Year End Interview: flau

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Japanese record label Flau has been releasing an array of sensitive, beautiful music for nearly a decade, building a loyal following among discerning listeners in Japan and beyond. Their output ranges from folk and pop to experimental techno, but there is always a delicate sensibility that runs through every record, a quality that characterizes the Flau sound. We talked to Flau owner Yasuhiko Fukuzono about 2016 and where the label might be headed in coming years, on this special year-end interview.

Year End Interview: flau
By Alisa Yamasaki, December 31, 2016

What were the most memorable releases to you this year?
Serpentwithfeet left a big impression on me, with both his music and visuals.
In terms of Japanese releases, I listened to Little Museum of Bird, Asa-Chang & Junray and Theater 1. For overseas releases, I listened to Lee Lang and Beatrice Dillon a lot.

What about Flau releases?
At the end of last year, we released two albums (Ocean and Farewell) from the Taiwanese ensemble Cicada, and did a Japanese tour as well. The first release from Flau this year was by Port St. Willow, a singer-songwriter from New York. We couldn’t do a concert here, but he visited several times and we caught up. He told me all about gentrification, Donald Trump and moving to a suburb up North with friends. I helped with the BRRWD compilation, the project between Repeat Pattern and Ta-ku, as well as Submerse’s zine. We also had releases by Submerse, Fabio Caramuru and Molnbar av John. I really want Caramuru and av John to tour Japan next year. For reissues, we had Robert Lippok from Raum and MOTORO FAAM from Flau.

Were there any standout moments for the label this year? What were some new discoveries as a label owner?
We actually had the fewest releases and tours this year, but there were also a lot of interesting experiences through overseas festival bookings and compilations. There seems to be more of a focus on “Cool Japan” music at festivals overseas, and I had to think of how Flau as a label should be involved in that scene. These days I’m interested in how to support the growth of artists who’ve released on my label.

What are some labels you’ve been checking out recently?
I like to discover new labels through Bandcamp and SoundCloud and immediately download music, but I tend to forget to follow up on the labels. I always check out labels that Flau has a close relationship with. Sweet Dreams Press is a label that continues to inspire me.

There are countless microgenres in Tokyo alone. Are there any trends that have caught your attention in the Japanese music scene?
I’m not sure if it counts as a microgenre but I’m interested in local communities that aren’t visible through the internet. Shifts in styles and attitudes among groups are fascinating to me in general.

Flau has impacted the Japanese music scene not only through its releases, but also through its events. How do you approach event curation? What do you have in mind when showcasing live music?
With our regular event Foundland, I do think about how to create a relaxing environment for music. I want to keep throwing events that have the music front and center, not as background music.

What makes you want to release an artist’s music on Flau? Have there been any changes in the “Flau sound” over the years?
I used to only look at completed projects, but these days I’m moved by unfinished work as long as the artist’s personality shows through. I enjoy the process that begins there, thinking with the artists on how to present the project and how to connect it with the public. The label’s taste has changed since it first started. These days I want to release music by artists from Japan and Asia.

What makes Flau special is not only the style of music, but an entire personality created through the record artwork as well. Do you decide on the artwork? Is looking for good art like looking for good music?
I usually choose the artwork but sometimes the artists have requests too. I try to incorporate artwork that reflects the label’s style. I tend to rely on my instincts but I trust Ryuto Miyake who drew the Flau cat. I ask him to do a lot of artwork for the label. It’s the same for music, but I like art that doesn’t try to be weird or edgy for the sake of it, and has a classy aspect to it. A playful spirit is always great.

Do you think 2016 was a good year for Japanese artists abroad?
There are plenty of Japanese artists who do well in alternative scenes abroad, but these days I feel like major Japanese artists are also breaking through. With the internet it’s become so easy to trace what influenced today’s music scene, so in that sense I think a lot of older Japanese ambient and New Age records are going to be talked about again.

What are your goals for 2017 as a label?
We already have a lot of releases lined up for next year, like records by British harpist Emma Gatrill, a collaboration between Tomo Akikawabaya’s project The Future Eve and Robert Wyatt, as well as new projects by Noah and Henning Schmiedt. As I mentioned earlier, I want to focus more on small, local communities. You’ll be seeing more releases by Japanese artists.

Flau is turning 10 years old next year. How does it feel?
I want to use this upcoming year wisely so there will be a 20 year anniversary to celebrate in the future. I’m constantly looking for new talent, so please send me demos!

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