Rinko is pointing to a series of her small canvas paintings, splashed with hues of green and gray, accented by yellow and black. The imagery on each painting is abstract — a tilted, three-dimensional pyramid, a mountain-like structure sitting on a bed of hearts, a series of small triangles loosely formed into the shape of a rocketship.
Rinko (don’t bother trying to get a last name — it’s just Rinko, she’ll tell you) is about an hour away from taking the stage in an adjacent room at the Buffalo arts space Sugar City. She’ll be performing with her indie rock trio, The Molice.
Rinko, who is the lead singer, and her bandmates Yuzuru Takeda, a guitarist, and Paro Katsumoto, the drummer, are officially based in Tokyo. But this summer and fall – and before that, and beyond it, in a creative sense – they are based in Buffalo at the invitation of the city’s most famous musical resident, Goo Goo Dolls founder Robby Takac.
The band is living in Buffalo, preparing the launch of its next album, “Gate,” which will be released by Good Charamel Records, the label owned by Takac and his wife, Miyoko, who is also from Japan. The Molice is also making art, playing shows and going on short tours that criss-cross New York and nearby states. Their next local show is Saturday, Sept. 8, when they will play at the Music Is Art Festival, the annual event run by Takac’s foundation.
These paintings on the wall at Sugar City, where Rinko hosted her first art show earlier this summer, were painted in the backyard of the Buffalo home The Molice is renting. The words on each painting – “Signs,” “Shooter” – represent songs written and performed by the band.
Rinko, who of the three members has the strongest command of English, is explaining her creative process. It’s one that melds imagination and ideas, songwriting and artwork. Takac has said that Rinko’s job in the band “is to be as creative as possible;” that’s apparent as she explains the genesis of her art.
“I know my condition,” she said, standing in front of a painting titled “In the Air.” “I can get good imagination today, I know. I can catch it today, I know. It’s easy for me to — ”
She stopped talking and quickly snatches something invisible out of the air, as if she’s catching an idea and pulling it in.
“I know my condition.”
She also knows where her condition works best, and it isn’t Tokyo. The fast-paced, people-packed atmosphere of the largest city in her home country wasn’t giving Rinko the room she needed to be creative. That’s why a cold email several years ago from Takac turned out to be a career-changer.
The Goo Goo Dolls bassist has long run a record label as a side business. For a while, Takac recorded and released music from American (mostly Buffalo) acts on Good Charamel Records, but his focus eventually honed in on bringing Japanese music, or J-Rock, to the United States.
A contact in Japan told Takac about The Molice, whose name is contrived from two of their biggest musical influences — Jim Morrison and the Police. Takac checked out videos of the band.
“I was pretty blown away,” he said. “In a weird sort of way I didn’t know what to make of their music. It was sort of disco, it was sort of new wave, but it was sort of punk rock at the same time. I couldn’t really put my finger on it, and that’s what sort of drew me to it. I found that kind of fascinating.”
Takac sent the band an email introducing himself and his label, which also includes Japanese rock bands Shonen Knife and Pinky Doodle Poodle. Eventually, he set up a meeting with the band in Japan. His wife, Miyoko, had to stay back at home with their young daughter Hana, leaving Takac to find common ground with Rinko, Yuzuru and Paro not in language, but in creative vision.
“With my 10 percent knowledge of Japanese, and their 20 percent knowledge of English, we cemented some really cool ideas — and ate a lot of curry,” Takac said.
Since 2015, The Molice has visited the United States four times. They have toured, recorded music at Takac’s Buffalo studio, GCR Audio, and released music through Good Charamel. Their next album, “Gate,” was fully funded this summer on Kickstarter and is due out this fall.
“Gate” is the product of two months of recording at GCR Audio. That’s a markedly expanded creative process from what the band would have had in Japan, where they typically would spend about three days recording an album.
“Everybody is on such an unbelievably intense schedule there all the time, it seems like,” Takac said. “They tend to get their records done quickly. In the States here, like most things, we tend to take a little more time to ruminate on things — and maybe overthink them?”
As he turns that statement into a question, Takac laughed. “I’m not sure what the appropriate way to say this is,” he said.
Takac was speaking separately from Rinko, but had she been there, she almost certainly would have agreed. What he is lightly referring to as the American tendency to overthink is a creative elixir for her, and her bandmates, too. Ask them about Buffalo’s influence on their art, and they turn almost philosophical.
“I love the balance of nature and city,” Rinko said, pointing out that Buffalo has longer, sunnier days than Tokyo. “We live in dark,” she sayid, referring to home. “We live in light here.”
Her bandmate Paro added, “Buffalo time is slow. Tokyo is so busy, everyday, everytime. So stressful.”
Rinko wanted to do an art show in Japan, but couldn’t make it work. The Molice’s Western-inspired music, too, seems to find a more willing audience here.
“People in the United States like unique artwork, very original artwork,” Rinko said. “I’m a crazy girl. I’m a crazy woman. It’s a tough situation to do these activities in Tokyo. In America, it’s much easier.”
An hour later, she was onstage at Sugar City. She introduced herself, introduced her band, and then added, “We love Buffalo!” She drew out that “o” sound nice and long, just the way she likes to do it here.