Thousands of monthly Spotify listeners tune in to listen to Kyoto Lo-Fi's previously released singles and 2016 EP Black Rainbow. Their single “Flowering Boulder,” which earned the group 130,000 streams, was only released in 2019, the year they also received a Dallas Observer Music Award for "Best Rock Act.” Despite all the hype, the band is only now set to release a (highly awaited) debut album. After a year and a half spent on and off in the recording studio, Kyoto Lo-Fi's It’s An O.K. Life drops on Friday.
The band's lineup has gone through a few changes since their last EP release but is now set with drummer Neuhen Erazo, guitarist and vocalist Nico Caruso and lead guitarist Gabe Santana. Their former bassist Greg Muzljakovich now acts the band's producer. In 2017, the group welcomed their newest member, bassist Paul Arévalo.
The phrase, and idea, behind the album's title predates the current band roster by playing off the sentiment expressed on the group’s Bandcamp and social media page’s banner since their formation. It's become a mantra of sorts for fans.
“The inception of the phrase 'It’s an O.K. Life' can be either hopeful, content or sarcastic," Erazo says. "Shit could be burning around you, but it’s an OK life. That’s the mindset you could get in your head.”
Caruso says the tracks don't represent the perspective of one person, but lyrically, poetically and instrumentally express a situation a hypothetical someone might come across. Jokingly, the group says their sound doesn’t necessarily represent the indie genre by merely branching off a Mac Demarco or Tame Impala vibe, but a post-indie alternate.
“I can hear someone saying that we are a Strokes ripoff, but describing our sound is hard to explain,” Caruso says. “We all listen to different things.”
Each member's rock education was built on genres spanning from hardcore punk to British new wave like The Smiths, and current indie rock like Arctic Monkeys and Interpol. Except for U.S.-born Santana, Kyoto's members are Latinos (from Mexico, Ecuador and Argentina), and their collective playlists range from Spanish indie rock to hip-hop. In a forensic analysis of their sound, those underlying influences become evident.
The album was recorded at Lewisville’s Blue 13 studio with Muzljakovich mixing, recording and mastering.
“We had already connected with [Muzljakovich] before when he was our bassist," Caruso says. "We did a one-off song and decided to continue, and we were happy. We did try recording with other people, but we weren’t happy with the product.”
The recording of the album wasn’t necessarily a challenge, but the group says they took their time with Muzljakovich to put out the perfect record, meeting sporadically throughout a year and a half.
Tracks on the release include three new songs: “Neon Halo,” “Lady Sapphire” and “Vanishing," followed by three previously released tracks, “Godot,” “Flowering Boulder” and “Spaceships,” which ends the album.
“Vanishing” is a group favorite. It's a fluid trip of a song that flows well with Caruso's lyrical storytelling. Starting off the track with a mellow howl, the singer leads into the playful reverb of Santana's and Arévalo’s guitar and bass erupting into a crescendo, ultimately crashing into Erazo’s cymbals in a fury and ending with the frontman’s break-up plea for a lost love.
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“Lady Sapphire’s” slower tempo still keeps in line with the album's ear-pleasing drama.
The group says It’s An O.K. Life has its own identity, while each song has its own personality.
“People have been following us and have seen us a lot, and they’re going to be familiar with the songs,” Santana says.
Kyoto Lo-Fi have considered themselves as outliers in the DFW scene as a group that hasn't necessarily fit in (at least musically). The band is anxious to pick up the pace. They're represented by Dallas’ Field Day Records (Charley Crockett, Forever The Sickest Kids, Boys Like Girls) and are optimistically anticipating the public response from their digital and vinyl debut.