NAME: Fujiya & Miyagi
PROGRESS REPORT: Prepping their fourth album, Ventriloquizzing, for release January 2011 via Yep Roc.
Fujiya & Miyagi vocalist David Best speaks in a thoughtful, too-quiet voice. That’s hardly surprising, given the hushed delivery of his vocal performances. In Fujiya & Miyagi songs, everything is treated like a curious object, each rhythm change or object or body part mentioned in the lyrics given discreet attention. But that kind of consistency and perfection wasn’t working for them anymore, Best says.
So for their fourth album the band made some important changes. The biggest? Recording with producer Thom Monahan, best known for working with Vetiver, Devendra Banhart, and Lavender Diamond. Best says they got in contact with the producer after touring with Au Revoir Simone, who had also worked with Monahan. From there they bonded over a mutual love of Suicide and Silver Apples. And F&M’s Steve Lewis bonded with Monohan’s collection of synthesizers. “I think we all thought that Lightbulbs wasn’t enough of a step up or a difference from Transparent Things. And we wanted to add more layers, and perhaps someone else’s opinion.” Best says. “We all went in with an open mind. In retrospect, we weren’t that happy with the last records, and we wanted to get better. And also, I suppose, to not be indebted to our influences as much, which is quite important. When anyone mentions us, our names, our band, who know us, they’ll always mention that we liked German bands from the ’70s, which is fine, because we do.”
The changes, like many other aspects of F&M, are subtle. They focused more on live drummer, Lee Adams. The band added more layers to their usually-sparse songs, and they avoided their tendency to jump right into the vocals. Instead Best had in mind Roxy Music’s long buildups and outros. Fugiya & Miyagi will never be “a pour-your-heart-out kind of band,” but from some of the songs he describes, their subject matter has expanded. Take one called “Minestrone.” It’s half-based on a local Brighton fable that says if you go to Chanctonbury Ring and run backwards around the ring of trees seven times at midnight, the devil will appear to you. And offer you soup. “So we updated it,” Best explains. “So he’s got a thermos and he offers you soup, and then you drink it and he’s got an anorak on, and he drives a really old, seventies English car. It doesn’t sound great when I explain it, but I’m really pleased with it. And the music’s kind of trying to be like a Miles Davis kind of seventies crazy thing, but it still very much sounds like us.” That represents the most out-there track on the record. In slightly different form, the other songs could have worked on their previous albums. The first track they’ve released from the album, “Sixteen Shade Of Black and Blue,” is, Best says, indicative of tone of the record: “It’s not depressing, but it’s definitely got a darker feel to it. It’s not just talking about ice cream, basically.” (You could argue that the older song he’s referencing there, “Knickerbocker,” juxtaposed ice cream and a celebrity who died from anorexia. Pretty dark stuff, too.)
Though the release date is now in January, the band didn’t know for a while when Ventriloquizzing would come out. Both Lewis and Best are expecting babies next month, which makes touring and promoting harder to plan for. Though they seem to be quite good at planning: their babies are due a week apart. “It wasn’t planned!” Best explains. “Well, it was planned to have the babies, but it wasn’t planned that we’d sync them up. We weren’t on the phone going, ‘Right. You ready? Go!’“
Album’s due in January, the first listen is up today:
Fujiya And Miyagi – “Sixteen Shade Of Black And Blue”