Ohio Interviews: Lullatone

Ohio Interviews


Lullatone is the Nagoya, Japan-based, husband and wife creative team of Shawn James Seymour and Yoshimi Tomida. They’ve put out 14 musical releases since 2003, including their latest, “Falling for Autumn,” which is the second in a 4-EP project of one release per season. The productive pair have made music for films, commercials, apps, and museums, and serve as the musical guests on a weekly children’s TV show, Sukusuku Pon. Aside from having a recording studio in their 1200-sq foot home, they also have two children: Niko, 5, and NIna, 1.


Let’s talk about “Falling for Autumn!” How did this seasonal project come about? Was there a particular reason you decided to tie your releases to a natural rhythm?

We both really like the summer, but it is also the season that I think most of our records sound worst in. We go to the beach almost every weekend and eat BBQ dinners outside at least once week, so we were living the summer life… just not making the summer sound. As a challenge we tried to make some new songs that might fit in with the season better. After we came up with the first EP of “Summer Songs” we thought it would be interesting to stretch it out to the other 3 seasons too. We had already gotten the hardest one out of the way – like eating all of your vegetables first when you are a little kid.

I love the song titles, “An Awkward Dinner Conversation at a Family Gathering” and “New Stationery for a New Semester.” Are there any outtakes you can tell us about? Any songs/titles that didn’t make this EP?

Thank you! I have a whole notebook full of ideas that just haven’t met the right melody yet. One of my favorites is “Staring Contest with a Dog Looking out of the Car Window Next to You.” Another is “The Dangers of Hearing a Funny Story while Drinking Milk.”

You must have been working on the Fall EP during summer, and now you are at the beach and presumably thinking about the winter EP! Do you feel like Dolce and Gabbana, always working a season ahead? How do you get yourselves seasonally inspired?

You cracked our code. We do always have to start ahead. (But we end up finishing it just in time like a big report you have all summer to write in grade school or something). To get in the mood to make the summer EP, we bought a bottle of sun tan oil and smelled it a lot while recording!

I have to ask about your “Experiments Around the House” film. Do you know “The Way Things Go?” by the Swiss artists David Weiss and Peter Fischli? I was thinking of how the two films compare and imagining that Calder might be an inspiration for you. Are there any visual artists or architects whose work you are particularly moved by these days?

Whoa, we had never seen that video before. It is amazing! Thanks for telling us about it. Calder is great, too. We actually teamed up with a mobile company before to make Lullatone mobiles. The idea of things spinning is something that always appeals to me.

As far as other artists… hmmm there are so many… We really like a designer named Frank Chimero and and author named Jonathan Ames. Yoshimi is a ridiculously voracious reader (at least a book a week), and I have been enjoying The New Yorker a lot.

In the past you have referred to your home/recording studio in Nagoya as a “playground.” If there were any new element you could add to your house/playground, what would it be?

More people! I wish we could have a space like Andy Warhol’s factory with a ton of friends and projects floating around, bumping into each other and morphing into new adventures.

Tell us about Sukusuku Pon! We so wish we could see that show here in NYC! What is your favorite instrument you have made for the show so far?

Sukusuku Pon is a local kids’ TV show here in Nagoya. We’ve been on it for 5 seasons now. Most of the seasons have been us teaching kids how to make instruments from things around the house. My favorite is a snare drum made with 2 foil bowls with beads and rice sandwiched between them. I used it on so many songs on our albums.

You are husband/wife artist/musician collaborators! Which pair most closely represents your collaboration stye? Batman and Robin; Batman and The Joker; Mick and Keith; Hello Kitty and Mimmy; or some other dynamic duo?

Our goal would have to be Charles and Ray Eames. At the moment Yoshimi is pretty busy with mom stuff so I’m in charge of most Lullatone stuff and she is kind of a “consultant” (we both don’t really know what consultants do, but we hear that phrase a lot and think it sounds like a funny title for her). She is a really good cook, too (which is super important for making songs).

What does Niko think about your seasonal EP project?

Like most kids, I don’t think he is that super interested in what we do – directly at least. But, sometimes when I run new tracks by him, he tells me if they are good or not. Oh, I guess Niko is kind of a “consultant,” too!

When can we expect your winter release?

The good thing about releasing these albums digitally is that everyone can hear almost directly after we finish it. The only problem is that we have to finish it. It is getting cold and inspiring here now. So, hopefully, late December or early January! Check here!