Inside Japanese Artist Cuushe's Dreamy Musical World

After meeting with us in Tokyo's Shinjuku district, dream pop extraordinaire Cuushe shares a playlist of the dark, delicate songs that inspire her.

by Kat Aileen & Keenan MacWilliam
Nov 17 2016, 10:28pm

Potos by Maya Kibbel

Words by Brittany Joyce

"I think making music heals me a lot," Cuushe, the Japanese artist, tells us in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo. Filled with flashing neon lights and towering skyscrapers, this neighborhood, Tokyo's bustling center, is almost the opposite of the relaxed vibe Cuushe emits. But while she's easily lost in things like music, art, and napping, there's something about the overwhelming cityscape that inspires her.

Shinjuku is where Cuushe, who was raised in Kyoto and spent time in Osaka before moving to Tokyo, works during the day. Somehow she manages to transcend all the hubbub to make her music.

Though Cuushe has always been musically inclined, it took her a while to build the dream pop universe in which she now resides. "I started making music in 2008," she says. "Before that, I wanted to make music, but I couldn't finish any songs. I did just improvisation with piano or synth."

Her first song was "Laundry." It soon led to her debut album, Red Rocket Telepathy, released on the Tokyo label Flau in 2009. Since then, she's put out three more albums, honing in on a cozy world where her sadness gives way to creativity.

Most recently, her track "We Can't Stop," from her 2014 album Night Lines, caught the attention of the Brienne Rose, the music supervisor for TBS' Search Party, a dark comedy series premiering this month. The ethereal and somewhat haunting song proves perfect accompaniment to the show, which follows a young woman as she embarks on a Nancy Drew–style quest to find her missing friend.

"I like that quiet moment. I feel like time stops."

When Cuushe bikes home, after businesses have closed for the day and people have started leaving the neighborhood, she usually blasts Chromatics' "Girls Just Wanna Have Some" through her headphones. "I like that quiet moment," she says. "I feel like time stops." Perhaps Cuushe likes the neighborhood because it invokes a sense of solitude, a feeling that seems to be a vital aspect of her work, which is deeply rooted in her dreams and her emotions.

Questionnaire photos by Kat Aileen

Her nostalgic nature means that she typically associates songs with highly particular moments in her life. In fact, she relates that way to all music. "[Fishmans'] 'Go Go Round This World!' reminds of me my university time," she says. "It was installed in my dad's car at the time, and every time I went out for a drive, music started from this song."

A major source of inspiration in her life and art is travel. "I felt a lot of happiness when I went to Lecce, Italy, to visit my amazing artist friend, Populous," she says. "I felt like my life was changing. Every time I took a breath, I felt happiness there." And having spent extended periods of time spent in both London and Berlin, Cuushe is constantly expanding her connection to other cultures, as well as looking for new places to explore.

Together, the songs and experiences that make up Cuushe's landscape paint something uniquely hers, and she invites us into this space with her playlist. From the smooth, simple truth of Gabriel Garzón-Montano's "Everything Is Everything" to the playful yet somber wanderings of Yura Yura Teikoku's "Hitori Bocchi No Jinkoueisei (Lonely Satellite)," these songs are rose-colored but dark, delicate but strong—dichotomies that fuel so much of Cuushe's work.

Watch now: The First Episode of Search Party

Sponsored by Search Party, a New Original Comedy Series on TBS that follows the mystery of a lost soul and her group of self-absorbed friends searching for a college acquaintance who's gone missing. You can watch the entire season of Search Party starting Monday, November 21st @11/10c on TBS.

This article was paid for by TBS and was created independently from Broadly's editorial staff.