I first met Koji in 2010 when my previous band played our last show ever in New Jersey. One of the reasons we agreed to travel from Boston to play this show was because Koji was playing and I was really into the music he had released thus far on Seaside Sessions. Today, I am not in the least bit surprised that Koji has participated in numerous successful tours and releases, especially with his latest release being his first full-length Crooked In My Mind. Read along to learn more about Koji’s LP, past tours so far from 2013, and his future plans for the rest of the year. Check him out on tour this summer with Turnover!
1. Your new LP Crooked In My Mind was released on April 30th, through Run For Cover Records. How long were you working on the songs before recording them? Was anything different about your writing process this time around than from your previous releases?
I wrote the first song for the record back in 2010. That was the first year I spent on the road and the rest of the record was written during that season of my life. There’s a lot about that time in my life that I could never put into words, so it’s cool to be able to share this work with people. It’s my first record written in a state of perpetual motion.
2. Where and when did you record the LP? Can you give us some background on the environment and the recording process overall?
We started demoing the record at the end of 2011 and took most of 2012 to record and mix it at Studio 4 in Conshohocken, PA. Will Yip produced the record and was instrumental in crafting the organic sound of the record. We wanted to make something with a real sense of space, something that breathes. I’m thankful that Drew Magid and the Russin brothers convinced me to work with Will. I couldn’t have made the record with anyone else.
3. Brad Vander Lugt from La Dispute plays drums on your new record and Matt Warner from Balance and Composure plays bass. How did you get the idea of asking them both to contribute?
You can always count on your friends. Brad and Matt are some of my oldest and most talented friends in music, so it made sense to enlist their help. Having Ned Russin from Title Fight and Colin Gorman from Gypsy was incredible too; not to mention, Ron Gilmore, who plays for Lauryn Hill and Drake’s band. It was an honor to make a record with those guys.
4. What influenced you to name your new record Crooked In My Mind?
The title comes from the song “Pang and Flash,” which might be one of my favorite tracks from the record. Crooked In My Mind is ultimately about finding inner peace and the resilience it takes to do that.
5. This record will be your first full-length record and your third release from Run For Cover Records. Tell us about your relationship with RFC and how you felt confident enough to release your first LP with them.
RFC is the realest label out. They put me on in 2010 after I had been on the road with a CD-R demo and I’ll never forget that. I love the team there and their roster is an incredible group of artists to be a part of.
6. Earlier in the year you were able to join Geoff Rickly (Thursday), Vinnie Caruana (The Movielife/ I Am The Avalanche), A Loss For Words, and Brian Maquis (Therefore I Am) on the Vans Warped Tour’s Acoustic Basement Tour. How was this tour any different from playing with full bands every night? What are some of your favorite memories from this tour?
The Acoustic Basement Tour was incredible. It was great to recapture some of the glory from the Warped Tour stage, but in a more intimate setting. The shows had the best energy and traveling in one van with everyone made the journey that much better. My favorite memory was when we got to eat sushi before and after our sold-out, final show in Boston. Over pre & post-dinner we got to reminisce about the madness that was the Acoustic Basement Tour. I’d do it again in a heart beat.
7. During your Boston date of your last tour with Slingshot Dakota you told me that you have been speaking at colleges recently. Can you fill everyone else on what you talk about during your presentations and where you have been able to speak? Can anyone expect you to come to their school in the near future? What about in the Boston area after our recent tragedy?
I’ve had the opportunity to speak at a lot of amazing institutions from art magnet high schools to top American universities on everything from songwriting to child soldiering in central Africa. A lot of the time, I talk about how the arts can move communities towards positive change, whether that’s here in the states or in a village in the Democratic Republic of Congo. My friends, family, and music community taught me that when I was growing up, so part of my mission as an artist is to share that story. I don’t have any school appearances lined up right now, but I’d be happy to speak and sing anywhere people want to have me.
As for Boston, my heart aches for you. I can’t imagine what it’s like to live through an event like that. I lost my friend, Nate Henn, to a suicide bombing in Africa. That was one of the toughest experience I’ve had to go through. It’s in moments like these that make me so grateful to have music to turn to. I hope that Boston heals soon and that our society gets serious about erasing violence from every community worldwide.
8. Speaking of your recently ended tour with Slingshot Dakota, how did this tour come about? Any highlights from the tour that you would like to share with us?
I love Slingshot Dakota. They write some of the coolest songs of anyone from our scene. They’re a truly inventive duo and I encourage anyone who hasn’t heard them before to check them out. We had been friends for a long time and it’s something we’ve wanted to do for a long time, so this tour together was a real treat. SD’s set at Stay Sweet Fest was a huge highlight for me. Also, playing a blues club that Stevie Ray Vaughan washed dishes at was mind blowing.
9. You were also able to play the Idobi Meltdown, Today’s Mixtape, and Stay Sweet Festivals over the past couple of months. What were your favorite aspects about them? Who were your favorite bands that you were able to watch?
It was really great to reconnect with old friends like Kevin Devine, Man Overboard, Defeater and Vinnie Caruana. I got to catch some of my favorite bands from PA: Daylight, Modern Baseball, Dead End Path and The Menzingers. I think Dads played one of the best and heaviest sets of their career at Today’s Mixtape. All in all, festivals are just big family reunions and I love that.
10. What is your favorite song off of Crooked in My Mind? How about your favorite song off the record to play live?
The first song, “Chasing A Ghost,” is a song that has just been released, but people come to the shows knowing the words. That might be one of the coolest parts of every night. My favorite jams are the darker songs like “Distance/Divide” and “Pang and Flash.”
11. What music do you think helped influence you to write this record? Any particular bands or artists that influence you overall?
I like artists that do what they do with soul. Artists like Otis Redding to Elvis Costello are guys I’m reaching for vocally. When you listen to them, you feel it. Sonically, I think bands like Wilco and Fugazi shape my approach. Those guys are risk takers and always do what’s true to who they are. You might not hear that directly, but it’s the ethos that I carry with me in the studio.
12. You had been playing full band on the Slingshot tour. Is this going to stay this way? Tell us more about your bassist and drummer!
I’m going to be doing a lot more full band shows. The Acoustic Basement was a cool way to end doing solo tours for the year. My band on this last tour consisted of Colin Gorman from Gypsy and Willie Rose from Settle. Colin never played bass before, the three of us never played together before, and we only ever had one rehearsal. If you caught a show, you know what serious players those guys are. My only problem with the full band shows is I couldn’t turn around and see what they were playing.
13. What bands have you been listening to lately?
I’ve been listening to the new Daylight and Turnover records a ton. They’re phenomenal. The last show I caught was a Saturday matinee in Philly with Power Trip, Code Orange Kids, Twitching Tongues, Disgrace, Rivers of Nihil, and Angel Du$t. It was one of the most diverse shows I’ve seen in awhile and I had the BEST time.
14. Can you fill us in about the plans you already have for the rest of the year?
I’ve got a full US tour coming up with Turnover, Ivy League (6131 Records), and Have Mercy (Topshelf Records) and a couple of one offs and weekends that include a stop at Michigan’s BLED Fest. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to it.
15. Anything left to add?
Thanks for your time. Thanks to everyone who has supported Crooked In My Mind so far.