Turntable Films compile folksy pop vignettes for sophomore album ‘Small Town Talk’


Special To The Japan Times

Today’s music industry demands a constant churn of new content from artists, whether that be songs or videos or something else that can connect with fans immediately. Yosuke Inoue is understandably taken aback when asked what he and his band, Turntable Films, got up to in the three years since they released their debut album “Yellow Yesterday” — as if they had vanished.

“The speed of how we made music got a little slower,” he says. “That’s maybe why we looked quiet.”

Time is rarely afforded to bands in an environment always seeking the next big thing, but Inoue wanted to find “a new challenge” for Turntable Films’ second album, “Small Town Talk,” out Nov. 11. Rather than rush something out to stay relevant after its well-received debut, the Kyoto trio took its time creating the 10-song set, building off the folksy pop it has been playing since forming in 2008.

One change, though, is that Inoue chose to put more emphasis on singing lyrics in Japanese, and the result is a collection of tracks that sound like short stories.

Despite slowing down, Turntable Films didn’t dilly-dally once they figured out the direction they wanted to take. Along with bassist Kento Tani and drummer Natsuki Tamura, Inoue says they intentionally set strict deadlines to record the final product.

“I think having limited time equals having a risk, and I believe this approach results in something more creative,” Inoue says.

They also worked more closely with their support players, a process Inoue says was “more like teamwork.” Musically, “Small Town Talk” alternates between hushed acoustic numbers and skippy indie-pop, and the album’s best moments come when Turntable Films build up to big emotional climaxes (highlighted on the particularly heart-racing “Cello”). It’s not far removed from “Yellow Yesterday,” save for the linguistic shift.

“I was told I should sing in Japanese by lots of people,” Inoue says, adding that the change forced him to reinvent his approach to writing lyrics, and experiment with melody more to suit the words. It’s the sort of move a Japanese band normally does when it craves more domestic attention, but “it wasn’t a serious decision or anything,” he says. “I switched because (I thought) it would be a challenge, and maybe fun.”

This change in language makes the tracks on “Small Town Talk” feel like vignettes.

“It was kind of like the movie ‘Magnolia,’ ” Inoue says. “I wasn’t inspired by the movie per se, but each song has a different central character with their own story, but they all exist in the same town.”

Critical to this new direction was Asian Kung-Fu Generation leader Masafumi Gotoh, who signed the band to his Only In Dreams label and recruited it to play in his touring band for his solo project. Going on the road with Gotoh lead the band to play to some of the biggest audiences they’ve ever seen — including a spot at the 2014 Fuji Rock Festival — and allowed them to soak up a lot of knowledge from the long-running singer-songwriter.

“It’s fun to work with Gotoh,” Inoue says. “There’s a positive vibe — ‘Let’s relax, chill out, but make something good.’ I like that.”

Turntable Films play Good Food Camp in Nagahama, Shiga Pref., on Nov. 7 (11:30 a.m. start, ¥4,500 for adults and ¥1,500 for elementary school kids); and Urbanguild in Kyoto on Nov. 20 (7:30 p.m. start; ¥2,500 in advance; 075-212-1125). For more information, visit www.turntablefilms.com.

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