Yuji Kumagai, Cashew Chemists Interview: Intimate, Loud, Rock 'n' Roll

Wednesday, December 24, 2014 , 0 Comments

Yuji Kumagai, Cashew Chemists Interview: Intimate, Loud, Rock 'n' Roll

Singer-Songwriter Yuji Kumagai shares about Cashew Chemists

Despite having performed in large indie music festivals, Baybeats and IGNITE!, participating in several huge music scenes in Australia, Indonesia, and Malaysia, receiving frontline publications in Juice, and Straight Times, and getting nominated for MYCA Rock and Roll Rumble, Cashew Chemists vocalist Yuji Kumagai still has the unmistakable air of someone who woke up with a slight hangover.



I’ve gotten to know Yuji thru a fortuitous event, and he’s one of the few I know in Singapore who has this palpable depth and insight - it’s practically contagious. And having achieved an interesting life story in just a quarter of a century, you may think Yuji is like the rest of Singapore’s typecast that the rest of the world know of. But, that’s far from the truth. 



He’s laid-back as a communal couch, and humble as an Akita mutt. He can also play musical instruments like a boss. He’s into traveling around Europe, in as much as he’s into getting to know more about his Japanese heritage. He’s in-tuned with what the world needs and what it could be through rock and roll music.



From a school studio, where we used to hang, to sitting in a coffee shop, and later on, ending up to be a full-length written interview --- Yuji shares about Cashew Chemists and life in Singapore from his genre.

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For those people who have never heard your music, how do you explain or describe your sound?
Yuji: The sound of the Cashew Chemists take influences from the old school deep southern delta blues of Robert Johnson, the early rock 'n' roll jumps and jives of the American 50's, to the pop melodies of the Beatles and the British Invasion in the 60's, and recently, we've been experimenting with the psychedelic sounds of the 70's. We take all these melodies, riffs, songs and lyrics we love so much from these eras and propel them into the future we live in today, while maintaining a sense of longing for the sepia-toned love of the past. 

What kind of image do you think your music conveys?
Yuji: In an old cadillac with the top down, chasing the sunset down a dusty desert highway, rock 'n' roll music playing on the stereo, sunglasses on and your lover beside you - enjoying life as it speeds past everyone else, and then ending the day at the beach, parked right in front of a swing band playing jazzy tunes as the beautiful people around you are loving life one day at a time. 


Yuji Kumagai, Cashew Chemists Interview: Intimate, Loud, Rock 'n' Roll

Where do you draw inspiration from when you write songs, and what’s your favorite part about the process? 
Yuji: We draw inspiration from everything that happens around us and the things we like. Usually it's me and Brian (lead guitarist) who writes the songs. We share our demos back and forth, and 90% of the time we come up with the melodies and lyrics. Brian writes the really catchy melodies while I concentrate on writing memorable lyrics. It's usually about love - falling in and out of it, and everything else in between. But recently, Elliot (bassist) and Zachary (Drummer) have been hard at work writing some really amazing songs and we can't wait to start work on those.  




What life experiences have influenced your songs the most? 
Yuji: All our love lives and how we've lived in a tiny country called Singapore, with its globalized economy and culture. We take western melodies and transpose it back to an asian perspective of life in general. We love how we grew up here, but we have always individually had a sense of longing to experience life outside of our small little island, and writing music gives us that form of catharsis in some way. 

How do you describe your show, visual, and musically?
Yuji: Visually, we're not quite there yet in terms of a properly rehearsed stage act. We can't spend millions on a light show yet... We used to dress up in the same outfits together while performing, but we kind of outgrew that. And now we're just looking to revamp our style and music for our debut album. Musically, we strive to give the audience the best-sounding performance ever. We have to do these melodies we write justice, so that the crowd feels the same sense of love and longing we do to when we play our music on our side of the stage.


Yuji Kumagai, Cashew Chemists Interview: Intimate, Loud, Rock 'n' Roll

What's the funniest thing that happened while you were onstage?
Yuji: There was this one time in one of our small shows we DIY-ed at the Blu Jaz Cafe. It was our 3rd year running that show and we had one too many drinks collectively - but Brian (lead guitarist) was completely spaced out by the time we got on stage to play as the ender for the nigh. We improvised so many of our songs it felt like stand-up comedy. And when I looked at Brian with those drunken eyes, I couldn't help but laugh. None of us got angry because the crowd was so crazy and everyone was just having a good time. That's the kind of shows we like to play. Intimate, loud, and complete rock 'n' roll.  

What tracks do the band most enjoy performing live and why?
Yuji: We enjoy playing "Not in love" (from the EP) and another song called "Mountains" (unreleased). These two songs give off the best vibes when we play them. I have no idea why. Maybe you just have to come to our shows and see for yourself!!



What’s your favorite thing to do when you aren’t writing/playing music?
Yuji: I still skateboard, even at 25. I read books about love & travel, whip up some of my favorite world cuisine, find old blues and bossa nova records, go on skyscanner, looking for cheap flights to wherever my next flavor of the week is. It's not a seperate thing, really, writing music and my daily life. It's come to a point where I can pick up a pen and write down a phrase or record a singing melody into my Iphone and work on it immediately (or the next day..)

What's your favorite song to belt out at the bar/in the car/for karaoke?
Yuji: I'm the biggest fan of catchy rock riffs. Whenever I hear classic rock songs on the radio on saturdaynights, I always sing them in the car. My dad introduced me to classic rock music. Although I once sang How Deep Is Your Love in a bar - that was great. 


Yuji Kumagai, Cashew Chemists Interview: Intimate, Loud, Rock 'n' Roll

Message to fans?
Yuji: All you need is love! & good friends, good music and good food. We can help you out with the good music part. Look out for us coming in with a bang in 2015! 

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Cashew Chemists Official Social Media:


Cashew Chemists EP:


Cashew Chemists Other Published Interviews:

Bowdy is an amateur adventurer, a coffee sleepyhead, and a start-up rooter, with a penchant for classic-looking photos. At last count, he has visited some 51 countries, and is now living in Singapore. He's always in search of fascinating routines to exploit, within the limits of after-office hours and vacation leaves.

For invites, reviews, or collaboration ideas, email bowdywanders@gmail.com.

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