Written by Matt Salter
On March 16, Tokyo-based singer/songwriter and rapper, Haru Nemuri, made her debut appearance at the Mohawk, one of the venues for South by Southwest, the Austin, TX festival of art, technology, and culture.
Austin’s reputation as the Live Music Capital of the World (that’s our trademarked motto. Really.) can be both a blessing and curse for up-and-coming artists. On one hand, the city maintains a thriving, diverse culture of, yep, live music. Opportunities abound for artists and audiences alike.
On the other, Austin locals may not have seen it all, but between ACL, Dirty 6th, and the dirtier South Austin indie scene, we’ve seen a lot. South by Southwest in particular (SXSW if you’re nasty) is a tough crowd. Some of the maddest acts on the planet elicit little more than shrugging apathy from rooms full of buttondown hipsters less interested in getting loud than talking crypto over craft beer or coffee. No shade! For many attendees, the creative side of SXSW has become background music for a world-class tech and business conference. The party can wait; they’re here to work. Fair enough.
Haru Nemuri did not get that memo.
Instead, she stared down a packed Austin crowd on a Wednesday afternoon, put it in the palm of her hand, and made it scream. The whole set was a true leap forward from the already excellent, “Unused Visa,” itself made in response to her planned appearance at the COVID-canceled SXSW 2020. The show mixed older tracks with the steadily superb digital releases Nemuri dropped throughout 2021. Onstage, Nemuri’s signature mix of almost-too-sweet melodies and snarling, dissonant counterpoint, built on the foundation of a thumping low end, grabbed every listener by the adrenal gland and squeezed. Add Nemuri’s phenomenal stage presence and what could have been a jaded audience was yelling and bouncing like kids at a birthday party.
Once she’d finished blowing the doors off the Mohawk, Haru Nemuri was kind enough to sit down for a few questions with ThatMag. Our brief interview was conducted through a very patient translator in a small, deafeningly loud venue. Any errors are entirely the fault of the author.
ThatMag: Welcome to Austin! How’s the Texas crowd treating you?
Haru Nemuri: They’re so wonderful. It’s just been [heart-shaped hand gesture].
TM: “Unpaid Visa,” one of your biggest successes to date, was inspired by the COVID-driven cancellation of SXSW in 2020. You’ve also been dropping lots of new material online. What does the future look like for you? Are you focused on digital releases or do you plan on touring?
HN: Definitely touring! I have a new album coming out [“Shunka Ryougen,” due on April 22] and I can’t wait to play more American shows.
TM: Hell yes. On the subject of SXSW, have you had the chance to see any other artists? Is there anyone you’re especially excited about?
HN: I just got here, but I can’t wait to see Pussy Riot. They’re a huge inspiration for me. I cover one of their songs [the catchy, lethal “Police State”] in my sets.
As if to top an already stellar show, Pussy Riot would open their show side by side with Haru Nemuri, blasting “Police State” to a joyous crowd. It was the perfect conclusion to one of the finest SXSW debut acts we’ve ever seen. Haru Nemuri gave a stellar performance. She’s one to watch.
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