“I Think The Good In People Is Never Lost.”

 

Though his songs spread prominent messages of social justice and cultural awareness and he’s primarily an unflappable guy, Koji has one Achilles heel. “Romantic comedies I can’t do, they give me anxiety,” he said with a laugh. “If you want to see a stressed out Koji, I’m usually cool, but I get really stressed out when I see them.”

But Koji, born Andrew Shiraki, is usually on the other side of that medium, evoking viscerally positive reactions through his unique brand of intellectually fueled, indie-washed acoustic music. As an activist in addition to his solo music career, Koji’s brought awareness to global issues such as atrocities in Central Africa to more domestically focused topics like education.

“Activism and advocacy have been lifelong pursuits of mine,” Koji said. “To be able to seamlessly incorporate things like social justice and environmental causes and an array of different issues into my work has been wonderful.”

Recently, Koji put on his annual holiday show at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg, Penn., and collected goods for the Central PA Food Bank. On a continual pursuit of peace, justice and self-enlightenment, Koji purveys this examination of traditional cultural values through his music.

“That’s something I think everybody is taking a closer look at, what it means to be American and what it means to be free,” he said. “What it means to be a better human. I think there’s a never-ending supply of inspiration to get involved and make a difference.”

With invigorating crowds and promoting awareness, though, comes close-minded fans who see it all as didactic. This is something artists need to overcome, Koji said.

“I think people fear judgment,” he said. “Right now we’re at a critical moment that calls for leadership and everyone to take a stand in order for us to move forward. A lot of artists need to heed that call.”

And Koji wants to show people there’s always ways to get involved for any cause one is interested in. Lately, he’s been enamored with regional movements in music; for example, the Wilkes-Barre hardcore scene or the trill rap revival in Harlem. He’s also encouraged by the work labels like Run for Cover and Topshelf Records put out continuously.

“I think the good in people is never lost,” Koji said. “And it’s never gone from music. Music is an art form that celebrates potential. If you’re looking for it, you’re going to find it.”

Now you can find him in the studio demoing and writing material, and preparing for the taping of his Spring Songs Vol. 2 collection, recorded at DIY venues throughout the country. He’s also touring the US with Never Shout Never, Kurt Travis and Renee Yohe for a month starting in late April.

He’s also continuing to spread messages of awareness and positivity to each cramped venue he visits, to showcase that “music is a tool that can build bridges and strengthen communities.” A community he’s at the forefront in creating.

“Every generation has a special group of people that carry on this folk tradition of ‘punk’ in the United States and all around the world,” he said. “And it’s cool to be a part of that.”

 

By Chris Ballard