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Gavin's Underground

Lady Murasaki

by Gavin Sheehan
- Posted // 2012-01-16 -
This year, we're making more of an effort to get out and about on the local music scene, trying to preview some bands you may not have heard of before rather than hit up everyone you already know. Not to mention an attempt to bring you some shows you may not be used to. This past weekend, there was a genuine effort to bring you highlights from a burlesque show at Bar Deluxe!
...Until that show took over an hour to get started. You see this crowd? A good number of these people ended up going to see The Suicycles play at Fat's Grill due to waiting too long. Keep in mind, we're not blaming anyone in particular or Bar Deluxe for the extra-late start, but people want to be entertained on a Saturday and it kinda sucks they had to take off. In fact, I ended up leaving before the main show finally kicked off, but before that we snagged an interview with pop/blues band Lady Murasaki who opened up the show, along with photos of their performance that you can check out here.

Lady Murasaki (Alex Lackey, Amber Taniuchi, Stephen McSweeney & Joshua Ogzewalla. Gary Clark not present.)

Gavin: Hey, guys. First off, tell us a little about yourselves.

Amber: We're a five-piece pop/blues/jazz band from SLC; although none of us are originally from SLC, this is our current hub. We're new in town, but we've been very active, playing anywhere from one to five shows a month.

Stephen: Yeah, Salt Lake is the last place in the world I thought I'd end up. I'm an Irish snowhound far from home, but I love this place for way more than just the mountains now, including the fantastic live-music scene.

Josh: I studied music at the University Of Colorado in Denver, and was very active on the local scene there writing and performing with different projects for many years before moving to Utah. I’ve also been playing with another band here in SLC for the last couple of years, and have been fortunate enough to perform at Sundance, SXSW and the Austin Psych Fest.
Gavin: What got you interested in music, and who were some of your favorite acts and musical influences growing up?

Amber: My parents were heavily into music. My dad plays Brazilian bossa nova on his guitar, and he sort of taught me and my siblings music from a very young age. I listened to a lot of Earth Wind & Fire, The Eagles and James Taylor.

Gary: Well, I grew up a little ahead of the others -- I was listening to a lot of blues, Janis Joplin, early Fleetwood Mac and a lot of rock and roll, Jefferson Airplane, The Dead, The Doors, Carlos Santana, Mark Knopfler; stuff like that.

Stephen: I remember singing and dancing like a madman to my parents' copy of Thriller as a little kid in the '70s, and from then on, music just got inside me. I picked up a guitar around the age of 14 and have always found it incredibly satisfying to be able to make music of my own. Tom Waits inspires the hell out of me.

Josh: My dad started my musical education early on with classical composers and a lot of folk singer/songwriters. My tastes are pretty eclectic, and run from classic rock to metal to electronica to post rock and just about anything in between. What you might hear most in Lady Murasaki are classic rock influences like Jimi Hendrix and David Gilmour.

Gavin: Amber, when did you first start up the project and what made you decide to go solo?

Amber: I've been writing and performing publicly since high school, and throughout college, so it was something I wanted to continue when I moved here to Utah six years ago. I played coffee shop and restaurant gigs for about a year.
Gavin: What was it like for you performing solo for the first stint, and what made you decide to form a band?

Amber: Solo gigs were very natural to me -- my dad used to make me play shows with him, so I've had a bit of practice performing in public. I decided to form a band when my current band mate Josh Ogzewalla (from Theta Naught) asked me to open for a touring act he was bringing in from SXSW.

Gavin: How did the rest of the band come together to form what is currently Lady Murasaki?

Amber: I worked with Stephen McSweeney and Gary Clark at a software company. I used to sit and jam with Stephen on the weekends, so I invited him to the band, then he invited Gary who played in bands in New Hampshire and in Chicago. Finding our current drummer was the toughest process. We went through four drummers before we found Alex Lackey, who is pretty much our dream drummer! Alex used to perform in the Red Caps and currently writes in another project called Rainbow Black.
Gavin: What was the big influence behind the blues/jazz/pop kind of sound you've been playing?

Amber: I grew up in Japan, so I listened to a lot of J-Pop and European pop/rock, which is where the pop influence comes from. Believe it or not, blues is a big part of Japanese music, as well. The film Kill Bill illustrates this a bit. Finally, I worship Sade. She is my #1 influence/inspiration for all my writing.

Josh: I don't know if it's necessarily been a conscientious decision to go for the sound we have -- it just seems to fit Amber's songwriting and vocal style. When we play the songs on our acoustic guitars, you'll catch a slightly different vibe that's more like island lounge.

Gavin: You've been together since May last year. How has it been for you guys playing around the state and finding your audience?

Amber: The experience has been very positive. We've had no trouble finding gigs -- venues like Bar Deluxe and the Woodshed have been extremely supportive of our project. We also got to play at a large event like the Pink Dot. It seems that our audience is always surprised by us. Most people don't know what to expect with a name like Lady Murasaki and then they're blown away by our music and our set. Not to toot our own horn but we put on a good show!

Gary: Amber writes good music that's hard to categorize. She loves jazzy chord progressions and interesting syncopation and layers in cool lyrics -- and well, she has a killer voice. At times, we do some very psychedelic feeling stuff that, as Amber says, really surprises people; difficult to categorize us, for sure.

Josh: So far, we've had a lot of great opportunities to play with bands we really respect and at venues that are very supportive. There are no shortcuts to finding and connecting with your audience -- you have to get out there and play! So we're pretty excited to keep that momentum going and play every chance we get.
Gavin: You have a couple of tracks floating around online. Are there any plans to do a proper EP or album?

Amber: Yes, we are actually in the middle of recording a four-track EP at Kitefishing Studio. Camden Chamberlain from The Suicycles is engineering this project and it is top notch -- we have an EP release scheduled on Feb. 18 at Bar Deluxe. Michael Gross & The Statuettes and The Swinging Lights will be playing at our EP release.

Gavin: Have you given any thought to touring out of state, or will you be sticking to home for now?

Josh: I have definitely been bitten by the touring bug, and could see us doing a few weekend warrior type trips to Denver, Las Vegas and around California in another year or so, but right now the focus is definitely on SLC.
Gavin: Moving on to statewide stuff, what are your thoughts on the local music scene, both good and bad?

Amber: We have incredible acts here locally. I attend at least one or two live shows a week and I am a huge fan of SLC bands. I also attend shows in the DJ/Dance scene and there are strong acts/following there, too. I appreciate the strong sense of friendship and support in the scene along with the supportive venues. We have talked about how we wished there were an industry night in SLC so that booking agents, venues and bands can work more effectively together.

Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?

Amber: We would love more support from local businesses. Help us sell our CDs, let us post flyers/posters for our gigs, and, in turn, we can promote their businesses, as well. We also need continued and even greater support from larger local events like Sundance, Utah Arts Festival and Utah Pride to showcase the SLC music scene.

Josh: There is no scene without an audience and people for us to play for, so grab some friends and come out and see a show!
Gavin: Not including yourselves, who are your favorite acts in the scene right now?

Amber: The Suicycles, King Niko, Muscle Hawk, Afro Omega, Nightfreq and Haywire Outfit.

Alex: Max Pain & The Groovies, and Red Dog Revival.

Gary: I went to a Shades Of Gray show this summer and those guys just blew me away. Great guitarists and great music.

Stephen: Shades Of Gray.

Josh: All already mentioned plus Spell Talk, Eagle Twin and The Saintanne.

Gavin: What's your opinion on the current airplay on community radio and how it affects local musicians?

Alex: The community radio is a huge resource for local musicians. KRCL is very helpful since they play independent music from across the world, and blend in local music from our community, creating a sense of union in our town -- which, although small, a little difficult to unite all the great artists from the different genres in SLC.

Gary: We're very lucky to have KRCL here. I've heard tons of fabulous music on that station, both old and new. And, of course, Steve Williams' nightly jazz shows on KUER are world-class. That dude is a treasure.

Stephen: I think KRCL has got to be one of the best radio stations I've ever had the pleasure of listening to -- those guys get a donation from me every year. On the whole, I think they do a pretty decent job of promoting local artists, I've certainly been introduced to some great local bands by KRCL.

Josh: Community radio seems to do what they can to promote local musicians, but it only works if you have people tuning in to listen. Haven't we evolved beyond corporate radio pushing beer and lifestyle music yet?
Gavin: With so many sources out there to get music off the Web, both for publicity and sharing, what are your thoughts on putting out free tracks for anyone to listen to?

Amber: That seems to be a must these days. If we want people to buy our CDs and come to our shows, free tracks are an absolute necessity from a promotional perspective. It's like an ice cream sample or a test drive on a vehicle -- it's part of the overhead of running a successful project.

Gary: I think Amber's exactly right about that. We need to get our stuff out there to develop an audience.

Stephen: Yeah, it's all about providing ease of access to the content. A great twist to that is the donation model; make it available for free, but also provide people the option to pay what they want for it. There have been some amazingly successful experiments with models like that in the last few years.

Josh: With all of the streaming options available online, and so many services moving into the cloud, I'm more interested in how we can use that technology to reach a wider audience.

Gavin: What can we expect from you guys going into this coming year?

Amber: More shows and new songs!!! We are currently booked all the way to March and intend to play as many shows as we can this year. We hope to play in other cities like Provo, Ogden and Park City, as well as festivals in the summer. We will also be recording a bunch of singles this year, so stay tuned!

Stephen: Further refinements to our sound. We've only been together for a short time, and every time we jam we find new sounds, new directions to explore.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

Amber: As mentioned earlier, we have an EP release coming up on Feb. 18 at Bar Deluxe. We are very confident and excited about the tracks we have selected for the EP and we hope everyone will come to our show, grab a copy and spread the word!


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