us a little about where it was recorded and how it will sound?
We booked two days at The Mill Studios in Norfolk. We had seven songs ready to record and we recorded six. We decided to release them all on an EP. Since then the lovely Dustbowl Records have taken on releasing duties. Our good friend John Guymer has just finished fiddling with it so it's pretty much ready to roll.
It's a really nice document of how we sounded when we recorded it in February, but I think we've moved on a little since then. It's got a nice laid back vibe with a few little moments of excitement.
It's nice to get songs like A Million Years & Reverence, which have been rolling around inside our heads since 2007, finally recorded and there are some brand new songs on there too including one I wrote about 2 days before we went in to the studio.
You've already supported the likes of Jesca Hoop and the Miserable Rich; who have you enjoyed playing with the most up until now?
Jesca Hoop was pretty good.
What are your other future plans? Are you planning any tours or working towards a debut album?
We are definitely working towards an album at some point. We have all the songs ready to record, which is a little frustrating, but apparently we have to time it right. We might do another EP or two first.
Free MP3 download Takeda- 'A Million Years' is available here: http://www.box.net/shared/vjl1nfk893