It was 2006 when the UK group, Fujiya & Miyagi, was six years into making their style of indie electro music, going from ‘flying under the radar’ status to moving into the media’s gaze (not always a good thing, but it was for them), including a feature in the MTV2 documentary series “This is Our Music.” As the camera pans up the stairs of their Brighton flat, Matthew Hainsby (bass player, which no longer with the group) gives a tour, presenting the viewer with the backstory of why there is a large poster of a man with a horrible “after” Mike Brady wig, “We keep this here to make us feel good about ourselves before we leave the flat.”
Dave Best, the lead singer and songwriter, is a tad more serious, expressing the personal ethos of his craft and that of his band, “Music is a creative thing. It’s not a painting or writing a book,” he explained while referencing his disdain for bands like Coldplay, “To do something so unimaginative and so run-of-the-mill and ‘every day,’ it’s like a missed opportunity to do something great; something unique.”
A truly heartfelt moment shows Steve Lewis, the band’s co-founder, keyboardist, synth, and Moog master, teaching a group of adults with intellectual disabilities to play music together, vowing to keep this part of his life a priority.
A bit later in the mini-MTV2 doc, if you’re an Arsenal fan like me, you’ll get a big grin when Best shares, while on the pitch during a band-on-band football match, how the mixture of his two passions, music and football, come together in his dreams, “I wake up and think [Dennis] Bergkamp’s done the most amazing album ever.” Back at his flat he pulls a small statue of a his favourite Arsenal football player from the shelf, “This is Ian Wright,” pauses for a second, allowing the British wit to kick in, “It’s not actually Ian Wright. It’s just a model of him. He’s a lot bigger.”
2006 was also the year Fujiya & Miyagi released their second album, Transparent Things, which stirred together whispered raps with printing-press rhythms, Motown-influenced bass lines, and twinkling electronic samples that could have been plucked from the past of CAN or the year 2206.
“The stuff that influences, say, to when I sit down to write songs or something,” Best said, “In some way has to come from me or what’s happened to me.” A first-hand account of a life moment was “Collarbone,” which literally tells the tale of how Best broke his collarbone twice, once when he tripped on his shoelaces. Credit needs to go to the songwriting, where a personal injury can be turned into an infectious dance track where you find yourself singing along to “Shin bone connected to the knee bone / thigh bone connected to the hip bone.”
Everything before and everything since has, in my humble opinion, fulfilled on Best’s promise of something great and unique. Last year F&M reissued a re-mastered ‘Transparent Things’ on a collectors-edition clear vinyl with a bonus Nike Running Mix, Different Blades For The Same Pair Of Scissors.
Also in 2017 Fujiya & Miyagi released a self-titled album, keeping with their head-meets-heartbeat sound and style, from the faster BPM race of “Outstripping (The Speed of Light),” the sultry and the seductive “Solitaire,” to the made-for-movie-soundtrack falsettos of “To The Last Beat of My Heart.” Eleven years later, Best is still obsessed with bodily functions twisted up with that slice of British wit, singing about the state of our now, the social-media obsessed culture and how his ankle clicks to the Fujiya & Miyagi “Extended Dance Mix.”
As opposed to other decades in musical history – Motown, jazz, and white guys stealing African-American blues in the 50’s, the British Invasion and psychedelic rock of the 60’s, punk and disco of the 70’s, new wave and hair bands of the 80’s, electronic, grunge, and alternative in the 90’s, the 2000 aughts to the present day feel as though they’re that mixture of past, present, and future.
Discounting the era of Auto-Tune, which I consider to be a nails-on-a-chalkboard first-degree felony against music, there’s a certain innate timelessness to the last 10-15 years that’s as comforting as it is excitingly confusing, and that’s often the feeling that flows across when listening to any of Fujiya & Miyagi’s music. There has always been a sense of familiarity complemented by sonic and lyrical surprises. But in every case, you can always count on those irresistible beats that you can’t help but move to as you sing along to Best’s obscure, and at times, quirky modern poetry.
I was fortunate to have caught their XOXO gig during the summer of 2014 when living in London and can vouch for their live show as being one not to miss. Fujiya & Miyagi, which along with Best and Lewis, includes Ed Chivers (drums) and Ben Adamo (bass), play the last gig for their short U.S. tour tomorrow night, Friday, April 6, at the Union nightclub (Jewel Room) in Los Angeles.