The powerful tunes of PWRFL PWR

Since October of 2006, Kazutaka Nomura has been performing under the moniker PWRFL PWR (pronounced “powerful power”).

Since October of 2006, Kazutaka Nomura has been performing under the moniker PWRFL PWR (pronounced “powerful power”). After the dissolution of his previous band (a noise group called NA), Nomura began, in his own words, “messing with the singer-songwriter format.”

“I spent a few years making noise with NA and other bands. And there was no structure, no melodies and I just got sick of it. I like hummable, singable melodies, just … short, memorable songs, like old folk songs. Something that might only be like 24 measures, but people sing it over and over and it just becomes … something that you know, something that gets inside you,” Nomura says.

Nomura attended Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts, where he studied classical composition. It seems strange that a singer-songwriter should choose to study composition, rather than enrolling in Cornish’s established singer-songwriter program. But, as Nomura explains, his interest in jazz and classical guitar made the composition program a better fit for his musical goals.

“I’ve never found most singer-songwriters interesting musically, because it’s just like playing the same five chords over and over and whining about, you know, their lives, and I didn’t like that. I feel like I have better ideas. If I were to try the same format—which was, I guess, how I got into being a singer-songwriter and into PWRFL PWR—just messing with that format. At first the songs I was writing were kind of jokey, and now they’re getting more complicated. My earlier songs are silly things about brushing teeth or playing drums, or rainbows,” Nomura says.

PWRFL PWR is more than just a send-up of singer-songwriter conventions, though. It’s also a vehicle for Nomura’s informed pop sensibility.

“I’m definitely influenced by 20th century classical harmonies, and I try to include those in, like, part of my music,” Nomura says.

His favorite composer is Bach. Other influences include modern composers like Charles Ives, Bartok and John Luther Adams. A composition teacher at Cornish compared Nomura’s work to that of Erik Satie. Nomura’s choice in composers reveals the same pop sensibility that shines through in his recordings with PWRFL PWR.

The result is an accessibility that works even for international audiences.

“When I play in Japan, I’m still singing in English and the audience doesn’t understand the words … they only listen to guitar work or just, like, plain melodies. It’s not the meaning of the songs; it’s just the melody or just the music itself. That’s what they look for,” Nomura says.

Listeners who speak English will no doubt find more to appreciate than Nomura’s ability to write outstanding pop music.

“I think I’m going back to where I came from, musically, with PWRFL PWR. I’ve been writing a little bit of silly songs again, I have one about drinking—it just goes like “drink, drink drink, drink, drink the drink,” Nomura says.

Another song details his crush on a coke dealer’s girlfriend.

He describes his music as “a combination that’s never been done before, of feeling and honest lyrics and unfamiliar harmonies.”

“I draw song subjects from my life. When I go to, like, parties, for example, these are things I experience, and I try to keep it honest.”