If you like underground psych rock, eventually, you come across Guruguru Brain. The label, based in Amsterdam, is devoted to shining a light on the best in Asian psych rock. Founded by the members of Kikagaku Moyo, the label’s become a trusted source for the best in psych rock, from bands mixing krautrock, haze and flower power psych rock. By focusing on Asian underground rock exclusively, the label has ended up with one of the most left-of-center and distinct catalogs out right now.
In celebration of a VMP x Guruguru Brain collaboration on three albums, we talked to Go Kurosawa, member of GGB band Kikagaku Moyo and co-founder of Guruguru Brain records via email as his band toured Europe. Read about how the label was founded and about the albums we’re reissuing.
VMP: How did you decide to start Guruguru Brain records? Was it to release Kikagaku Moyo records originally?
We used to run a monthly event called Tokyo Psych Fest where we booked underground psychedelic bands from Japan. After we got too busy with touring, we released a compilation called Guruguru Brain Wash, which featured all the bands [who] played in the event. That was how it started and we decided to contribute to current Asian music scene by releasing records and helping set up tours. After touring in the West, people were more curious about what’s going on in the other part of the world, and we felt it’s our mission to make more diversity in the music scene.
How did you guys transition from being a group of buskers to being a touring psych rock band?
We were playing on the street because we were strongly against this “pay to play” system in Tokyo. Found out it is not the same situation in outside of Japan so we started touring overseas.
How do you decide what bands are “right” for the label?
Since we are focusing on Asian music scene, our main thing is finding bands that are original rather than bands just playing a copy of western music.
How did you build buzz for the label in the U.S.?
By releasing records constantly. It is more difficult to tour in the U.S. than Europe because of the American visa policy. We really hope it will be easier so more bands can tour in the U.S.
How did you guys decide to settle in Amsterdam? Why base the label there?
It’s a very international city where we can work and live in English, and we can use the label HQ as a hub for any touring bands from Asia so they can stay and practice there.
About House in the Tall Grass specifically, what were you guys trying to accomplish on this album that is different from your past albums?
This album was the first record we had a concept [for] before recording it. We had the image of listening to the record in a small warm house in a cold place while we are eating good bowls of stew.
Great. Some questions about the other albums we’re featuring:
How did you find Minami Deutsch?
We knew Taku [Idemoto] and Kyotaro [Miula] before we even started Kikagu Moyo; we were just friends who would go to rehearsal studios and play and jam all night.
After we formed our bands, they started the band focusing on the krautrock side of psychedelic music.
What about them made you want to sign them for Guruguru Brain?
Their approach to krautrock is totally different than other bands. They listen to different music and mix those influences into the krautrock format.
Their albums sell out all the time; what about them makes them have a devoted fan base, do you think?
They have been working hard by touring in Europe. Touring is still the best way to gain that fanbase.
What about Sundays & Cybele made you want to sign them for Guruguru Brain?
They were one of the earliest bands who were playing psychedelic music in our generation. We like how they can mix psychedelic rock and Japanese folklore or Japanese melodies.
What do you love most about that LP?
This is one of the earliest release[s] from GGB, and [I] really have a special feeling about the record. It has a good primitive energy of the band, but also some sensitive lyrics and melodies.