A renowned violinist and founding member of Jupiter One, Kishi Bashi has recorded and toured internationally with artists ranging from of Montreal to Regina Spektor. He released his solo debut 151a in 2012 which earned him the title of “Best New Artist” by NPR, and in 2014 released his sophomore full-length Lighght, which charted at #53 on Billboard.
But recently he has revealed a new project that is different altogether: a unique blend of coffee released by his hometown Athens, Georgia-based company Jittery Joe's.
Athens is known for its alternative music scene, boasting artists including R.E.M., Neutral Milk Hotel, of Montreal, and Danger Mouse, but when members of the small college town aren't at shows they're drinking coffee. Kishi Bashi has successfully combined those two loves with his new Jittery Joe’s roast “Royal Daark Blend," each can of which comes with a download code of an exclusive track inside.
Transverso was at his release party this morning in the independent coffee shop Hendershot’s, where over 150 fans ranging from four year-olds in Wolverine costumes to townies who likely graduated with Michael Stipe packed the small space.
While we waited for the show to start we sampled Royal Daark. The coffee has a really strong, unique flavor from beans originating in a region in the Ethiopian region of Harrar which are known for their floral and fruity toned acidity. The beans are French pressed to give them a dark roast per Kishi Bashi's exact specifications.
After he arrived on stage he announced that it was the earliest show of his career (10 AM), and light-heartedly empathized with the audience about the morning show time even though he had been the one who booked it in the first place. I guess that's what the coffee is for after all.
Performing without a set list Kishi Bashi took suggestions from and interacted with the audience, even going as far as inviting the kids up on stage, giving his local fans a truly unforgettable experience. He ended up playing about five songs including “It All Began With a Burst,” “Bright Whites,” and “The Ballad of Mr. Steak,” which you can listen to below:
Transverso met up with Kishi Bashi after the show to discuss his new coffee and his roots in Athens, Georgia.
TRANSVERSO: What inspired you to start your own line of coffee?
KISHI BASHI: I really like Jittery Joe’s a lot and I usually don’t jump at things that are outside my comfort zone, like doing music things. They came to me and I was like oh yeah, it’s a no brainer because I like the coffee. Then we did a tasting and I found a coffee that I really liked and then expanded on it.
So basically, it wasn’t something that I was really inspired to do it’s just something that’s really fortuitous, because their coffee is really progressive and they’re kind of cool and local you know? So it was just a really easy thing to do.
Oh! You know why they approached me? It’s because they’re expanding. They’re going to start having Jittery Joe’s coffee in Japan. They were like this guy plays in Japan too and so I’m going to launch it with them and make it official. I think that’s the real reason they came to me.
Other artists such as St. Vincent, James Murphy, and most recently Win Butler have their own coffee products now too -
Wait they have coffees too? No way!
Yeah! Do you think that it’s something more artists are going to be doing in the future?
I think if you feel good about it…
Is there a reason you chose Hendershots as the venue for the event?
I know Seth Hendershot, I think he used to work at Jittery Joe’s. That’s the whole backstory behind Seth. And then it’s a cool place because they’re serious about their coffee here. And also I just texted him because there’s no show here in the morning so it’s really easy to book.
What’s the inspiration behind the name of your coffee?
Oh Royal Daark Roast? Well the Royal thing is because I really like the graphic that JLP designed. I came up with the idea of having the suicide king, that’s a card. He’s got a knife behind his head. It’s a pose that people know. And I was like oh yeah, it should be royal you know? So that was easy. I did 'Daark’ because I have an album, Lighght, so it’s just really a play on words.
When you buy the can it has a free song to download. How did you choose the track?
I wrote it, I mean I literally was like I need a song to put on this coffee can or it’s going to be a hard sell, especially for my fans. So I was thinking about coffee and everything that came out was pretty shitty so I was like I’m just going to write a song and that’s what happened. It has nothing really to do with coffee.
Are you targeting your coffee directly to fans of your music or more to coffee lovers?
I have a feeling that a lot of people just bought it, not even coffee drinkers, just because it’s an interesting gift, and a cool can.
How has being based in Athens affected your career?
I got my start here when I was touring with of Montreal. My first solo show was here and everyone in of Montreal was there heckling me. [of Montreal frontman, Kevin Barnes] was there at that show and was heckling me and people were getting mad like at him because they didn’t know who he was. They were were like ‘why are you such an asshole?! He’s trying so hard!’ It just made him look like an asshole, it was hilarious.
Which Athens coffee spot is your favorite?
I go to Jittery Joe's a lot. The Alps one is a little sterile. The one at Five Points is hard to park but I like it. But I don’t really have a favorite spot, I usually just drink at home.
When you’re on the road, do you have a favorite coffee spot that you visit?
Every town has really cool coffee shops. I can’t think of anything that’s really stuck out. They usually have one, there’s always a cool coffee shop with good music going on.
And lastly, how do you take your coffee?
A little milk, no sugar.