Upon listening to Japan-based folk duo Nature Airliner’s music for the first time, their sound feels like a blast from the past and a breath of fresh air all in one go. Never did I think that those two phrases would ever work in tandem, but the husband-and-wife duo’s soothing discography has certainly proved me wrong. With a sound inspired by 60s and 70s folk giants such as Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan; and vocals that draw from the likes of Freddie Mercury and Stevie Nicks, the easygoing duo composed of Laurier and Eiko are here to prove that simplicity and authenticity can speak louder than the grandest arrangements.
Q: As a husband-and-wife duo, you guys have an offering that is quite unique. How did you meet and decide to start this band?
Eiko: I decided to post a personal ad because I was fed up with meeting guys in bars. Laurier was hooked by my ad. Two years after we got married, Laurier begged me to sing for a new folk duo he wanted to start.
Q: Laurier, you've often said that you are enamoured with Eiko's voice. What is it about it that you love so much?
Laurier: To quote a Leonard Cohen lyric, from the first time I heard her sing, it was, “A voice that sounds like God to me…”. To my ears, heart and soul, she has the clearest, strongest and warmest voice I have ever heard. It’s like the Archangel Gabriel. Haha.
Q: Your music is very much rooted in the folk genre with simple arrangements and warm melodies. Given the ever-changing and updating music scene in Japan, was it tough to stay true to your own style?
Laurier: J-pop and K-pop seem to dominate the charts in Japan, and most people are used to hearing music that is built up on forty-eight or ninety-six tracks or whatever, so it is sometimes shocking for people to hear us make music that is intentionally simple. Many people actually have tried to get us to add more members and more instruments, but I think that when the overwhelming majority of musical acts are drowning in complicated arrangements, our staunch simplicity can be a welcome relief to many people who would prefer an alternative.
By Jocelle Koh & Matt Taylor
In an overwhelmingly positive and progressive move, Taiwan announced in February 2018 that it would be moving full speed towards a blanket ban on single-use plastic drinking straws, takeaway beverage cups, plastic bags and disposable utensils by 2030, one of the farthest reaching bans on plastic in the world. Originally promoted by the government since the early 1990s due to worries about diseases and cross-contamination, single use utensils and plastic bags soon became a huge problem, producing over 160,000 tonnes plastic waste annually. As a result, there have been consistent efforts by the government to become more environmentally conscious since 2000. Although this may seem an unwieldy task for residents outside Taiwan, locals have already had a culture of environmental friendliness going for years; something which has been reflected in their music scene in a big way.
And when we say ‘big’, we don’t mean a huge gaggle of artists releasing songs about loving the earth in one spurt because it was trendy before petering off to a dying trickle. We mean a consistent and encouraging history of artists within the Taiwanese independent and mainstream scenes who have expressed their concern at the state of the environment, and used their influence and visibility to keep the cause going. From Luo Ta-Yu in 1984 to Wang Leehom in 2007, and the aptly titled ‘Quit Plastic Poison’ by the Sheng Xiang band in 2016, here’s a crash course on how Taiwanese music’s authenticity and outspoken nature has lent itself perfectly to the island’s journey to greater environmental wellbeing.
Luo Ta-yu - Super Citizen 超級市民 (1984
It’s impossible to overstate how influential veteran singer Luo Ta-yu 羅大佑 has been on the development of popular Chinese language music. Since his initial contribution to the campus folk movement (校園民歌運動) of the 1970s, Luo has deservedly been credited with not only broadening the horizons of Chinese music sonically, but also setting a new model for lyricism in Mandarin.