*2021 Update: Dokoe is currently on a hiatus and Alicia now plays in her new band, Kyozo.
Alicia Rei Kim is the frontwoman and guitarist of Dokoe, a Japanese math / post-rock band from the San Francisco Bay Area. Having just released her first EP with the band in 2019, she is now gearing up for the next phase of her musical journey.
Instagram: @nodarei | @dokoemusic
Facebook: @alicia.rei.kim1 | @dokoemusic
Hi Alicia! The team at Davenly are big supporters of your band, Dokoe, and are excited to speak with you about your musical endeavors.
For first-time listeners, how would you describe Dokoe’s music? What are some of the emotions that you are able to portray through it?
I would describe it as a storyline and image driven. Each song tells a story, although when I write it, the theme is very specific, but I let the listeners interpret their own stories into the songs. I feel like that’s one of the beautiful things about music and art; people are free to put in their own personal stories and emotions from the emotions I put into the songs. Most of the songs I compose have a flavor of sentimentality and nostalgia.
How did you come up with the band’s name, and what is the meaning behind it?
I am really bad with names... but Dokoe (どこへ) means two things; where to / somewhere.
When I first started the band, it was the first time creating my own band, and as clueless as I was, the curiosity of where the band was going to go towards in the future kind of sparked it as our official band name. There’s really nothing too special about the name. It’s a direct and transparent name that I feel like everyone can relate with in life.
On January 23, 2019, Dokoe self-released their first EP titled "Amor Fati, Vol. I". If you could choose one song that's representative of the band, which one would it be and why?
Amor Fati was a very delayed album that was supposed to be released back in 2017, so our sound has matured the past two years (as well as members), but I feel like if I had to choose one song, it would be ‘And So Goodbye’, which was also released as a MV recently. I feel like that was the closing chapter of the old Dokoe that was much more naive, sentimental, and emotionally vulnerable in regards to songwriting and vibes.
Tell us a bit about your writing process. When structuring a song, what normally comes first? Is this something that you discuss with your band members beforehand, or do you just go with the flow?
Usually I make the melodies and present them to the band during our practice sessions. I’m more of a team player, and my bandmates do rely on me for the riffs, but I firmly believe in everyone having roles in the band. I write the guitar riffs 100%, and the riffs and rhythm made by my bassist and my drummer are 100% made by them, so it’s usually a team effort. We are all open to each other’s ideas as I feel like both of them are very talented and creative. Sometimes our random jam sessions can produce a song too where we’re just like ‘dude that was sick let’s make that into a song’. We equally input all our ideas into the songs, which I am really thankful for.
You also have a solo project under the moniker, Nekomi. This project focuses more on your electronic and lo-fi influences. Back during August of 2018, you released a sneak peak for a new release. Fast forward to November 2019, it’s finally out! Titled ‘猫の宇宙’, which translates to “Cat Universe”, what was the inspiration behind this EP and how did the title come about?
I know... I had to wipe out my laptop to record these songs! Hahaha. In the first song, my cat Jiji made a cameo with her lovely vocals. I made this EP around my cat and the past memories of my depression before having her. I thought about the times I was at my worst or when I had my manic episodes, but the songs turned out a bit more lighter than I expected, probably because I’m not in a negative mindset anymore. Having her in my life was one of the best things that’s happened to me regarding my mental health, so I wanted to dedicate it to her. Also, it was fun to record this EP because she enjoyed the songs and sat next to me every step of the recording process.
What was the initial moment that made you decide to purchase an instrument for the first time? Was learning guitar extremely challenging for you, or did you pick it up rather quickly?
I bought my first acoustic back in high school with some money that I saved (a nice Martin acoustic that was unfortunately lost) and I casually tinkled with it from time to time. I actually picked up the electric back in autumn of 2016 and started to feverishly practice until the end of 2016 to this day. Back then when I first started, I practiced a total of 7-12 hours a day with the minimum of 5 hours. I play piano by ear (I taught myself when I was 6) so it wasn’t too hard to pick up the pace. Although I do like going back to my old videos and seeing the progress whenever I feel discouraged.
Everything you start new will always be challenging at first, but with hard work, dedication, and a bit of thinking outside the box, you can achieve anything you want to do.
Growing up, which artists helped to shape and influence your current sound?
I am a huge fan of Joe Hisaishi and Dir En Grey. They are two completely different genres and I’m sure those who know are looking at this really confused, but they both aren’t too far off from each other. Both really put a certain kind of emotion that really comforts me and even though our sound is nothing alike from either of the artists, it inspires me to put my own flavor of sound into my music.
During a time where more artists are releasing singles in intervals rather than albums, what is your view on that and which method do you prefer?
I think singles are great because it hypes people up for the actual album, but also it gives us more time to keep working on the album while giving everyone something to listen to. It’s kind of like giving a sample out to show people what the next album will sound like.
Aside from your incredible guitar playing and finger tapping skills, you can also sing! We were quite impressed after hearing the EP’s opening track “Kenkai”. Do you plan on implementing more vocals into the newer set of songs for Dokoe, or would you like to keep the music primarily instrumental?
I’m planning on implementing more vocals into our future tracks! I’m still not as comfortable with my vocals, and I’m getting over my insecurities in it. For the longest time, I thought my voice was very weak and unpleasant, but I’m getting to know myself a bit more with it. I thought it would be cool to have more vocals in Japanese as well as in Korean in the near future.
Growing up from both a Japanese and Korean background, what were your favorite dishes from each culture that you would recommend? Also, what are your top 3 favorite restaurants in general within the bay area?
My favorite Korean dish would probably be jajangmyun (black bean noodles) and my favorite Japanese dish is mentaiko and rice, which is a very simple dish haha.
I don’t eat out too often, but I always recommend “Pho Dao” for the best pho, “En” for good Japanese tapas, and finally the “Chipotle” next to my house LMFAO
We would like to congratulate you on recently graduating from beauty school and becoming a certified cosmetologist! We know this is something that you've been working extremely hard towards for the past few years. How did this career decision come about and is it something that you will be juggling full time alongside music?
Thank you! It was a year of hell honestly, but I’m glad I made it through. I’ve been doing hair for fun since I was in high school, and after working jobs I hated, I wanted to pursue something that I can enjoy while making money (and being my own boss).
With that said, I will be juggling it full time alongside music. I can make my own schedules now so it’ll be easier for me to focus on music, shows, and even tours without worries.
Now that 2020 is finally here, what musical goals would you like to accomplish for the remainder of the year?
I’d like to finally go on tour this year. I know that being in school last year and also my jobs in the past held me back from it, so this year I’d like to go on a mini tour. I also want to step out of the math rock boundary and explore other genres of playing styles!
Photographer: Alvin Concepcion Alvarez (ALCO Photos)
For the aspiring musicians out there that are starting out, what is the most important message that you can provide to them?
Never compare yourself to others in terms of ‘popularity’ or skills, as that is one step towards failure and self doubt. Don’t rush things and stay dedicated. Communication is very important in every aspect. Treat everyone with respect, and be humble.
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