Indie Mixtape 20: Mei Semones Balances Strife And Utopia On ‘Kabutomushi’


On Kabutomushi, the latest EP from math rock-meets-bossa nova artist Mei Semones, tales of strife and utopia coexist. Whether the Brooklyn-based jazz guitarist lets go of a long-term friendship on “Wakare No Kotoba” (Japanese for “parting words”) or envisions a pastoral paradise on “Inaka,” (Japanese for “countryside”) Semones allows the space for a wide spectrum of emotions and styles. As she reconstructs her warm, comforting arrangements to suit complex, proggy time signatures, it never seems forced. Instead, it just sounds natural.

Kabutomushi is the name for the Japanese rhinoceros battle, an insect that Semones would try to find whenever she visited her grandmother in Japan as child. As a whole, this EP is an homage to her late grandmother, both in its wistful, commemorative lyrics, as on the title track, and in spirit.

Following the EP’s release this past Friday, Semones sits down with Uproxx to discuss those precious memories of her grandmother, her admiration of John Coltrane, and why her mother is her favorite person to follow on social media in our latest Q&A.

What are four words you would use to describe your music?

Sweet, sophisticated, vulnerable, straightforward.

It’s 2050 and the world hasn’t ended and people are still listening to your music. How would you like it to be remembered?

I would like my music to be remembered as something comforting, something that helped people feel less alone. I also would like it to be remembered as something new and different.

Who’s the person who has most inspired your work, and why?

John Coltrane — obviously my music sounds nothing like him, but I love his music & playing.

Where did you eat the best meal of your life and what was it?

At my parent’s house in Michigan, my mom’s nabe (hotpot) :)

Tell us about the best concert you’ve ever attended.

I really enjoyed seeing Ravi Coltrane at Village Vanguard!

What song never fails to make you emotional?

“Monk’s Mood.”

What’s the last thing you Googled?

“What time is it in California?”

Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever crashed while on tour?

I honestly haven’t stayed anywhere too weird on tour — one of my favorite places recently was my friend Natalie’s place in Chicago. A really nice living room & really cute cats :,)

What’s your favorite city in the world to perform and what’s the city you hope to perform in for the first time?

New York City is my favorite city to play. And I’ve played solo in Tokyo before, but we’ve never played there as full band, so I hope to do that soon :)

What’s one piece of advice you’d go back in time to give to your 18-year-old self?

You should practice more.

What’s one of your hidden talents?

Unfortunately I don’t think I have any… I used to be pretty good at drawing.

If you had a million dollars to donate to charity, what cause would you support and why?

Right now, I would donate to humanitarian aid in Gaza.

What are your thoughts about AI and the future of music?

I don’t think about it too much… I’m going to keep making music in the way that I like to, and I’m sure other people will too.

You are throwing a music festival. Give us the dream lineup of 5 artists that will perform with you and the location it would be held.

John Roseboro, Nebulous Quartet, Nirvana, John Coltrane, and Thelonious Monk at Myrtle Ave Broadway.

Who’s your favorite person to follow on social media?

My mom — she posts great photos of our dogs & food pics.

What’s the story behind your first or favorite tattoo?

I don’t have any tattoos. I promised my grandma I would never get tattoos in exchange for her Gucci watch. Also I don’t want tattoos because then I wouldn’t be able to go to the onsen.

What is your pre-show ritual?

Write out setlists, collect & distribute drink tickets, say hello to my friends at the show :)

Who was your first celebrity crush?

I think it was River Phoenix in Stand By Me.

You have a month off and the resources to take a dream vacation. Where are you going and who is coming with you?

I would take my family, my boyfriend, and my band all over Japan to a bunch of different hotels/resorts & sightseeing.

What is your biggest fear?

Being mean to someone or hurting someone’s feelings by accident.

Kabutomushi is out now via Bayonet Records. Find more information here.