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Interviewed by
Ben Coley
Monday 28th July, 2014 9:40AM

Twenty-one-year-old Marina Sakimoto records under the name Shunkan. She released her shoegaze inspired debut EP, Honey, Milk and Blood, back in May and quickly followed it up with last month’s synth inspired offering シュンカン I , which includes the fantastic track ‘Strawberry Hair’ and features remixes by Totems and TV Nicks. Marina was born in America, moved to New Zealand in February and is now based down in Invercargill. UnderTheRadar was curious to catch up with her, find out more about the EPs, being signed to UK-based DIY label Art Is Hard records and the reasons for her moving to Invercargill from LA. Here is what she had to say...

First things first, where did the name Shunkan come from?

Well my Dad is Japanese, and when I was growing up kids made fun of my name (Marina Sakimoto). They thought it was weird and that I was either Chinese or some kind of Asian. I really wanted a white name but as I got older I started to appreciate my heritage far more, and now I am completely enamoured in it. As for Shunkan it is Japanese for "moment", and hopefully I can stick to being in the moment.

You are originally from Los Angeles... can you tell me a little bit more about growing up there?

I grew up in a suburb called Santa Clarita which is north of Los Angeles. It's about as suburban California as it gets. The intro to the TV show Weeds was even filmed there, so that may give you an idea. I formed a band in high school called The Dining Dead and we played local shows at the Legion Hall or in Downtown L.A. The crowd consisted mostly of our friends, so it was a lot of fun. I started out with immense stage fright and anxiety, being in a band really helped build my confidence.

What is Legion Hall?

Legion Halls are these venues that are meant for veterans. They rent out the venues to whomever. It was the one place us kids could put on shows, they were mainly ska shows. One time we put on a show called ‘The Communist Party’ and the Legion Hall was not happy. Apparently, a parent from one of the high schools saw the flyer and called up and said, "What is this NAZI party going on at your venue?!" However, they were cool with us putting on the ‘Richard Nixon Birthday Bash’.

What were your reasons for moving to New Zealand, and why Invercargill?

I was going through a weird transitional phase in March of last year. I had gone through my first serious break up. I had also started drifting away from my friends and the band wasn't doing much, I felt pretty lost. One night I met someone on Omegle [video-based roulette chat site] and they introduced me to their friend from New Zealand, which happened to be Joseph, the guitarist in my band. We got talking and a few months later I was staying at his place in Invercargill and we started dating. I ended up staying for three months; I then went home and moved back in February this year. It sounds pretty ridiculous, and my friends thought I was seriously insane. I guess that's partly where 'Shunkan' comes from; I was just in the moment, went with my gut, and said "fuck it".

How do you find the music scene in Invercargill?

From what I've gathered most of the bands here are either metal, hardcore, or reggae. Apparently, there are people here who don't like us because we haven't played a show yet, they think because of that we're not really an "Invercargill band". That’s kind of bullshit because we live here, it's just hard to get a gig with our sound.

How do you think the music scene in New Zealand compares with L.A.?

I'm so happy that I'm here. To be honest I do really love the all-ages, dirty DIY art punk vibe that L.A. has, but bands are treated so much nicer in New Zealand and people actually get paid reasonably well, you also get treated as professionals. It's nice to feel respected. The community in New Zealand is also very tightly knit, it's incredible. Everyone helps everyone else out. Oh, and the government actually helps artists, that's unheard of in America!

I have read and seen a lot of different opinions and genres to describe your sound, how would you define the sound of your music?

At this point, I'm not sure! I don't think an artist has to create one sound to appeal to one group. I suppose it's a mix of shoegaze, indie rock, dream pop, and emo ... for now.

You completely wrote and recorded your first EP by yourself; can you tell me a bit more about your writing and recording process?

Yeah, I did. Apparently, that was surprising to some people. I've been playing guitar a lot longer than I've been singing so I've always considered myself a guitarist before anything else. At the time, I had just moved to New Zealand and was dealing with missing people and coping with shitty things that happened back at home. I was trying to leave it all behind and writing that EP helped a lot. I had nothing with me besides my laptop. Everything was recorded either directly into my computer or through the mic. All the instruments besides the guitar were MIDI, because that's all I had, and I really didn't think anyone would ever hear it, so I didn't care.

Honey Milk and Blood and your new EP シュンカン I have quite varying sounds, the latter being more synth and electronic based. Is there any reason for the change in style?

I had written 'Little Rat' and 'Sideway Sleepers', which are on シュンカン I, over a year ago. I would sometimes make these electronic-based pop songs and post them on my Soundcloud for no reason. It may have been because I had been jealous of my friends that made beats in L.A. or possibly that I wanted to indulge in pretending to be some pop artist in my head, I dunno, I guess It's just another side of the music I make. I also sometimes find it more enjoyable as I don't have to set anything up and can just tap away on my keyboard, it kind of feels like a game.

You worked with Steven from Doprah on the new EP, how did that come about?

We’re friends. I showed Steven the EP right when I had finished uploading it online and the first thing he said was, "Take it down, and let me mix this." and I was like, "Oh shit, cool, okay, uhhh, hold on!" and I'm glad I did.

The new EP is entitled シュンカン I , what does that mean?

It just means 'Shunkan One'. I want to make a series of EP’s featuring my solo electronic songs so that they're separated from my other releases, the next one will just be called 'Shunkan Two' and so forth. I'm not sure if I'll ever play those songs live, I prefer playing noisy guitar on stage.

Tell me about being signed to UK label Art Is Hard Records ... how and when did that come about?

Art Is Hard truly defines DIY. They work extremely hard and have been a wonderful support system. I had posted Honey, Milk and Blood on a shoegaze Facebook group and was like, "Hey, check out my EP". Someone ended up putting one of the songs on their local radio show in Ipswich. I messaged him asking if he knew any cool labels that he thought I might have a shot with. He recommended Art Is Hard, so I emailed them saying "If you never read this and don't reply, then that's cool, just thought I'd give it a shot." So I didn't expect them to reply, but they did right away. Again, it was a moment and if you just go with your gut sometimes and say "fuck it" things can happen that you really don’t expect.

How is Art Is Hard promoting your music?

They have released both my EPs on cassette, and they got me into NME right after the release of Honey, Milk and Blood. Just their presence alone has attracted a lot of attention. They know so many people!

You have already released two EP’s in quick succession. Are there plans to record more this year?

Yeah, the band and I have just finished recording a couple of singles with Steven in Dunedin. Hopefully we'll be recording the rest of the album within the next few months. It's going to be warm, noisy, poppy, feelsy, fun, sad and intense... I'm excited!

Shunkan plays as a four piece live, does your live sound differ much to the recordings?

Yes it does. I love being loud and noisy on stage. We've been told it can be intense and raw, like a punch to the chest and I'm definitely okay with that. If I had had the proper recording equipment, the first EP would've been like it is live, but I played the cards I was dealt.

What does the future have in store for Shunkan? Do you have any plans to tour?

We'll be recording, and we're going to be in Christchurch in September for a show or two. I'm also currently in talks about creating my next video. We'll probably tour after the album is released, just don't know where yet. I'm pretty much taking things day by day.


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