the AU interview: Andrew Knox of Made in Japan (Sydney)

We catch up with Andrew Knox from Sydney band – and good friends of the AU – Made in Japan to talk about their UK adventures earlier this year, their new music, their upcoming shows in Sydney and Melbourne and much more!

…you recently took on the streets of London – How did you find the London music scene compared to what Sydney has to offer?

It’s kind of like Sydney to the power of three, just taking a look at the weekly gig listings is an overwhelming experience. There’ll be 15 gigs on a monday and a handful will most likely be world class acts! Unfortunately we were pretty focused on our own performance while we were over there with plenty of rehearsals in the lead up to the Great Escape shows so we didn’t get to take full advantage of it but it was an exciting atmosphere to be part of.

Tell us about your experiences playing The Great Escape earlier this year? How did the shows go?

Unbelievably well, we had very modest expectations, we’ve played interstate shows where you end up knowing most of the audience by name by the end of the night so being on the other side of the globe had us a little worried. But luckily our first show at lunch time on day one of the festival was an almost full room! I think the Great Escape attracts a particularly avid music audience, the kind that spend long nights sidebar surfing on youtube, you could see people singing along to some of our tracks which was a little bit surreal, the internet huh. Our second performance was just as exciting although it felt more like a house party than anything else, we got a little bit excited that day so by the time we played we were feeling pretty relaxed and I think it rubbed off on the crowd. All in all it was an amazing experience playing alongside bands like Beach Fossils and King Krule and we managed to capture a lot of the moments in a little music video we’ll be releasing in the coming weeks.

Any particular stand out moments from the week? From your shows or anything else you saw?

Beach Fossils and Unknown Mortal Orchestra were mind blowing. We weren’t expecting the Beach Fossils gig to be quite as energetic come dangerous as it was given a lot of their recorded material has a relaxed nonchalant vibe but one guy got knocked out and many others scraped off the floor, the singer handled it like a pro and carried on with what was a really memorable gig. And UMO are really inspiring musicians and performers, there’s reason they are where they are now, that gig had a big impact on us all.

You have a strong presence on social media – Do you feel that it is important to remain connected with your fans?

Definitely, I think we’ve got a long way to go with that side of things though to be honest, you see a lot of bands really engaging their vans via facebook and promoting themselves really well but we struggle with it a little bit mainly because we’re wary of coming across as arrogant or salesy. We get fantastic support from our fans online so we’ve been making an effort to keep them updated and stimulated. Interestingly after Sydney most of our online fans are in Bangkok so that could be our next tour destination!

Do you feel that it will be important to sign up to a label or get a manager, locally/internationally etc.

I think it would definitely help, there’s only so much you can achieve being independent and self managed. It’s very satisfying knowing that we’ve done it all on our own with a converted granny flat studio and a lap-top but it’s also very taxing and puts a lot of strain on the band at times. After doing it this long we’re well aware of the limitations of our approach so if the right people came to the table we’d be all ears.

What is a day in the studio like for Made in Japan – in particular when putting together Tame All Those Thoughts!

It was more like a series of evenings, we wrote the material over a period of 6 months or so and when it came to recording we borrowed a handful of top notch mics (thanks Rode Australia!) and recorded the whole thing over the course of a week. We went for two tracks a night so it was a pretty smooth process compared to Sights and Sounds which we did in two days. Just like the first one we recorded all the instrumentals live rather than tracking separately which gives the whole thing more of an organic feel rather than some of the beat-mapped robotic stuff coming out of big studios. There were some beautiful moments along the way like the terrential rain during Inbetween Fixes which we decided to sample during the bridge. Now that we’ve gone through the recording process on our own it’ll be hard to go back, that said we’d like to have Woody Annison on board to produce the next one, his brutally honest opinion helps keep us from wandering off into space.

How do you feel the record compares to your debut?

I think it’s far more cohesive and representative of how we want to sound as a band. The material from the first album was written over a period of 2-3 years and while it was a polished body of work it was a lot safer than Tame All Those Thoughts, this time we had more of an if it feels good do it approach, I guess that’s how we ended up with two instrumentals, a crawling ballad and an 8 and a half minute epic. I think the definitive theme of the album is groove, there was a lot of head nodding and shut eyes while recording this one, this is probably best encapsulated in Hibiscus which isn’t necessarily a crowd pleaser but certainly one of the band favourites. We experimented with different percussive elements and kept retracking until we felt that we had all locked in to one another properly. I have a feeling we’re going to follow this groove theme for number three, stay tuned.

What do you hope people take away from the release?

I hope they find it thought provoking and uplifting, while theres some sombre moods I think there’s a lot of euphoria in this one and I hope people are able to get lost in these lush soundscapes, you know that feeling you get when you realise you’ve been getting a bit carried away with your headphones on in public? I hope they get that.

You’ve got a couple of album release shows coming up – what can we expect from the shows? Are you looking forward to them?

You can expect a totally immersive musical experience, we’ve enlisted the help of our friend Mark Piccles to add keys and additional percussion to the performance so it’s going to be a big atmosphere. I hope we can walk away knowing that we gave at least a handful of people chills. We’re in fine form at the moment and have been holding off on playing to make sure we’re chaffing at the bit when the night finally rolls around. Based on the last album launch shows I think it’s going to be a memorable for everyone involved.

You have been described as a band that does not fall under a specific genre. How do you feel with this statement and do you agree with it?Context – Triple J – Determined to create captivating groove based indie music, Made in Japan find themselves in a lonely space somewhere between dream pop, post-rock and the pastel Sydney skyline.

Definitely, I think that sums it up nicely, we’re not actively trying to avoid being locked into a genre it just hasn’t happened, between us we have a really wide range of influences and they all come through in our music. I guess our internal Cheeseometer keeps us from producing predictable material and that plays a role in keeping us just outside any one specific genre. At the end of the day the differences between genres are often close to the differences within so the classifications aren’t particularly useful. What ever you think it is then that’s what it is.

After your shows later this month, what’s next for you?

Demoing material for the next album, we’ve got a handful of tracks on the go now and it’s looking very promising, something of a tangent but still very Made in Japan. I think we’ll be a little more transparent with this one and give our fans more to keep them interested between albums. We’d love to do another overseas tour sometime soon but at this point it’s not viable, unless of course Glastonbury were to drop us a line….


Made in Japan will launch Tame All Those Thoughts with shows in Sydney and Melbourne supported by Melbourne-based indie up-and-comers Neighbourhood Youth. Dates are as follows:

21 November – Grace Darling Hotel – Melbourne
30 November – Oxford Art Factory – Sydney

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.