We had an opportunity to talk with several artists from Zoom Lens. Described as “humanity across the digital divide”, Zoom Lens is a collective of several musicians with a “digital punk rock spirit”. Although the label isn’t limited to a particular genre, they have been releasing emotive pop and electronic music with influences ranging from shoegaze to chiptune. Here we talk to Michal from The Bilinda Butchers, Pedro from Slime Girls, Garrett from Meishi Smile, Rob from Cyclops Rock, and Jami from Space Boyfriend.
Who are you are? Where are you from?
Michal: My name is Michal and I am from The Bilinda Butchers and I also run Zoom Lens alongside Meishi Smile. I live in San Francisco.
Pedro: My name is Pedro and I am Slime Girls. I live in a tiny nowhere-town in California called San Juan Bautista. There’s about 500 people here. Have you ever played a JRPG? Do you know the town your player starts in that has 3 buildings and has lived all their life? That’s where I live.
Meishi: I’m Meishi. I live on the Internet, and that’s where I met all of the people in this interview.
Rob: My name is Rob and I make music under Cyclops Rock. I’m from Los Angeles.
Jami: I’m Jami, Space Boyfriend, and I’m originally from Virginia Beach, but now in Los Angeles.
Do you have any favorite video games?
Michal: Animal Crossing, Final Fantasy VII-X. I agree with Pedro, this is a really difficult question to answer for nerdz. I think the Dreamcast and Gamecube were huge influences on me.
Pedro: Cave Story, Persona 4, Animal Crossing, Earthbound, and the Touhou series are all games very dear to me at this point in my life. This is really hard though, I feel like most of us are pretty similar in that the N64 era and many games that came out then are really important to all of us, and as such at least for me it’s hard to single out any ONE game from thenRob: Tetris, the original Half-life, Kirby, and Pokemon Snap.
Meishi: Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon. The soundtrack reminds me of a past life.
Rob: Tetris, the original Half-Life, Kirby, and Pokemon Snap.
Jami: The Earthbound/MOTHER series, Animal Crossing, and the Persona series as well. Same with Pedro on the sentiments of the N64/PSX era too; more than anything lately that era of gaming has affected me musically as well, with a lot of the lead sounds I want to create being very inspired by the sounds you would find in those games, such as Brave Fencer Musashi, Bomberman 64, or Wave Race 64.
List your favorite animated works?
Michal: Samurai Champloo, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Akira
Pedro: K-On as a whole is extremely important to me and some other favorites are the Macross series, Kino’s Journey, Haibane Renmei and Card Captor Sakura. The latter of which, looking back, was really important to my growth as a person and establishing my tastes and stuff. I feel like it goes without saying for people our age that Toonami was really important to us growing up too. Also I would like to go on internet record and state that Cartoon Network is totally killing it as of late, between Adventure Time, Regular Show and Steven Universe, like damn.Rob: South Park, Tom Goes to the Mayor, FLCL, Invader Zim, Intial D, Revolutionary Girl Utena
Meishi: I’ve watched Toradora about 6 times in the span of the past year.
Rob: South Park, Tom Goes to the Mayor, FLCL, Invader Zim, Initial D, Revolutionary Girl Utena
Jami: Eureka Seven is my favorite pretty-much-anything on the planet. Space Brothers, Kids on the Slope, Tsuritama, and Star Driver are also really important to me and how I want to express myself stylistically and thematically with my music.
Collaborations you would like to do / favorites you have done?
Michal: I’ve never really been a collaborative kind of musician but I forced myself to do it on The Bilinda Butchers new record. I can’t say who at this time but I got to work with one of my favorite bands ever. Literally musical heroes to me. I also started working on some stuff with my friend Justin of Craft Spells. We really understand and consume music on a similar level so its been interesting making music with someone so similar to myself. Of course I would love to collaborate with all of the ZL artists, make a record with each song being a collaboration with two artists and each track cycles the artists. A big project like that would be amazing.
Pedro: Yeah it’s kind of criminal that I haven’t really made music with these jerks and admittedly I haven’t made much music with others. But I want to collab with literally everyone in here so maybe in the future you’ll see something amazing. I’d really like to collaborate with TORIENA, a chiptune artist from Japan who makes incredible dance music, sorta combined with glitch. Some sort of far off into the future dream would be to collaborate with Nemu Yumemi, a personal idol of mine, or you know just all of でんぱ組.inc. That works too. Additionally, one of the initial goals with Slime Girls was that I wanted to collaborate with as many visual artists as possible, and that’s something I’m hoping to expand on in the future.
Meishi: I’d also like a lot of Zoom Lens to collaborate on a larger level as well. It’s usually hard for me to collaborate with others, but I’d like to make a full album with poro poro eventually. They collaborated with me under the name secret imouto on the song “Love Orchestra” on my Maltine release, that song is perfect to me. This Deep Well and I have sent each other some material as well.
Rob: Someday everyone on Zoom Lens will be in the same band and it will sound like Albatrosicks.
Jami: Making music with others is very difficult for me too, but something I would love to be better at. I would love to someday be able to work with artists like Koji Nakamura (Supercar, iLL, LAMA) and tofubeats, and I would also love to collaborate with more vocalists and produce songs for them. But for collaborations I’ve enjoyed the most: over this past summer, Rob, Pedro and I all spent an afternoon playing something we called “Telephone LSDJ”, where we would all spend a set time writing something with “Little Sound DJ”, what we use to make music on the Nintendo Gameboy, and then passing it to the next person in a circle, having them add something to it as well. It was really wonderful doing something like that in real time, and seeing what your friends would add to your ideas, and how you would be inspired by theirs as well. It was an incredibly warm experience.
What does Goof Troop mean to you?
Michal: Brotherhood Perfect
Pedro: Do you remember that scene in Cool Runnings when their sled breaks and everyone is really sad and then they pick up the sled and walk across the finish line and everyone is cheering and you’re watching it in gym class next to your friends and you dont want to cry but you kind of do a little bit because dang
Meishi: I’ve never read Homestuck, but it’s probably something similar to that.
Rob: If you can’t stand the goof, stay out of the troop.
Jami: Friendship that will save your life.
I heard you guys like to rip on memes pretty hard? Got any favorite one liners?
Pedro: Zoom Lens is my favorite NEDM label
Meishi: Analog Funk Rock Spirit.
Rob: Memeshi Smile
Jami: Fred Durst is the strongest meme.
What’s up with the Ultranimbus Zine Collective
Rob: They’re some people we know who put together these really great multimedia zines with art, music, and sometimes games. A bunch of Zoom Lens peeps (Meishi Smile, Slime Girls, Cyclops Rock, Augustus) recently contributed covers to their zine based around the music of Yasutaka Nakata and it came out super great. There was also a Game Boy zine that Slime Girls and Space Boyfriend both did music for. You can see more on the Ultranimbus website!
What does Scatman John mean to you?
Michal: Everybody connected
Pedro: move it in move it out
Meishi: Weeb dreams.
Jami: Scatman is my favorite J-pop idol, and the themes of eternal childhood expressed in his music legitimately move and inspire me.
What have you been working on recently? Any upcoming shows or releases?
Michal: Still just working on our first debut record Heaven. Been a really long process, about two years now. We are close, mixing next month. The record is based on a story I wrote alongside my best friend Michelle which we are still in the middle of writing. We just started practicing and have our first gig on the 15 of March, then more shows to follow.
Pedro: I’ve been working on a ton of projects for a while now and I’m hoping that most of them will get released super soon/this year and out into the world for everyone to hear. The two biggest things are a 2nd album that I don’t want to divulge too much about right now but rest assured that is coming, but work has been slower than I’d like to because of the second project. That being, OMORI: a psychological horror RPG by the phenomenal OMOcat. I’ll be doing the music, along with Jami, and I’m extremely excited about this project as it’s a dream come true. You can expect to hear more about that in the coming months.
Meishi: I’ve been working on another album that I plan to release with Maltine Records, which will have me accompanied by my new singer and will sound much more “pop” in nature. Alternatively I’m also working on more material similar to LUST by myself as well. I feel already that the material I’m currently working on is objectively more dark. I want to show a larger contrast between what I’m doing. I’m playing a Maltine Records event at Liquid Room in Japan during May, as well as a 2.5D x ZOOM LENS showcase. I’ll be playing Anime Expo again when I return as well. I promise to play some sort of Scatman John and nu-metal remixes.
Rob: Have been playing a few shows sporadically recently but mostly just working on the next album. In about a month I’ll also be starting to record an EP with my other band, Akira Flip.
Jami: Along with Pedro, a lot of creative time is spent working on music for OMORI, which has been incredibly fun and helpful for me as a musician as well. For future Space Boyfriend releases I wanted to add more variety in my sound, and I feel OMORI gives me such a wonderful opportunity not only to write music for a game that will be very special, but also to experiment with new sounds and textures that I can apply to later compositions for my own project. I will also be appearing on the previously mentioned 2.5D X ZOOM LENS showcase in Japan this May, which is not something I expected to ever be able to say.
When did you first start messing around with music/ recording music then wanted to make a conscious effort to take it more seriously?
Michal: My bandmate Adam introduced me to The Beatles when we were in middle school and then shortly after he taught me how to play guitar. Ever since then we wanted to make music together. We started listening to My Bloody Valentine after he moved out of state for a couple of years and when he came back we started The Bilinda Butchers. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that I wanted to do it for real and devote my time and efforts to this kind of art. It was a long and painful road. Not sure if I am happy yet.
Pedro: I’ll sort of go into this in more depth later but, after I saw a live show where Epoxies and The Phenomenauts played for the first time in highschool it blew up my world and I bought a synthesizer and a guitar after working a summer job (a MicroKorg and a red hollowbody Ibanez) in an attempt to sort of emulate what they were doing, but it wasn’t anything serious. I didn’t have anybody to play music with at all so it was just sort of me making bad recordings in my bedroom. That passion eventually matured years later and after working at a call center for a couple years and getting laid off I decided to actually do something about it. Chiptune had always appealed to me but it always seemed like something out of my grasp, something I couldn’t really make. Once I saw a documentary called “Reformat the Planet” I saw just how accessible it was and the idea that I could play music solo and not have to rely on anyone I was instantly sold. I mean, I ended up assembling a band anyway, but, that was a huge deciding factor in it. Things have just sort of progressed since then so I would say it’s only been in the last 3 years that I made a conscious decision to pursue music seriously.Rob: I started playing music in high school. I don’t think there was a point where I decided to take it “more” seriously for me, it was just something I loved immediately and became one of my biggest priorities pretty much from the start.
Meishi: I used to record music with Amir of Malta and other friends of mine when I was much younger. I always took music seriously, but then I eventually began Yuko Imada. Due to how personal that project was I finally began to see something that could be shaped entirely on my own, and that gave me a different sense of satisfaction.
Jami: Music was important to me being in vocal performing arts all through school, but I never got into making music of my own in any serious degree until I started Space Boyfriend in 2010. The fall of that year, I went to a chiptune show and saw Knife City perform. It was the first show I ever found myself capable of letting go of my inhibitions and enjoying fully and I will never forget it. I was incredibly inspired by the act of making such large music out of something so small and personally meaningful, too. I had never even heard of chiptune prior to that and I immediately bought an LSDJ cartridge of my own, and I finally felt capable of creating something robust with my own hands. It was a very special, empowering, and winding experience that lead me to where I am today.
Favorite dance move?
Michal: Cross your arms and look mad.
Pedro: badly resized 2002 xanga animated .gif of Lum synced to MIDI of Dragostea Din Tei
Meishi: a looped .gif of Master Roshi screaming coupled with Scatman John’s “Ichi, Ni, San, Go.”
Rob: Opp opp opp
Song that made you want to learn how to play music?
Michal: Cry Baby Cry by The Beatles
Pedro: “Synthesized” by Epoxies. I had never heard a synthesizer before in a context that was like “hey buddy this is a synthesizer” and this was just slightly before The Killers came out with “Somebody Told Me” and made synthesizers cool again so it was kind of a taboo thing, especially in a weird punk band. But I thought it was incredible and wanted to know what it was and so I did.
Meishi: The reason I picked up a guitar in the first place was because of KoRn. The dynamics of their guitar play still interests me to this day. As most may know, a lot of nu-metal bands used 7-string Ibanez guitars. This for some reason made my first musical purchase a 6-string Ibanez acoustic guitar.
Rob: Brainstorm by Beck/Mongolian Chop Squad
Jami: Back when I was far too young and hyperactive to commit to learning guitar, I was so inspired by “Bonzo Goes To Bitburg” by The Ramones, along with other songs by The Beatles and Pink Floyd and tried learning so many of their songs even though I still can’t really play anything today.
What’s up with City Pop?
Michal: I don’t know much about city pop except for the band Lamp, my musical heroes.
Pedro: City Pop has lately been a big inspiration for me as I feel like at it’s best/what City Pop I like, it’s music that channels the spirit of a glorified, often completely fictitious sort of ethereal summer. Which, in a different way is the same sort of feeling I try to put into some Slime Girls songs. I think overall there’s just something very evocative about the production and sounds used, which part of that for me is definitely something not unique to City Pop but late 70s-80s Japanese pop music in general, which I’ve been hugely inspired of the past couple years. There’s also that sort of post-realization that plenty of video game soundtracks and aesthetics you love owed something to City Pop. Like, would Outrun be the same game if City Pop didn’t exist? I’ve been trying to write a few songs that make me feel the like how I felt when I first heard “Ride on Time” by Tatsuro Yamashita. Apart from him though, there’s some songs here and there I love but the true masters of city pop for me are Piper.
Meishi: Tatsuro Yamashita is a huge jerk.
Rob: I don’t really actively listen to it but a lot of these jerks do.
Jami: As a person who has struggled with depression since a young age, I feel like I always found escape easily in the seasons. Spring and Summer in Virginia Beach were really beautiful times that I feel my mood followed, especially in early childhood, and that still continues today. City Pop has been described as the sound of an eternal summer, like Pedro mentioned as well, and Summer for me is a very hopeful time where I feel all of the emotions I’ve been longing for through the harsher months come to a head. I get that feeling listening to City Pop, no matter what time of year it is, and when I am at my lowest, that feeling is greatly appreciated and necessary for me. I have a great appreciation for the genre in this way, and am heavily inspired by the previously mentioned Tatsuro Yamashita as well as Piper, and I as well am chasing that feeling in my own music.
How did you start getting into punk rock? Any favorite songs?
I mentioned the Phenomenauts and the Epoxies previously, and that was basically my introduction to the punk scene in NorCal. It was just sort of a “one thing leads to another” situation and I started making my way up to San Francisco to go see punk shows at Bottom of the Hill or anywhere I could. I have alot of fond memories of terrible shows at Nickel City in San Jose as well. But as far as music went in highschool, the friends I made and the shows I went to were extremely important to me and I owe alot to Avi Ehrlich , founder of Springman Records/Silver Sprocket Bicycle Club, who without I don’t know if I would be doing what I am now. My 2 favorite punk bands are easily Bomb the Music Industry! (who is my favorite and most personally influential band of all time) and legendary Japanese punk band Ging Nang Boyz. My favorite Bomb song is probably “Everybody That You Love” and for Ging Nang Boyz it is without a doubt “あいどんわなだい”
What programs do you use for chip tune?
I use mainly LSDJ, but have been using Famitracker lately. I’ve been trying to branch out more and blend FM sounds from a Sega Genesis as well. Future Slime Girls music is gonna be interesting~
I heard you’re in a Ska Band?
Yeah actually myself and both of my backing band, Miguel and Mike are in a ska band Thee Joan Wylder, we play 1st and 2nd wave ska/rocksteady mixed with other influences. It’s a fun project and it keeps you on your toes as performing music is completely different than simply writing music digitially. I play Organ/Piano in the band. We also have a wedding band that is strictly covers that is also extremely fun. Because sometimes you just want to play top 40 and classic rock songs and that’s ok.
How did growing up in San Juan Bautista influence you?
Growing up in San Juan basically meant that as far as discovering and being exposed to cool things I had the internet and that was absolutely it. I had a few friends who lived here and town and that was nice growing up. There’s plenty I could say on the subject but I think just overall feeling different from everyone around you just sort of makes you withdraw into an internet hole and go deeper and deeper in ways, and I think most of us feel that way to different degrees which is one of the reasons we’re all friends and found each other, and why what we do musically resonates with us. It’s like how I mentioned N64 being so important to most of us, if we were out being well adjusted kids we wouldn’t have been in doors playing N64 alone and crying over anime we rented from Blockbuster that our parents probably shouldn’t have let us watch, and so now here we all are making music that reflects those experiences. Also, for more details, listen to “Small Town” by Kero Kero Bonito <3
Heard you shred pretty hard on tech decks, do you have any skate videos you get excited to watch?
Yeah I’m basically the Chad Muska of tech decks and yes I absolutely have a favorite skate video please watch it.
What was the idea behind doing a deluxe edition release for Tumbling Through? Any plans for a similar release for Crush Punk?
I wish there was a better story to it, but the original release was just sort of haphazard, something that I threw up on Bandcamp a few days after I was done with it. I also had recently started doing Cyclops Rock live and wanted to have some kind of merch, and the idea of CDs or just a tape or any kind of selling the album by itself didn’t appeal to me at the time. I like handmade/DIY goods so I thought a sort of “goodie bag” full of stuff I made and put together myself would be cool so people would be getting something extra with a personal touch in exchange for paying for a free album. For Crush Punk, I’m not sure yet!
Favorite memory of Frequency 3.0 in LA?
There are so many, each of my friends’ sets were special and important to me in their own ways. Cyclops Rock also played as a three piece for the first time so that was also very exciting and fun. I can’t choose, Frequency as a whole is a great experience every year.
How is Crush Punk going along? Any specific direction you’re going towards?
I’ve had a lot of it written for a while and I started recording right after Frequency. It’s been a crunch because I’m presenting four of the songs as my senior project for college in about a month but it’s coming along. Deadlines are nice in some ways. My references for this album are Beat Crusaders, Helen Love, and denpa music. There are other influences but mainly I want to make an electronic punk record with a “big dumb rock” sound.
Do you have a favorite representation of the cyclops in media or history?
I really like Homer’s Odyssey!
Favorite They Might Be Giants jam?
My default answer for this is usually Dr. Worm. Everything about that song is just unbeatable and the topic of my favorite TMBG songs and albums would take up a whole interview in itself.
I heard something about you being in a conducting class or being in school for music. Can you elaborate on that?
Yeah, I go to school for music and recording. Conducting was a class that I didn’t need for my specific degree but took because I needed some units and thought it would be a good thing to learn about. I’m glad that I understand the basics now, but it didn’t come naturally to me at all and was probably the hardest class I’ve ever taken in college. It was the source of a lot of stress, which ended up pouring out on Twitter very often that quarter!
The Bug Spray record just came out recently congrats!
Thank you so much!
In terms of the original, did you have an idea of how you wanted the album to come out or did you sort of let it develop gradually? Which song did you like the most and which one was the hardest to finish?
In terms of the original, I had a very set progression I wanted it to follow. At some point I even created a mixtape of songs that sort of inspired each track on the record, and tried to model the record after that. But I think over time, around mid-way through the creation of the record, some big life-changing things happened that definitely influenced the end result, and I feel gave it more of an earnest message. And I feel the same sort of happened with the rerelease, events in my life shaped it more into the record I needed it to be at the time of its release. In terms of the original, I think my favorite was “Ill Moonlight”, as it was one of the more honest and emotional works I had done to that point. It might have also been the hardest to finish for those reasons.
In terms of the redo, how did it feel like going back and changing parts of the record?
I was pretty scared of “losing the feeling” of the original since I was approaching such a personal and time-sensitive work, so for a while a lot of stress went into that attention to detail. However, as time went on, I instead realized that it was hard to capture the same feelings as something way more important, and I think that is where the meaning of the (never give up) rerelease comes from, in reflecting on those older feelings and feeling as if you have new perspective on them, for better or for worse.
Compare the feeling you get from listening to the original vs the revisited version of Bug Spray?
I can’t even listen to the original version anymore! Not only because it is mixed and mastered like garbage, but I was at a very tender and vulnerable place when I wrote that record, which makes it hard to go back to. I think that is what makes that original version really powerful and important though, and I am glad it exists. I still have a lot of anxiousness about listening to (never give up) as well, but I feel far more confident in myself and what I did; with a feeling of full ownership and pride over the execution and content of it as a project.
How did you come up with the Space Boyfriend drawing and do people ever send you fan emails of their own drawings of Space Boyfriend?
The “Space Boyfriend” character came out in a silly way, having had a dream about meeting an old partner’s parents referring to me as their “space boyfriend” because they didn’t know anything about the internet and that is how they referred to us being in a long distance relationship. The goofiness of that aside, I thought the term “space boyfriend” was so cool, that I made the original design that morning. I was doing internet radio at the time and I expressed desire to do a silly radio play for him, even before he became the identity of my music project, so I think I’ve always gotten art made of the character by friends, and now I post fanart that people give me directly to my tumblr. It’s really cute and wonderful that people like the character enough to do that, I have a lot of gratitude for it.
I heard you’re pretty big fan of Gundam Wing?
Man, have you watched it recently? Gundam Wing is the dumbest thing on Earth. I absolutely love it.
Jokes aside, Gundam Wing is really special to me, mecha anime in general. I’m not much one to enjoy war stories at all, but the idea of mecha as a vehicle for you and your beliefs and as a very powerful external shell for how fragile you are at your core really resonates with me. It’s a hyper-fantastical extension of Yumemi Nemu’s statement on wearing oversized clothes, “I like clothes that protect me from foes”, and for me, the idea of mobile suits, Gundams, or any mecha empowers me in a very specific way that I appreciate a lot as a person who feels like they may want to feel powerful and protected from the real world sometimes. I skateboard in real life because the mecha in “Eureka Seven” fly around on giant air-boards, and skating helps me exert some of that hope and excitement I get imagining piloting my own mobile suit. I think the element of fantasy I appreciate from mecha anime plays a lot into my music as well, with the overall sense of excitement, grandeur, and motion that I try to portray in my arrangement, and a lot in the feelings of hope and inspiration I yearn for and try to communicate through the project.
How was the experience of moving from VA to LA?
At first it was pretty terrifying and in ways it still is, because when you do something like that without much experience of moving away from a place you’ve called home forever, you don’t quite realize that you’re leaving behind a lot of very simple and aesthetic things that you have for all your life relied on for comfort. I’m still trying to establish that here, but I think that the friends I’ve made this past year, with ZOOM LENS and otherwise, and what we have inspired in each other, has shown me what the most important feelings in life are for me.
Michal (far right) of The Bilinda Butchers
I read somewhere that videos games and movies are your biggest influences outside of music? If you had to record a soundtrack for a film what kind of film would it be? And are there any other video game soundtracks that you really like other than Animal Crossing?
Our new record Heaven is set to a story that we wrote ourselves set in the Edo period in Japan. Two young lovers try to escape the fate set before them but are unable to. The young man is killed in a war and the woman mourns his death. She decides to kill herself to be with him in the afterlife again. All of our full length records will be like this, and I think ideally if we scored a movie it would either be something very dramatic and sad or a gang type movie set in the future.
I only really listen to soundtracks these days, or compilations which I don’t pay attention to the artists. Recently I’ve been listening to the Final Fantasy X soundtrack a ton and the Fallen Skies comp compiled by Bob42jh.
For Heaven, is the writing process still similar as to where you and Adam write separately or did you change it up?
This was the most we’ve ever collaborated with songwriting but it still wasn’t too much. You can really tell which are my songs and which are his. But we did work out a lot of the songs vibes together. Ryan(our new official drummer), Adam and I on the other hand collaborated a lot on writing the drum parts and making the songs a lot more dynamic. But for this record I think we reached out to more people outside of the band to help with stuff than internally haha. There are a few interesting features on this record.
You covered Rocketship on The Lovers’ Suicide single, what sort of influence does Rocketship play into your recordings?
Adam is a huge Slumberland Records fan(he actually works there now haha) and has always had a profound love for Rocketship, which is a Slumberland Records band. Adam has always been drawn to indie pop and twee, a little more so than I have but we have a mutual love for how Rocketship made really perfect pop songs. We talked about doing a cover a while before that single came out and we only really like to do covers or remixes of either bands that are pretty unknown or something that we feel we can make completely different.
You feature mix tapes on your website, how does one of your mixes usually develop? Do you have a personal favorite?
I always loved finding out what my favorite artists were listening to so mixtapes are a way for people to understand each of the characters in The Bilinda Butchers better. Each mixture is curated by either Adam, Ryan or myself. We all have very different tastes and somehow who would like to understand where our sound comes from and how we craft it can sort of make a clearer picture from these mixes.
I don’t really have any specific way of starting a mixtape other than it either being sort of upbeat or slow and sad. Ryan is more of a DJ so he puts a lot of time and effort into his mixes. I just did a mixtape recently for TheSeaSick which had an accompanying list of reasons to why each song was picked.
You’re a pretty big RnB fan? Do you have any favorite RnB records?
I’m actually not a huge fan of RnB directly but more so of Smooth Jazz. My dad and I used to listen to Smooth Jazz a lot in the car when I was growing up. Im definitely not an aficionado when it comes to Smooth Jazz artists though, it was only the tone and vibe that struck a chord with me.
How did you end up collaborating with Orchid Tapes?
I used to know Brian Vu awhile back, but we openly weren’t that fond of each other back then. Eventually we became friends and through him I met Warren of Foxes in Fiction. We’ve had some good times together and have a mutual respect for what each of us do.
Orchid Tapes is an interesting label to be apart of. In the past few years or so they’ve really developed a specific sort of sound, something that I feel like my music normally wouldn’t fit into. However, my last piece for the label, a song entitled “Us” off of their Angeltown compilation sort of made me believe that I took form with the label’s current aesthetics. I’m contributing an ambient piece to their upcoming compilation in March, and I think with Orchid Tapes I’d like to explore that side of my music a lot more. I don’t want Meishi to just be “one thing” in concerns with genre and influence.
Zoom Lens has been putting out a bunch of awesome releases. Can you talk about how it got together and the learning process of running your own label?
I had started Zoom Lens due to my involvement with the noise scene at the time. A lot of people had their own DIY CD-R and Cassette labels. I felt like my aesthetics and mindset were different from a lot of people in that scene, so I wanted to be able to brand myself and put out releases by my own means. Kyle (currently of Uio Loi) was the first person to be apart of my label. He originally had this black metal project called Marsh, and it was one of the few black metal projects I ever enjoyed. He had the same sort of sentiment towards Yuko Imada and harsh noise. Things sort of clicked with us and we started working together. I’ve also know Amir from Malta and Sean of Thought Tempo since the beginning of Zoom Lens.
The learning process has been one of failures and friendships. You need both of those to keep going. Everyone on the label helps each other and keeps Zoom Lens pushing forward.
How was the online release party for LUST and what was your favorite part of the event?
Meishi: I’m very grateful for SPF420’s continued support. They’ve given me a place to express a lot of ideas I wouldn’t be able to test elsewhere, and they’re always warm to what I do. My favorite part of the event was just that I could help throw something together that involved so many musicians I admired and people I respected. The idea of online venues are extremely important with where music is headed. Personally, I’ve probably seen more shows online than in real life the past year. Shows in real life frighten me. I don’t like to go to them often anymore.
Describe your transition from Yuko Imada’s harsh noise and ambient style to the dreamy, poppy sound of Meishi Smile?
Meishi: I think there are a lot of similarities in both Yuko and Meishi still. For example, the song “TEARS” is very much a Yuko track in nature, especially so in live performance. Many may say that noise and pop are on opposite sides of the spectrum. I don’t think they are. The way I parallel idol pop with Zoom Lens and the way it is present in such modern J-Pop groups such as BiS is very similar to the aesthetics of many noise artists. One may debate that it’s fabrication in some sense, but I think to create an image and aesthetic is important in terms of giving something much more tangible to the listener in terms of connection. I think Meishi and Zoom Lens is self-aware of that too, in a sense both tongue-in-cheek and serious as well. I tag a lot of things with Zoom Lens as “propaganda” and I purposely create “graffiti” stickers to play into that idea that an agenda is being pushed, so to speak. So I think there wasn’t much as much of a transition as there was simply being able to articulate this other side of myself. Yuko Imada isn’t a project anymore, but that’s okay because Meishi Smile will carry elements of that still.
How did you get into J-Pop and Anime Culture?
Amir from Malta exposed me to FLCL, and we used to listen to Dir en grey religiously together. Still sort of do. I shoved Marilyn Manson’s guitar at a Dir en grey show last year.
Saw you rocking the Korn jersey and just wanted to ask you which Korn songs were you favorite?
I’m glad you noticed! My favorite song is probably “Good God,” although songs like “Daddy” handle extremely real and delicate subjects, despite that most will joke about the sentiment behind nu-metal in general. I think such unfiltered emotions are important to express in music. Everyone gets angry time to time, and I feel like society often pushes us in the direction that anger in general is to be frowned upon or joked about. There is an extent to which one should act rationally towards themselves and others of course, but I think placing that in the context of music can be a safe form of self-expression.
Any future plans or releases for Zoom Lens we should look forward to?
Michal: I am really proud of something I got together for Zoom Lens that will be coming out in May. I think it’ll be Zoom Lens’ biggest release to date. We are really proud and excited, but sorry can’t say anything yet!
Meishi: Same. They’re one of my dream groups to release. I’m grateful for everyone on Zoom Lens and no artist is less than another, but it always makes me excited to further our reach. They’ll be apart of the aforementioned 2.5D x Zoom Lens show. Aside from that, we’re going to keep pumping out releases from artists old and new. Hopefully get more compilations out and more “collective” type things.
Rob: My album Crush Punk will come out! Sometime around the middle of this year!
Pedro: We’ll be releasing a 7” single SOON (ish [one day]) and hopefully a bunch of other cool stuff I can’t talk about yet.