K Ishibashi (known, on stage, as Kishi Bashi), likes the fun and excitement of a festival though, he points out, often festivalgoers are not his fan base. “It feels like I have something to prove, or I have to fight for their attention, which is a good challenge,” he says. But, even if you’re not familiar with Ishibashi’s previous band, Jupiter One, or his work with of Montreal or Regina Spektor, you’re probably heard his violin-centered songs “Bright Whites” and “It All Began With a Burst” in commercials for Windows 8 and the Sony Xperia Tablet S, respectively.
“One commercial rarely breaks any artist,” says Ishibashi, who used to work on commercial jingles. He also lived in New York for a decade and went to school for film scoring, which he did professionally — his day job— while working on self-recorded and self-produced full-length debut, 151A.
“It was my solo project so I didn’t have any reservations,” he says. “If you’re in a band, there’s a lot more at stake, like your career and the careers of three other people and that kind of thing.” It was of Montreal’s frontman, Kevin Barnes, who encouraged Ishibashi to push his own boundaries on the album.
“I could just experiment as much as I wanted to. And that paid off. I could take risks, I didn’t have to worry about commercial success,” says the musician. “The irony of it is, I got a lot of commercial success just because of how wild people think my album is.”
Released last year, 151A is lushly orchestrated, drawing on classical structures as well as pop savvy. There are hints of synth-rock, of orchestral pop and of hip-hop (Ishibashi beat-boxes to add rhythmic textures). On stage, he builds his songs by looping vocals and strings in complex layers. Check out his NPR Tiny Desk concert on YouTube for a breathtaking example.
Though, Ishibashi says, “The looping came out of necessity. If I do it all the time, I think it would be a novelty, so I do it selectively. I use it more as a tool, to support the song.”
At Bele Chere, he’ll perform with a drummer and guitarist. The addition (especially of the percussionist) is part of Ishibashi’s next incarnation. And, while the musician is not reinventing himself, exactly, changes are afoot: He’s just moved to Athens, Ga. (two doors down from Barnes) where he’s setting up a studio and will soon record a followup to 151A. New songs are already in the works.
“I believe that quantity creates quality,” says Ishibashi. “If you have a lot of ideas, then it gives you a lot of choices for your album.”
Kishi Bashi performs on the Battery Park Stage on Saturday, 8-9:30 p.m.