What do you see when you look at a painting by Japanese artist Indo Hisashi?
For most, the answer is nothing. Hisashi’s paintings are monochromatic, simplistic, and seemingly unskilled to most–belonging to the same class of controversial modern-art painters like Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Robert Ryman. But although most people would write-off his paintings as nothing new, there’s no doubt that he has quite the fanbase. Perhaps his most outspoken fan as of late is London-via-Manila musician no rome (Rome Gomez), who has popularised Hisashi’s name with the release of his newest EP, RIP Indo Hisashi. (Addressing why he chose to do so, no rome has stated that he “just wanted to commemorate [him on] this EP like the simplicity of his paintings and how it reads a certain message to different people.”)
A veteran of the Manila-independent music scene, no rome started his career on Number Line records, releasing two EPs (2013’s Fantasy and 2015’s Hurry Home & Rest) and cementing himself as an R&B/shoegaze musician before capturing the attention of Western labels and relocating himself to London. Recorded and mixed with British label Dirty Hit Records (his more popular label-mates are The 1975, Wolf Alice, and The Japanese House), RIP Indo Hisashi is really no rome’s first venture as a truly global artist. He shouldn’t really be worried about trying to make it big though–his work has already been praised by Australian pop artist Troye Sivan, and his fanbase is quickly growing every day.
Despite its melancholic and somber name, RIP Indo Hisashi deals mostly with no rome’s experiences with teenage romance–themes that he’d heavily explored in the past. Throughout its short 15 minute runtime, he sings about toxic relationships (“Narcissist”, “Do It Again”), anxiety (“Seventeen”, “Do It Again”, “Saint Laurent”), and of course, some wild drug trips (“Seventeen”, “Narcissist”), appealing to the same crowds that helped make him famous back on his first two EPs. no rome, who is now twenty-two, is still an expert at capturing these emotions and creating big, booming hooks out of them even though his teenage years are now behind him.
There’s also a certain realness to his songs, making him seem more grounded than other aspiring pop/R&B artists. For example, on “Narcissist” (which surprisingly samples Jay Park’s “Solo”), no rome starts off with the overtly self aware line, “Take a picture of my flaws.” Yet, seconds later on the booming chorus: “She told me I’m a narcissist doing it again / Took a bunch of acid and she told me, ‘not again’ / Now I’ve gotta tell her that I’m lovin’ her friends”. No, no rome is not the flawless protagonist or Hollywood hero that people want him to be, but that’s what makes him such a relatable artist–after all, he’s only human.
But if you’re looking for those same muffled, R&B songs that defined his early days (which have mostly been scrubbed from Bandcamp), you might be disappointed. RIP Indo Hisashi marks a departure in no rome’s sonic style, largely in part to his collaborations with his new friends Matt Healy and George Daniel of The 1975.
While Healy and Daniel definitely have the musical know-how to make RIP Indo Hisashi sound radio-ready, no rome’s personal style almost gets completely lost in the mix. Nearly each of the four hook-heavy songs off of the EP echo the style of The 1975 in some sort of way–whether that’s in the form of the all too familiar bass lines, the production, or even in singing style (personally I didn’t even know that Healy had stepped in on certain parts of “Narcissist”). “Do It Again” seems like it’s cut from the same cloth as the atrociously named “TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME”, the 1975’s latest single–while each of the other songs sound like they could easily be an extension of that same sonic universe. Even in his music videos, that influence is still looming over no rome… everything from no rome’s fiery red hair to his dance moves inevitably link him to his label-mates in some way.
At this point in his career, no rome is still easily impressionable, visually blank like those monochromatic Hisashi canvases that he admired so much. It’s great that he’s taking cues from other artists to hone in his sound, but we’re not looking to hear a 1975 spin-off.
Sure, it’s true that RIP Indo Hisashi is guaranteed to bring him into the global spotlight. But in terms of making himself stand out as a solo artist? That’s still yet to be decided.
Check out no rome’s songs on our Discovery Playlist!
Li-Wei Chu is a recent graduate from UC Davis who majored in Cinema and Digital Media who also briefly studied film at Queen Mary, University of London. Li-Wei is obsessed with horror films (especially the ones that give him nightmares), films from East Asia, and really, any film that makes you stop and think.
He loves talking about film and indie music with others. He’s also a record collector and cross-stitches when he has free time. In the future, he hopes to be able to write about film and wants to find a job in the film industry that can support his record buying habits. Maybe one day he’ll also be able to play the guitar.