Cat lover, home cook, dog dad. There are many things that define Japan’s Kai Nakamura. Nothing, however, has changed his life more than being the producer, songwriter, and guitarist for LA based alternative rock band WASI.
As the guitar player of WASI, Nakamura’s main focus is to add texture to a song, giving it a vibe that the entire band is looking for. He is a very technical player, but his specialty is adding the sounds that listeners can feel, not hear. Instead of taking up space in the song, he helps carry it to the next level sonically and make it sound much bigger. That being said, that is just with the recordings. For live performances, he does even more, reciprocating the energy of the rest of the band, showing their amazing chemistry as a unit not just musically, but as a family.
“My band mates are all female and won’t let me drive on tour, so I give them massages after shows and cook for them! They call me the band husband,” he jokes.
Nakamura has been a resounding part of WASI’s continuous success, and his distinctive touch is evident when you listen to the band’s debut album “Riot Pop”. Released in May of 2019 worldwide via Candyshop Recordings, the album was self-recorded with WASI bandmates Nakamura, Merilou Salazar and Jessie Meehan. The music touches on conversations of finding power in hardships and working with the urge to change the world for the better.
“What I really like about the music is the level of vulnerability we express. In the recordings we really lay it out there with what’s going on and touch on issues that we would probably not feel safe touching on if it wasn’t through a song. This being said, when we are working on the songs, we find it important to record them in ways that will express the same emotion and energy live. The live performance aspect of the band is really important to us,” says Nakamura.
Despite being a guitarist and songwriter for many years, “Riot Pop” was not only WASI’s debut album, but Nakamura’s first as producer. He was eager to show what he could do, having worked on his production skills, so the band decided to self-produce the album. Each of the songs tells a piece of the story and it felt really great for Nakamura to take each of these songs to the next level from where they started. There are a lot of feelings and emotions in the songs so it was important to capture that feeling in each one, to make sure that as a whole the project would be cohesive.
When it came to writing the songs, the process felt very easy for Nakamura. Salazar and Meehan would come to him with a song that had already been started and would describe what they wanted to hear. Together, they would go through songs and melodies until they reached perfection. Nakamura added his own touch in areas and the others were greatly impressed with his ideas. The other band mates are very talented with arrangement, lyrics, and melodies, which is why they trust Nakamura to find the right sounds to essentially capture the feel. He found himself acting as a medium between heart and the vibe of the songs.
“It took a lot for us to trust each other since we had previously only worked with outside producers. I think because we trusted each other, the process felt easy and we knew we were all on the same page. As the producers ourselves, we had complete control of what we wanted. It felt like there was less pressure because everyone had room to give input with what they wanted to add and there weren’t any egos involved,” says Nakamura.
“Riot Pop” has been a hit for WASI since its release last year. Not only has it been popular online, but the album has allowed the band to build an even bigger reputation, going on the “Love is Gay West Coast Tour”, collaborating with other popular bands like The Mowgli’s, and performing at the SoCal ACLU, and more.
“I would have to say that it was special working on this project because it really deepened the trust that we all have together and brought us a lot closer. I would say we really started to feel like a family after we worked on this project together,” he says.
Nakamura has a lot in store for the rest of the year. Not only is he planning on collaborating with a handful of artists, he and the rest of WASI are currently writing their next album. Keep an eye out for its release.
Published by Zoe Sewell