Session 11: Lullatone

Meet Shawn
and Yoshimi, of Lullatone!

Firstly, let us say how much we loooove Lullatone’s music, actually it’s beyond words to describe how much their music inspires us. If you’re feeling beaten up, lousy and just want to hide inside a den to run away from nightmares, Lullatone’s tunes will teleport you immediately into a sphere of comfort that will soothe you into believing in dreams again. “Pajama Pop” is a whole new wave & genre of music that Lullatone has designed and created. We have so many favorites from all their past albums, and we can’t contain out excitement any longer, so here’s sharing our latest dröm sessions with Shawn & Yosihmi – also known as Lullatone.

Hello there Shawn & Yoshimi! We’ve been fans of your craft/music since your album ‘My Petit Melodies”, and that was around 2003 if we’re not mistaken? In our opinion, Lullatone has really pioneered and created a music genre that is so fresh & uniquely distinctive, we absolutely love the quirk, honesty and child-likeness behind your craft! Your music always make us want to grab our picnic baskets, cycle our way into the deep forests, then lie on the grass and do some cloud spotting. We’ve enjoyed music by Penguin Cafe Orchestra but yours is like, whoah – a whole new dimension for us! So first question – how did ‘pajama pop’ became a part of who you are, what started & fuels your music passion? And why the name Lullatone?
Thank you so much! Lullatone started when I (Shawn) first moved to Japan in 2002 and was living with Yoshimi in her tiny apartment. Every night when she fell asleep I would borrow her laptop and start making little lullabies for her to sleep to. The only problem was that I often woke her up to listen to them! We though of the name Lullatone by mixing Lullaby with tone and thinking that it kind of sounded like xylophone. Although our recent songs aren’t as sleepy, every album we’ve made has come about as the soundtrack for some kind of everyday magic.
Lullatone-Shawn_Bike-Drum-Guitalele cardboard House

The things and ideas that float inside both your brains always amazes us. You even make DIY instruments with simple everyday objects – like balloon bongos (!). What inspires you both to create the way you do? How does an inspiration for an album, song, lyric or even a DIY music instrument hit you both?
Making stuff is just so much fun. As for the DIY instruments… we were offered a corner on a weekly children’s TV show here in Nagoya and decided to teach kids how to make instruments on it. But, we didn’t think about that being 52 different instruments per season. That is a lot! But, without the deadline / challenge to do it, we wouldn’t have come up with some ideas we ended up really liking.

Most of our song titles come from little memos in a notebook I carry around. It is a good exercise to notice details all around!
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Making instruments with simple everyday objects

Watch Shawn teaching us a thing or two on how to make balloon bongos!
recording leaves as a shaker
Recording leaves as a shaker
recording more leaves on the bike ride to the studio  recording more leaves on the bike ride to the studio
Recording more leaves on the bike ride to the studio

You both have 2 little bundle of joys– your baby girl, Nina and son, Niko, do you consciously expose them to a lot of music, and get them to be hands on with music instruments? Also, do you think child-likeness is something lacking in most creative outfits (be it from the genre of music/ design/ architecture etc…)?
Yeah, there is almost always some music playing in our house. For example, during dinner we usually listen to Woody Allen soundtracks, or Harry Nilsson or something. Both of our kids (and us) really like Beach House and Vampire Weekend too. But, I have to admit that Lullatone HQ is not always full of good music… Sometimes when we let Niko choose what to listen to we get superhero theme songs or “dinosaur dubstep” (because dinosaurs are awesome and dubstep sounds like the music in all extreme videos on youtube these days???). It is so bad, but I think I would love it if I was 5 years old.

I don’t know if child-likeness is so important to creativity. But, I think that optimism and believing in potential are. Also, energy! It is hard to make stuff when you are too tired.
train making tape t shirt for niko 2
Train making tape t-shirt for Nikotrain making tape t shirt for niko
lap napping
1_Lullatone_shawn and niko on a bird
3_Shawn and Niko Golon Glockenspiel
Shawn and Niko Golon Glockenspiel

Lullatone has a very strong visual art direction– distinctive and coherent. You’ve worked/collaborated with various illustrators and graphic designers for your albums, graphics & videos. For the latest album art – illustrations are by Grace Lee & designs by Sundwich, how do you go about seeking out these people to work with, or do they come to you guys?  We realized some of these illustrators & designers (example: Ruby Taylor) are not even residing in Japan, how do you communicate to them your vision for the album, or do you give them the freedom to interpret?
We are really lucky to have been able to work with some wonderfully talented people. Whenever we find someone whose works really resonates with us, we keep a memo in case we can do something together in the future. Then, when the right project comes up, we send them a mail.

Sundwich is a new design group here in Nagoya that we are close friends with. They are still quite small, but we hang out all of the time. We are even part of their afternoon ping pong in the park club!
summer songs
Lullatone’s Summer Songs Album illustrations by Ruby Taylor

Lullatone’s Let’s Split a Banana Split stop animatiion video – one of our personal favourites. Love the colours of the ice cream sundaes and the way they melt!

(To Shawn): We really admire that brave move you made to Japan, how different was it living & creating music in the U.S, Louisville vs Japan, Nagoya? The environment & culture in both countries are so drastically different, did the change of environment impacted you in any sense?
When I first moved there I was surprised to find so many people making art or being in bands or doing some kind of project. I didn’t know many people like that in Japan. On the flipside, it seemed that the more time people put into these kinds of projects, the less they put into making nice dinners. I think we are always trying to find the right balance between these two.
throwing NIko in Utsumi 2 monster waves at sunset laying in the park

You even created your own app – Dropophone. Could you share with us a little bit more about the thoughts, process & behind the scenes to the Dropophone?
Our friend Sean Talley, who worked with us on some album covers, is also really good at flash programming. We sent him some sounds and a rough color pencil sketch of our idea of how it could work and… voilà. He made it magic! Later on a friend of a friend wanted to test out some iphone app programming he was working on and… abracadabra. It worked too!
A screencap of Lullatone’s Dropohone iPhone App, download for free here!

Could we have some sneaky peaks of your own studio/home? What are some of your favourite spots within your studio/home?
Shawn: Lately I’m renting an office downtown to do some recording in. It was hard to wrap up client projects with quick deadlines with two super fun “distractions” running around the house, so I had to get a bonus studio.  But, I still find myself dragging half of my recording stuff back home so I can work from here (like today!). When I’m in the studio Yoshimi and the kids come by a lot. Sometimes they fall asleep if I’m recording too late, which is kind of like how our first album came about!
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Little Niko falling sound asleep

But, my favorite is recording at home. It is so much sunnier!

Yoshimi: When we built our house we were careful to make the kitchen completely connected to the rest of the house. While I’m cooking or doing the dishes I’m still facing the kids drawing pictures or playing with clay or making some kind of mess in the living room.
kitchen 1
Lullatone’s kitchen, with a very cute hanging mobile!

Please share with us an all time favorite Lullatone creation, and tell us what makes it your favorite?
Shawn: My very favorite Lullatone song is this – A Runaway Kite
Yoshimi: It was a lot of fun to make our Experiments Around the House video:
Experiments Around the House Video

Apart from creating music, what are some of your other favourite things to do?
So much stuff…. like… anything by a pool or beach, going to a forest, sento (Japanese public baths), reading books and magazines, drawing pictures with our kids, and going to the park too much.
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Awesome Ultra man and Super Mario bento sets!

Lastly, is there anything that you can say to advise or encourage all new/aspiring musicians out there?
Keep up the awesome!
pineapple people
Inside Instrument Photo



Lullatone’s latest EP – Falling for Autumn is now available at the little dröm store, 10 tracks in total. Each CD also comes with a signed postcard by Shawn & Yoshimi.

Songs made for autumn, a nice soundtrack for:
• introducing more layers into your wardrobe
• discovering an impressive collection of acorns
• watching a cup of hot tea steam up a friend’s glasses
• riding bikes when it is way way too windy
• choosing a rake over a leaf blower
• switching from iced coffee to hot coffee
• eating too many persimmons, sweet potatoes and chestnuts
• “smelling nature”
• walking slower than usualeveryday adventure2
everyday adventure
Soundtracks for Everyday Adventures are also available at our store. 15 tracks in this album, also comes with a signed postcard by Shawn & Yoshimi.