Video-chatting with Los Angeles resident Shinya Mizoguchi toward the tail end of a particularly testing Tokyo winter, it's hard not to feel a twinge of jealousy. I deliberately avoid defaulting to my typically British weather-related opening gambit of small talk, but it's not long before the topic is inevitably breached. "What's the best thing about living in LA? Besides music? The weather, for sure," Mizoguchi says with a grin. I smile back, hoping he won't notice as I reach for another layer of Heattech to wrap around me.

Of course, it was always going to come up. Mizoguchi's music, which he produces under the alias starRo, is tailor-made for the beach. Sun-kissed synth melodies bounce off playful, jazzy percussion, often with a generous helping of soulful R&B vocals — either sampled from 1990s genre classics from the likes of Aaliyah and Brandy, or original interpretations by collaborators including up-and-coming singer-songwriter Iman Europe.

"I thought you have to live in a tough environment to be artistic, but now I kind of doubt that," Mizoguchi says. In fact, his experiences would suggest that just the opposite is true. Before relocating to LA seven years ago, Mizoguchi was a typical Tokyo salaryman, struggling to balance his work life with hobbies such as music.