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Friday, Oct. 30, 2009

Sweden's SideChild takes center stage

Special to The Japan Times

"There was this one guy whose name meant something like 'flat' in English, but Google translated it into Swedish as 'lesbian', which caused me a bit of confusion at first."

News photo
Stepping out: SideChild has been to Japan once before, working on a documentary about Johnny's Jimusho.

Booking shows in Japan with only online translation software to help throws up a lot of hardships, but fortunately for Sweden's SideChild, the solo project of a man known as Pontus Andersson to his friends, music speaks louder than dubious software algorithms.

Before moving to focus on SideChild, Andersson was playing in a "funk-oriented thing" called King Kong Crew. "I loved it," he says, "but more as an opportunity to play together with some of my best mates. It was never entirely my own thing."

At first Andersson's solo work was just a hobby without any real sense of focus. It took a minor crisis to give him his first real impetus: "I had this massive computer crash," he says, "and I realized that I'd lost a lot of my recordings. I had to go over my notes and decide what to rerecord." He believes this served to put the project to the forefront of his mind for the first time, explaining, "I had to look at it all at once and it became much more focused."

With SideChild's songs, Andersson claims an affinity with musicians like indie folk artist Samuel "Iron & Wine" Beam, although the sound he has developed is inspired more by a love of classic soul records and John Lennon's 1970s work with Phil Spector. "I wasn't looking to make a retro album," he points out, "but I was really looking to get that same kind of warmth in the soundscape."

This brief tour, comprising a series of five dates in Tokyo, is actually Andersson's second trip to Japan, but it promises to be a different experience.

"I was working on a documentary about these two Swedish musicians who had been writing songs for Johnny's Jimusho," he explains, referring to the famously litigious talent agency that has specialized in making stars out of young, immaculately manicured dancing boys since the early '60s. "The performers are what they called 'visual talent' so obviously vocal ability isn't the first thing they look for, but it was interesting seeing this music that has no impact back home being played in front of 70,000 women in the Tokyo Dome."

The album "Music for Children" hasn't even been released in Sweden, and as yet there is no release date for Japan planned, but listeners can expect a mix of blue-eyed soul and catchy, Beatles- influenced pop, all delivered through Andersson's sometimes fragile and reedy, and always affecting vocals. However, for more impatient Tokyo listeners, there are still three more chances to catch SideChild live in an intimate Tokyo live-house environment.

SideChild will play Oct. 30 at Nishi-Azabu Super Deluxe (8 p.m.; ¥1,000); Nov. 1 at Umejima Yukotopia (6:30 p.m.; ¥3,000 in advance and ¥3,500 at the door); Nov. 2 at Shinjuku Marz (6:30 p.m.; ¥2,000 in advance and ¥2,300 at the door)

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