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19 June 2017

INTERVIEW: Iris of taffy.

This year’s full-length from noisy Japanese guitar-pop quartet taffy is called Nyctophilia. The word means love of darkness, or of night. Many artists and musicians love the night and feel they do their best creative work in the wee hours. And for those of us deeply passionate about music, night life—as the context for so much of live music—is a setting for discovering exciting new sounds and for transcendent performances we’ll never forget. So nyctophilia is a sentiment many WTSH readers can no doubt connect with, and Nyctophilia an album they’ll very much appreciate.

The title of taffy’s immediately preceding release offers a similar nocturnal allusion. The wonderful coined titular word for this 2015 EP, Darkle, immediately suggests the sparkle—or the allure—of the dark. It brings to mind things that sparkle in the dark, like stars, fireflies, and ordinary objects silvered into mystery by moonlight.

Such iridescence is amply present in the sparkling sound of Nyctophilia, one of the most exciting records of 2017 so far. The first track, “RunicWade,” opens with complex rhythms, an intricate guitar ostinato, and a concisely angular bass pronouncement, elements that almost seem like they could be signaling the commencement of a prog epic. Then Iris’s clear, simple vocal line begins, providing a perfect contrast to the complexity behind it, deftly taking command of the strange groove for purposes of pop. The defining combination that makes this album such an enjoyable and often surprising ride has been established: Iris’s straightforward, inspired pop melodies, delivered with simple ease and grace, in partnership with the surging, luxurious, complex noise of the band’s sound.

Taffy’s history stretches back into 2011; the band played live in London in December of that year. Debut single “SO LONG”/”in the fields i lay” was released in February of 2012, followed by debut full-length Caramel Sunset in May. The following year saw the release of two singles and an LP called Lixiviate. A collection of B-sides and early material called taffy plus+++ came out in 2014, while 2015 brought us the Darkle EP, featuring a remix of “Young Tines” by The Brain Jonestown Massacre that we posted here. The project’s label home has long been London’s wonderful Club AC30, which has released material by a number of bands celebrated in this space including Flyying Colours, Pinkshinyultrablast, Ringo Deathstarr, and Exit Calm. The present lineup features Iris on vocal and guitar, Asano on lead guitar, Ken on Drums, and Takeshi on bass. The members prefer not to capitalize the band name, and we have followed suit here.

We’re very excited to feature the following conversation with Iris, who, in addition to her vocal and guitar duties, writes all the songs for the project. Many thanks to manager Hiroaki Hayashi for arranging this interview.

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How and when was the band formed?
I gathered my friends who might be interested in playing the songs I write. Many people have come and gone and I can't quite remember when this journey began...

Can you tell us what the band has been working on and what you've got forthcoming in the near future (new releases, tour, etc.)?
We have just released our latest new album, Nyctophilia, and are now getting ready for the upcoming UK tour in July.

Do you consider your music to be part of the current shoegaze/dream pop scene, or any scene? Defining one's sound by genre can be tiresome, but do you feel that the band identifies closely with any genre? How do you feel about genres in music, in a general sense?
A lot of people call us shoegaze, grunge-gaze, dream pop, psychedelic pop, etc., but I don't really mind what genre we are called. I think it's all up to the listeners however they take it. We're only playing and making whatever sounds suit us at the moment, not intending to categorize anything, so…what comes out from us is the taffy sound. We have bits of this and that in our sound but the bottom line is, I like to put melodic song along with it.

In general, it might be better and easier to understand if your band can be categorized in a certain genre, but personally, I am proud that taffy can't quite be categorized because, in a way, it means that we are doing our original sound, the taffy sound.

What do you think of modern shoegaze/dream pop/psychedelia artists, any favorites?
As long as they have good melodies, melodic lines that make me want to sing, I like them. There are so many nice bands and music that’re hard not to like.

"I'm sure everything I have listened to, even the noises and sounds of everyday life, have influenced my music."

What is the most important piece of gear for your sound? Any particular guitars/pedals/amps that you prefer?
Something to create distortion so that the sound is not too clear, but clear enough to flow. If there are any pedals for that and two guitars, a bass guitar, and a drum set, we can pretty much make the taffy sound.

There was this one time that we arrived at a venue in Manchester without any of our gear—I mean none, nothing!—and we borrowed everything mentioned above and still were able to do a show just like we always do. That was quite an experience, and taught that it's all about the people who make the band sound, not the instruments.

What is your process for recording your music? What gear and/or software do you use? What would you recommend for others?
Not sure about how others record, but we record all together at once, then add some layers of guitars. It's quite simple. And we use any equipment that’s there at the studio and see what sound comes out. Kind of an experiment every time. One time I recorded with a guitar that someone forgot and left behind. It sounded pretty nice actually. I recommend not to get too caught up trying to record perfectly.

How do you feel about the state of the music industry today? There is no doubt a massive change underway. How do you see it and do you feel it’s positive at all?
Yes, with YouTube, Spotify, the internet…it's time to reset our minds as everything new has just begun. With so much entertaining stuff, I feel people are in less need of music.
But on the other hand, music can be spread around the world and I think that's something very good.

Do you prefer vinyl, CD, cassette tape or mp3 format when listening to music? Do you have any strong feelings toward any of them?
Mmm…vinyl is something special, like the little noises, and I love the way it looks. It’s like a book with nice cover or like pictures you can display. Vinyl records are more than just music. Other formats are maybe handy to play. I myself listen through my iPhone but if allowed, it would be a little luxury just to sit around listening to vinyl.

What artists (musicians or otherwise) have most influenced your work?
Actually, I try not to listen too much to other works because I don't want to get too influenced. But I'm sure everything I have listened to, even the noises and sounds of everyday life, have influenced my music.

Can you tell us a little about what you are currently into (books, films, art, bands, etc.)?
Personally I'm into finding a place that suits me, maybe a place that's forever autumn...

If you had to choose one track that was the ultimate definition of your sound, which would it be and why?

Luminous Ride.” [Nyctophilia’s closing track—ed.] It's my funeral song.

Can you tell us a little about the band’s song writing process?
I write a basic outline with just me and a guitar. Then I pass on my image and the sounds, what kind of sounds I want, to the other members and then we build up together.

What is your philosophy (on life), if any, that you live by?
Today can fade away so surround myself with what makes me happy.