"I always write songs about love and girls, and I decided it's not fair," quipped Kaz Nomura, the one-man band that is PWRFL Power in his understated, amusing way, before launching into a song called "Soft Boy," which chronicled him falling in love with a boy instead, and the subsequent fallout, breakup, accusations of thieving (his camera, clothes, and pills) and insomnia (from having said pills stolen, he bemoaned, "I can't sleep without the pills").
The song was typical of the PWRFL Power repertoire: lyrically irreverant, musically understated, and as warm and intimate as your college roommate experimenting with songwriting his heartbreak out on your futon.
PWRFL Power came into, erm, power (or at least, local indie press fame) by coming out of seemingly out of nowhere to win the much-hyped "Block Star" contest, sponsored by the Capitol Hill Block Party, eSurance, and the Stranger over a host of other better-known local bands (such as Speaker Speaker, Skullbot, and Optimus Rhyme). With the bizarre charm of lo-fi songs like "The Tomato Song" ("If you are mean to me, I'll throw a tomato at you"), he won the honors of, among other things, getting a 30 second national TV spot in an eSurance TV commercial, and appearing on the Main Stage at the Capitol Hill Block Party, and igLiz and I made sure we were front and center to hear. And as it turned out — to laugh. In fact, I can't remember giggling so much at a live show since the last banter at the last Long Winters show. His quirky little tunes lyrically cross into some uncomfortable territory, but with his gentle, slightly-accented talk-singing, he pulled it off with aplomb and without making his audience blush — just to laugh.
My favorite ditty was presumably called "Chopsticks." The song chronicals his date with a girl who he apparently really likes, but who can't wield chopsticks properly: "You're so pretty, but you're holding them wrong," he repeated with varying degrees of gentleness versus annoyance. The story evolves that his own father had beaten him as a child for improper use of the sticks, but that "He doesn't want to beat her, cause she's so pretty" (I paraphrase). I know it sounds potentially distasteful, but he was so disarming, it was truly charming.
While PWRFL Power brings new depths to lo-fi (it's just Kaz singing and sparsely playing along), there's more going on behind those simple guitar melodies. I'd be very interested to hear how PWRFL Power would translate to a studio recording, without the feedback from his audience. And I'm completely intrigued to hear how it's going to translate to an insurance commerical. I'd like to imagine a roomful of squares at eSurance HQ listening to Kaz, and the subsequent emails and board meetings to discuss exactly how this extremely unusual singer-songwriter could possibly help them pawn their insurance wares. I'm guessing the squares had no idea what the kids would be into these days…. and that makes me smile as big as Kaz's lyrics do.