Spellbound By Guitarist Shugo Tokumaru



  • Host: John Richards
  • Engineer: Andrea Monorchio
Shugo Tokumaru (300)

Shugo Tokumaru. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of the artist

After taking one listen to Shugo Tokumaru's Exit, I couldn't wait to check out his live show. After a little research, I found out that he was not only playing in New York City, but also working with members of Beirut and The National. We've had both groups perform live on KEXP many times, so we're very familiar with them and how talented they are live. So we reached out, and while everyone was receptive to playing in studio, they wanted to let us know that 1) they had only been playing together for a week or two; 2) this would be their first in-studio together; and 3) Tokumaru doesn't speak very much English. That all sounded just fine to me.

Coming up to the performance space and finding two drum sets, strings, a guitar and assorted other instruments, I could see that there was about to be some serious creativity happening in this room. Tokumaru's manager served as a translator, and the band seemed really happy to be playing together.

In performance, Tokumaru's Beach Boys-influenced experimental pop was spellbinding. With just a few rehearsals under its belt, the band worked through five songs, all of which sounded fresh, entertaining and just... different. At the end of the performance, the band stopped playing while Tokumaru performed an instrumental, "Wedding," on his guitar alone. What struck me was not only how well he played or how haunting the song was, but also how the other four musicians, talented in their own right, watched him in awe. If they thought he was that good, then, yeah, he was that good.

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