Mitsume’s long days on the road pay off

by

Special To The Japan Times

Over the past decade, a go-to method for older rock bands to drum up excitement for a tour is the promise of playing a classic album in its entirety. It’s a win-win proposition: Fans get to feel nostalgic while the artists themselves can coast by on material they’ve played countless times before.

So it’s a bit surprising that Tokyo quartet Mitsume plans to play the entirety of its latest full-length, “A Long Day,” at Tokyo’s WWW venue on June 8, the same day physical copies hit stores.

“Some of the audience will probably hear the album for the first time at the show, rather than on CD,” says drummer Yojiro Suda from Mitsume’s garage-based office in Ebisu.

This unorthodox way of presenting a new rock release — the band will also play it the following day in Osaka — simply reflects how “A Long Day,” its fourth album, came together. After forming in 2009, Mitsume — comprising Suda, vocalist Moto Kawabe, guitarist Mao Otake and bassist Nakayaan (who says he only goes by one name) — rose from the dingy live-house scene in Tokyo to an outfit that tours nationwide and plays major festivals. Yet the songs from previous effort, “Sasayaki,” proved to be trickier to execute on the road.

“On that album, we spent a lot of time working on demos on the computer,” Kawabe says. “It ended up harder performing those songs live. This time, we did the opposite. We spent more time on arrangements and more time playing the songs together.”

“We didn’t make this album with live performances in mind, but rather drew from our previous gigs,” Suda adds.

Whereas “Sasayaki” found the band edging in experimental directions and introducing psychedelic smudges, “A Long Day” is a spacious album built for sun-dappled afternoons (and seems optimal for a festival backdrop). Songs such as “Akogare” (“Yearning”) and “Fune no Ue” (“On A Ship”) feature breezy vocal harmonizing, hiding the instrumental tightness necessary to make it all sound so easy.

Mitsume has had plenty of chances to develop this sound, as the members have maintained a showman’s schedule over the last year, playing gigs all over the city and, this past spring, in the United States. The four-piece played at the South By Southwest music conference in Austin, Texas, before heading to New York for several club gigs.

“In America, small venues don’t really have good music equipment, usually it’s half broken, or like only one amp works,” Suda says. “But you have to deal with it anyway. That was a challenge, but we learned a lot.”

Mitsume has no shortage of gigs in the near future, which is evident from the dozens of cardboard boxes filling the garage-turned-office. They’re full of CDs and merchandise (the most intriguing of which are Mitsume-branded piggy banks). After a show in Shanghai, the members will temporarily decamp to Los Angeles for more gigs.

“We see live shows as a chance to experience music physically,” Nakayaan says. “I think ‘A Long Day’ has a few songs that will definitely get the crowd moving their bodies, too.”

“A Long Day” is in stores on June 8. Mitsume plays WWW in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, on June 8 and Shinsaibashi Live House Pangea in Osaka on June 9. Both shows start at 8 p.m. Tickets cost ¥2,500 in advance. For more information, visit www.mitsume.me.