The [Delicate] Tales of Roses and Wine: A Summer in Italy—An Interview with Kurosuke

The Tales of Roses and Wine (2019) by Kurosuke | Credit to Bandcamp

Love-themed music is always everywhere, even across genres. Aside from pop, it is not difficult to find rock or even punk songs with romance or heartbreak themes in them. There is some point where people grow tired of it because it is just too much and everywhere, including me. However, I also realize that I need some “easy-to-listen-to” music whenever I am tired and just want to relax. I came across some that haven’t been able to bore me up to this point. Whenever I listen to them, it calms me down and somehow changes my surrounding; it is all joyful all of sudden. Some of them come from an Indonesian artist, Kurosuke.

Kurosuke rose to fame with his debut album, which was named after him, Kurosuke (2018). A year later, he graced us with his second album, The Tales of Roses and Wine. His album means a lot to me personally, because it saved me during one of my darkest times, and cherished my situation at the time. Once I love a vibe from a song or an album, I always hold it dearly to me because no matter how rocky my life journey will be, the songs will always be that way forever. I like to document it and make it permanent and visible to me all the time with a form of a tattoo. It’s small, I wrote it myself on a piece of paper during my class breaks and asked the tattoo artist to make it on me.

The tattoo feels strange yet intimate, but where do you think I got the idea from? The Tales of Roses and Wine, for me, successfully delivers the kind of intimacy I hope for. It’s not too long, it’s ephemeral yet it’s always there so it is also permanent (I hope this won’t get deleted from Spotify!). This time, I got the opportunity to get in touch with Kurosuke to ask a few questions (questions that I really wanted the answers to!).

Answers in Indonesian were translated by me; hence I apologize in advance for any error.

How are you coping with the pandemic? Professionally (as in your music career) and personally (if you’d like to share)?

Professionally speaking, the pandemic hit hard on musicians at any level. There were many pivots and changes: with the way how we earn our paychecks, with how everything is digitalized (and monetized). However, Kurosuke was actually on rest so there weren’t many targets or anything. During the pandemic, there were only 2–3 big projects. No virtual or live shows. Only recording and doing a few brand projects, because personally, he needed a long, deep rest.

Credits to Kurosuke on Instagram

Going back to approximately 3 years ago — to your second album, The Tales of Roses and Wine — would you mind telling me a little story behind it? Was there any particular mundane scene in your life that just inspired the album, or was it something bigger?

The album was released in October 2019, but it was actually written from November to December 2018. However, up to that point, there wasn’t any intention or certainty about releasing the album. There was a thought that Kurosuke should be enough with one album only. Eventually, the progress started at the beginning of 2019 — and then stopped for a while — and then got back on track in mid-2019.

It all started from de Luca in Plaza Senayan. It was Sunday evening. It was just the perfect situation with the right vibes. Moscato was born there as a title. Kurosuke was trying to capture that landscape and vibes into an album, creating an image of a hot summer in Italy while the sun shining through. Never been to Italy, though, it just ideally felt that way — and that’s how falling in love is supposed to feel.

The album represents two phases in a relationship: the honeymoon and a more serious, intimate, and somehow mature phase. It was inspired by the 1962 film Days of Wine and Roses and using it as an album title just felt right. Oh, and there was a plan to create a short story as a companion, but the idea was archived.

Anyway, is there a particular reason why you are writing your songs in English? Do you want it to be universal or do you just feel better at expressing yourself in English?

It just felt natural and right.

Every song already has the perfect language to use with.

An Indonesian song will probably sound a little bit off if it’s literally translated to English and vice versa — or at least it won’t sound as good as it is in Indonesian. There is nothing that is better between the two (Kurosuke is writing lyrics in Indonesian as well), but yeah, English has a plus point for its universality. Maybe next time. But so far, English fits the artistic and linguistic aspects of Kurosuke’s song better.

Just out of curiosity, why do you choose The Tales of Roses and Wine, Pt. I as the opening track of the album? Is it like the divider between the two parts (that you mentioned in Bandcamp) where the first part is all joyful and romantic, and then the second part is all intimate and more serious? I personally thought you’d set the same vibes for the first track and the rest of the first part’s tracks.

Fyi, this album was supposedly titled Sunrise Last Sunset — and yes, thank you for noticing. There are two distinctions between these six tracks. They sound almost similar, but they have to be sung in a different way. It’s all about romance, but differences must exist in how to deliver these songs and it definitely needs a divider so it makes more sense. It helps to create the imagery and it sets the tones.

Those two tracks were the last to be produced, actually. After finishing the whole tracks and listening to them all over again, a decision was made to create such an opening and divider — which is a very good thing for you to notice because that was the intention. Although the album is not necessarily divided into two, the divider is just there to change the settings and scenes.

Do you have a particular track (in the album) that you like the most? The one track that you feel so personal with, the one that you relate to the most or the one that you feel a connection with?

I have two personal favorite tracks from the album and they come from “different” scenes: firstly — production-wise, song-writing-wise, lyrics-wise, and artistic achievement-wise — I really love Moscato. I have been wanting to write that kind of song — an Italian, European disco — for a while, but it was so hard; until Moscato came out, with the imagery of Italian pop and disco-pop as well. I really love playing that live because it’s always fun. The funny thing about Moscato is that it was never released as a single but it performed really well on Spotify. During 2020–2021, this is the most used song for wedding or proposal videos. It’s very nice and very touching. It’s a very happy, and sweet song, actually.

My personal favorite with a deeper meaning is… Half the Sky. It’s a very personal song for personal reasons and for a specific person, too. I never played it live before because it was so hard for me to stay… sane? Not to stay sane, but not to be emotional playing that song. However, I decided for my next show this weekend I will be playing that one.

So my personal favorites are the first and last tracks. In between? They are all nice songs. But Moscato and Half the Sky are more special to me.

Credits to Kurosuke on Instagram

Final Question, Pt I: do you have plans for your music career in the upcoming months or years? Would you mind sharing it with me if you do?

Yeah, I do have plans for my career. For Kurosuke, I am finishing my third record at the moment. I’ve been making this record for three years and I’m finishing it right now. Aside from that, there are a few projects coming up with a few people in music and it’s going to be an album as well. And I’m going to start an album as well with some of my friends — it should be announced in a few moments.

Currently, I’m also starting to take on more serious roles as a producer and songwriter for other people. I’m finishing a record for Sore, I’m producing Sore’s newest album and a few others. In this new phase of my life and my career, there are many kinds of stuff going on.

Final Question, Pt. II: sorry, I just can’t hold it back. What is Kurosuke? Why the name?

Haha, well, Kurosuke… it means nothing and everything. It has two meanings: in Japanese, it doesn’t mean anything — kuro is black and suke is just… the word they put at the back of the word. But back in 2015, I used to go to Bandung a lot for shows. There was a food stall in front of the place where I used to stay and it was called Kuro-Kuro. A green-ish steamed bun made of pandanus (pandan). It’s very nice and everyone bought it every morning. It was for Rp10,000, I suppose? It was very cheap and very good — fresh, homemade stuff. I love it.

Fast forward to the time when I first started Kurosuke; I didn’t want to put my name as the project name. I was talking to a friend of mine, Indisya was singing with Kurosuke for… forever. And we both have nieces and nephews, roughly at the same age, and they were having a thing for Totoro, Ghibli. Indisya told me that her nieces/nephews really liked Mak-kuro Kurosuke. The word hit me and caught me — it was a good-sounding name and it was Japanese (I love Japan). It’s a good name for a brand, but it also means my favorite food (kukus roti susu keju). But it sounded very weird at the same time — what is Kurosuke even?

So, I let it be that way until now. It’s fun to make people think I’m Japanese. But really it was just an abbreviation of food. I don’t think you can find it in Jakarta, but it is very popular in Bandung. Everyone eats it. It’s so good.

And it’s a good name for a brand. It’s catchy and it sticks with me, so I decided to use that as the name for the project. I decided that an hour before I uploaded my album to Spotify, it was just bound to happen. It’s meant to be.

That concludes my interview with Kurosuke! Getting in touch with one of my favorite artists was amazing, but getting the answers to my questions is even more heartfelt. Although I did not get to meet him in person for this interview, I got to watch his live performance on The Other Festival on June 25. It was fun, intimate, and heart-warming. Although due to some inconveniences I didn’t get to find out whether he played Half the Sky or not, I felt more than enough to hear Moscato and Tapestry live. I am not a professional reviewer or someone who makes a living out of song reviews, but I personally recommend Kurosuke’s The Tales of Roses and Wine an 8.5 out of 10. It might not be the world’s best album or won thousands of international awards, but it just sounds and feels enough — at least for me.

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Adelaide Livia

Adelaide Livia

a literature student who probably hasn’t read your books-every-literature-student-has-read list.