Alter The Press!


Interview: Koji

Ahead of his trip over to the UK to tour with Such Gold and Starters, Andrew Koji Shiraki otherwise known as Koji spoke to Alter The Press about the tour, his charity work with charity organisations like Resolve and Humility Now, his recent split release with Into It. Over It. and more.

Alter The Press: How did you get started in music?
Koji: Music has been a life long thing for me. I grew up in a very musical household with a mother who played piano and sang and a father who played guitar and sang in surf rock bands in Hawaii. When my friends and I discovered punk rock at 10 or 11, everyone picked up an instrument and started bands. I really had no choice in the matter! Music chose me.

ATP: You're a busy guy with releasing several EPs and touring last year, with my personal favorite being your split with Into it Over it. Do you prefer the full band sound or just you and the guitar?
Koji: I take great joy in being able to express myself through music. And you know, I can't say that I really feel that there's a difference in how I think about "acoustic" songs or "full band" songs. I see my music as one unified body of work where nothing is really separate from all the other parts. It's like a family of ideas or visions that originate from my heart and soul. I couldn't choose one over the other.

ATP: With several releases how did you approach songwriting to each release?
Koji: Most of my songwriting has it's root in improvisation. The chords and the words come at the same time in almost every case. I always put my music and music in terms of art and art in terms of music. So I always feel like those words and melody that just come out are the positive image to the negative in my consciousness.

ATP: What are your feelings about the way the IIOI/KOJI split has been received?
Koji: Evan and I have been longtime friends and we wanted to do something creative for ourselves, our community of artists, and for our fans. We felt upon leaving the studio that we'd achieved those things. However, the two of us we're in total and utter shock when we started to hear back from the critics. But even louder than the press was the voice of the listeners. It's just unbelievable and I'm so thankful for everyone's support (we're ordering a second pressing). IIOI/KOJI was definitely something special for all of us to be a part of.

ATP: How has the move to Run for Cover Records been?
Koji: Run For Cover has been amazing. The one thing I will say over and over again is that the reason that the "industry" is getting any better is because of a generation of artists, fans, promoters, and label owners (like Jeff) who are serious about creativity, talent, and authenticity. The label is a family and we support one another and that's what's so special about this moment in music. RFC has a very bright future and will definitely go a long way in shaping this coming decade.

ATP: What are your plans for writing/recording in 2011? Will you be collaborating with anyone?
Koji: At the moment, all I can say is that I have been writing and I'm several songs into some kind of release. My split with La Dispute will be released this year as well on No Sleep Records.

ATP: Two causes that you're involved with are Humility Now and Resolve. Can you give readers a description of both organizations? How can readers get involved?
Koji: Humility Now is non-profit based in Miami, Florida. They're goal is to advocate on behalf of the city's large homeless population. Through events and an awesome line of products, Humility Now raises money and awareness about the plight of the homeless in the United States. Together, we've collaborated on several projects and when buy a KOJI t-shirt on tour, a portion of the proceeds go towards clothing the homeless in Miami. You can find out more at

Resolve is an organization that I began working with because of my involvement with Invisible Children. Their goal is to end the LRA violence and child soldiering in Central-East Africa. This conflict is the longest running war in Africa, which has received little to no attention over the past 25 years or so. The situation is so urgent that I am dedicating my spring to this issue and partnering with Resolve on a 10 week full US art & activism tour.

One change I'd like to see in America, is our ability to talk about tough issues and have empathy and compassion for others both at home and abroad. I encourage my audiences to be leaders in their community and be the change they'd like to see. It's time to speak up. It's time to take action.

ATP: Are there any other organisations readers should be aware of?
Koji: There are so many amazing organizations. I'd encourage your readers to think about their interests and things they care about because there is always a way to help that is personal to you. For me, I play music in children's hospitals, rehab centers or high schools and other days I might arrive early to town on tour and do a neighborhood clean up. Doing things that you're interested in makes volunteering fun and instead of becoming work it becomes a part of your life.

ATP: How important is your charity work alongside your music? How influential can they be to each other?
Koji: My mother is an occupational therapist, so I've been volunteering with kids with mental retardation, autism, and other special needs since the time that I could walk. As a teenager, I went on to start a non-profit that ran shows, movie nights, vegan community dinners, political discussions, and had a food pantry for neighborhood families. These positive experiences shaped every aspect of my life including music. Art is definitely a document of my growth as well as a vehicle for change. You can definitely hear that on my EP, 'Some Small Way'.

ATP: You're touring the UK with Such Gold and Starters later this month. Is there any place in particular that you're excited to play?
Koji: I'm so excited to experience the UK with some of my best friends, Such Gold. There is nothing like traveling and it's such a gift to be able to do it with friends. It's going to be an exciting trip and I'm looking forward to all of it!

ATP: Additionally what can we expect from these shows?
Koji: You'll definitely be hearing material I've never played live before including songs of my No Sleep and Run For Cover releases. I'm bringing my Hawaiian-punk rock style of strumming with me as well.

ATP: Some maybe surprised you're playing with Such Gold and Starters as you're a singer-songwriter and to an extent is different to those bands. What are your thoughts on this?
Koji: I'm surprised that anyone's surprised! We share a lot of the same musical forefathers in terms of growing up listening to punk, hardcore, etc. So there's definitely a common thread when it comes to our sound and the things that we sing about. I guess some people are afraid of or perhaps startled by acoustic guitars.

ATP: However you've played with similar bands (for example Stay Ahead of the Weather) before, right? Surely this makes it somewhat easier?
Koji: In the last year I've toured and played shows with La Dispute, Into It. Over It., Balance & Composure, SAOTW, CSTVT, Kevin Devine, Such Gold, Former Thieves, Title Fight, Make Do & Mend, Transit and so many others. These are people I call my friends and we don't see color, religion, OR genre. It's all music and that's how we carry it.

ATP: What albums are you really into right now?
Koji: 'Swing & Float' by A.N. Palamara, 'Kiss Each Other Clean' by Iron & Wine, 'Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous' by Big L, 'How I Got Over' by the Roots, and 'Eyes & Nines' by Trash Talk.

ATP: Anything else that you'd like to add?
Koji: Be joyful, be creative.

Koji begins his UK tour with Such Gold and Starters today.

17th - Old Maltings, Bury St Edmonds*
18th - Le Pub, Newport*
19th - Banquet Records, Kingston (Such Gold and Koji only - Details here)
19th - Fighting Cocks, Kingston*
20th - The Old Angel, Nottingham*
21st - Royal Park Cellars, Leeds*
22nd - Retro Bar, Manchester*
23rd - 13th Note, Glasgow
24th - The Marquee, Norwich*
25th - The Parish, Huddersfield*
26th - The Macbeth, London*
27th - Unit Club, Southampton* Note: Change of venue/location.
28th - Harris Hall, Andover*

1st - Innocent, Hengelo, Holland
2nd - Roots Club, Moenchengladbach
3rd - The Chillout, Hochst, Austria
4th - TBC, Regensberg
5th - TBC, Hannover
6th - TBC, High Wycombe (w/ Hostage Calm, Basement + Daylight)
7th - The White Rabbit Plymouth
8th - Soundhouse, Northampton
9th - Wagon and Horses, Birmingham
10th - TBC, Galway
11th - Pop Punk Still Lives #2 - The Pint, Dublin
*Denotes Koji as support

Official Website
Koji on Twitter, Facebook and Bandcamp.

Words by Landon Petterson and Sean Reid.

Alter The Press!