October Babies
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October Babies

Ypsilanti, Michigan, United States | INDIE

Ypsilanti, Michigan, United States | INDIE
Band Alternative World


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October Babies @ The Ark

Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

October Babies @ Churchill's food and spirits

Michigan, USA

Michigan, USA

October Babies @ 2014 Rootenanny Music Festival

Ellsworth, Michigan, USA

Ellsworth, Michigan, USA

This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



October was a busy month for the October Babies. At the release of their new album “Hi Hai High!”, FORMzine sat down and talked with the members of the band about their new record. - FORMzine

How about a general introduction of how you guys started the band?

Erik: I met her (Toko) in Tokyo and then about three years later she moved here, then we started writing stuff, got together a record. Then at the same time we were playing open mic around Ypsi with all these guys. First we play the record, and then we started writing more stuff and the new record came out.

Toko: There is one thing I really want to say, these guys really supported. I just started to sing. I could only sing in Japanese because I couldn’t speak English at all at that time. I couldn’t believe I could sing in Japanese in front of the American audience. I had no confidence. But these people said “No Toko, you gotta do this.” Then this all came together with people’s love and support. And we have been a band now since 2007.

So what is it that kept you guys together as a band?

Dale: Friendship. Erik, Ben and I, we all played open mic together. When Toko came over from Japan, we were already friends and just jam. Mike is also hanging out with us. So it’s all friendship that brought it all together.

Mike: I’ve known Ben for a long time and we went to school together and we were friends for a while. Then I started hanging out with the band, I was shooting photos for them, and I shot a video for them. Then Dale went off to Georgia for a while for a job and I started playing guitar with them to help them out, and I just joined the band.

How do you guys combine different music elements that Toko has brought from Japan in your music?

Toko: Usually, I make up some melodies and lyrics first, and then I present it to Erik. And the rest of the group will bring in interesting western music style. Then fun music collaboration happens when I least expected it.

Erik: Good thing is, we all knew each other through open mic, so we just love to jam. We like to take things into different genres and do wacky things on the spot. Just have fun and play music. That’s how we all met, was just playing together.

Ben: The other day we were talking and Toko said she would love to go play in Japan, and I said “Ok, we’ll go!”Then we set this path forward to do it. It’s not necessarily because of me but we have the support of craziness in each other. It happens in our music, and it happens in our action. When you hear this new recording we are putting out, you’ll hear absolutely how live and creative it is. But it’s just hours and hours of building.

Erik: And there’s different people writing different songs in the band too. Like we have some tunes mixing English and Japanese together. It’s either Japanese is the verse and English is the chorus or vice versa. But in any case, anybody can sing along. Because most of the choruses of the songs are just simple melody and they are simple syllables like “ah-ah-ah” or “wa-wa-wa”.

Dale:It was something we thought about when we started a Japanese band and how to make it accessible to American audience. It’s actually very accessible because we’re all from America.

Erik: And that’s the music power of language. You don’t necessarily have to know what each word is referencing, but there’s a vibe underneath it and you can express, you know?

Tell us about your upcoming plans?

Dale: We have an album coming out. Hope to have a last stretch this week.

Toko: There’s some Japanese fans that want us to perform in Japan next year.

Erik: So we’re raising money now for that trip to happen.

Dale: So if there’s anyone who wants to give us a lot of funding so we can go play in Japan, we’ll be very happy. - FORMzine

In 2002, when U-M music composition instructor Erik Santos traveled to Japan for a three-week band tour, a friend joked he was going there to fall in love. During the final week of the tour he met Toko Shiiki, a stage actress and painter, and his friend's joke turned into a reality. Santos and Shiiki continued their relationship for the next three years primarily via the Internet and long-distance phone calls. In 2005 Shiiki moved to the United States to be with Santos and study photography. The move also led to the creation of the popular local band October Babies.

October Babies technically started as a birthday present. While biking to class, Shiiki often entertained herself by making up songs in her native tongue and recording them by singing into her cell phone to send to herself as voice messages. The origins of the band took root on Shiiki's birthday, October 14, in 2005, when Santos arranged music around one of her lyrics. "I thought it would be really different and cool," he recalls.

The result confirmed what he expected and surprised Shiiki. Santos continued to record music around her lyrics, and in October 2007, after they had married, they released the album Ao-zora Radio, named after Shiiki's monthly podcast, under the October Babies moniker. The name October Babies was derived not only from the band's birth but also from the birthdays of its two founding members (Santos' birthday is October 21). That same month October Babies played their first gig, with Shiiki on lead vocals and Santos on bass, along with two musicians Santos met while hosting open-mike night at the now defunct TC's Speakeasy in Ypsilanti: Dale King on guitar and Ben Lorenz on drums.

Ao-zora Radio has a visceral, dreamlike quality, but the band's current live sound is very different. The newer sound has many influences but is rooted in a jam band dynamic that Santos offhandedly dubs "upbeat global soul." They've recently added second guitarist Mike Ouellette, and the mix of their instrumentation with Shiiki's Japanese lyrics and infectious dancing makes for a distinctive concert experience. Shiiki admits to having been apprehensive about singing in Japanese, but Santos and the rest of the band encouraged her, and the audience reaction convinced her.

The second October Babies album (and first with the full band) is High Hai Hi! ("Hai" is Japanese for "yes"). It sounds more like the live band sound that they've tapped into, and contains many of their live standards, such as "Wa Wa Wa," "Fleeting Love," and "Can I Be Born Again?" The latter placed in the Top 10 in the Music Hypermarket International Music competition sponsored by J-Wave, one of Japan's most popular radio stations.

October Babies celebrate the release of their new CD at the Elbow Room, Saturday, October 16. - Ann Arbor Observer

see Internet site - ispY

Sometimes mellow is just good enough. For this flower in the dustbin born in a cross fire hurricane howler shifting the scowl into a smile can be an act of devout faith in the power of music. Yet, the results make it all worthwhile.

Ann Arbor twangs of a laid back vibe. Ann Arbor’s October Babies exude an aura of peace, love, and coolness. So what is its mantra?

“We call our style ‘Upbeat Global Soul’ as a way to consolidate the many different genres that come together in our music,” said Erik Santos, co-founder of the group. “The term also accentuates our lack of interest in maintaining divisions between one music and another.

“When Toko (Shiiki-Santos,co-founder and singer) and I got married, we had a potluck dinner reception. There was this incredible diversity of food from many different cultures, all mixing on people’s plates. Well, that the same with October Babies’ music. We love so many different genres and styles; we invite any/all of them to speak through us when appropriate. It’s useless to try and divide music anyway. It’s a universal language that blends vibrations and transcends cultural differences. Why try?”

Their music does explore a diverse set of genres. My favorite, “Wa Wa Wa” is poppy and bouncy from the early punk days. They have produced a rocking video of the song on YouTube with the Detroit Derby. “Can I be Born Again” is rhythmic and floats a trail of ethereal yeah. “Floating Soldier” generates a little hippie rap. A reggae presence pulses through “Start Walking”. Is there a song that is emblematic?

“Fortunately, there doesn’t seem to be just one favorite,” said Santos. “Our fans seem to respond energetically and joyfully to everything. I suppose there are those fans that love the rockers, some may prefer the reggae/ska, some may lean toward the funk/R&B numbers, some favor the Latin, the country/bluegrass, the deep trippy tropical songs, the surf stuff, the swing, the electronica… but I have a feeling that most of our fans love the spectrum.”

The groove of their music transcends the fact that the lyric are in Japanese.
“At first I had no confidence to sing these Japanese songs in front of audience in the US because I thought the language different would be too hard to accept,” said Shiiki-Santos. “I thought that I could not take my great friends (the important band members) on such a dangerous journey. However, they really supported me to do so. And how wonderful it has been … I have met so many open-minded people who love music and also open their hearts to our music! I have been amazed by those people…”

The lyrics have not prevented the band from attracting a supportive American following.
“I have listened to songs in many different languages since I was child,” said Shiiki-Santos. “I was in Japan and all adults around me listened to foreign songs. So, even if I didn’t know the meaning but I had no difficulty to enjoy them. Music itself is its own language to me. But, I still have had a fear to sing Japanese songs on a stage in US. Before any show, I still have it. However, I believe in my band members and once I go on a stage, I just follow the power of music and am free."

“It works because many of our audience also share their positive energies with us. Last summer, just before a show, Ben (our drummer) told me, ‘Even if no one cares what you are singing, just do your best. Believe because other Babies members believe you. We are with you. Don’t worry and just enjoy playing music. Other will start enjoying, too.’ When I get the fear, I always recall this. People will like what we are doing.”

Other members of the band are Ben Lorenz, Dale King, and Mike Ouellette. The band has evolved since its creation.

“Toko and I met in Tokyo, Japan in 2002,” said Santos. “When she moved here to the USA in 2005, she and I began making music together. By 2007, we completed our first record – October Babies “Ao-zora Radio” (Blue-sky Radio).

“To perform the record, we recruited Ben Lorenz and Dale King (drums & guitar), two great musicians from the great Open Mic scene I used to host at TC’s Speakeasy in Ypsilanti. Since then, we added guitarist Mike Ouellette, who had been an artistic collaborator with the band from the beginning.
“Also, with the release of our 2nd album “High Hai Hi!” we recruited a killer horn section and auxiliary percussionist who play with us when we perform in Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor.”

The band is not about tearing down the walls or building barricades. It’s more about enjoying life.
“Our music isn’t about politics,” said Santos, “though it is important for us to maintain healthy relationships with people, so we do our best to stay open to other points-of-view.
“I can’t speak for the band on this subject, but in general, the October Babies are all good and caring and self-anchored individuals who would rather have fun jamming together than to associate with one faction or another.”

It seems the band is about - Detroit Live Magazine

October Babies' music is filled with dreams and comfort......in other
words, their music takes us back to the place where we used to
belong......and makes us feel like we are 'babies' and are being held in
the arms of Mother. Relax and enjoy their harmony that crosses over
boundaries and culture!

Aki Tanaka
SVP, International Marketing
Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc. - Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc.

When I wandered into Whiskey in the Jar on Friday I had no idea what to expect from October Babies. I'm usually a toe-tapper and/or a head-bobber, but that night I couldn't help but dance.

The femme-fronted, Ypsilanti-based rock and soul band had a really cool groove, and it didn't seem to matter that I couldn't understand the lyrics sung in Japanese. It was the infectious enthusiasm of lead singer Toko Shiiki that turned my toe-tapping into dancing -- and I wasn't the only one. The entire place seemed to erupt into an all-out dance party. This kind of moment was what makes the Blowout so cool and unique. - Detroit Free Press - Rachel May

October Babies' sounds come from a wide range of styles: soft reggae, pop, provocative rock tune, Japanese tasteful melodies combined with rock to foster new styles of dance-tune, and so on. The outstanding lead vocalist, Toko is really energetic! Powerful and positive! Occasionally, I even noticed members of their audience shrinking down in awe. I gazed at her in rapture, "Hey girl, COOOOOL!" She is the kind of attractive vocalist who is adored by girls.

(Music writer, Tomoko Miyajima) - Shinko Music Entertainment

October Babies: Japanese female vocals over Detroit indie-pop. Like a hot bath on a cold night with somebody special. Honestly. - Metro Times

October Babies are yet another fine example of Ypsilanti's knack for spitting out some of the coolest weird music on the planet. Part alt-rock, part dub band, part electronic, always entertaining, the October Babies seem on their way to good things, having just returned from a well-recieved Japanese tour and with plenty of regional dates to keep them busy. The trio's completely original compositions explore the cosmic side of the world music palette, maintaining an optimistic dreaminess that seems to always view the glass as half full ... even while you slam what's inside and start dancing.

- Ryan A. Bunch
Arts & Entertainment Editor
Adams Street Publishing Company
Toledo City Paper
Ann Arbor Current - Ryan A. Bunch, Arts & Entertainment Editor, Toledo City Paper, Ann Arbor Current

"This song is of the same high quality as other songs which are already sold in stores... this is VERY cool... I
felt sorry for other Indies musicians who entered this competition..." ~ Daishi Kataoka, Japanese producer - Daishi Kataoka, Japanese producer


Keep Vibrating (2013), EP
High Hai Hi! (2010), LP
Ao-zora Radio (2007), LP
Somethin' Eternal (2007), single
Here, October Babies (2007), EP, iTunes (Japan Store)
Wa Wa Wa (2008), single
Do Do Do (2008), single
Can I Be Born Again (Again Again) (2009), single



October Babies was born by Japanese singer Toko Shiiki and bassist/arranger Erik Santos. The songwriting duo met in Tokyo in 2002 while Erik was resident composer for the notorious butoh dance/theater group Dairakudakan. When Toko moved to the US to study photography in 2005, the couple produced their debut CD "Ao-zora Radio" (Blue-sky Radio), named after Toko's monthly podcast of the same name.

Joined then by guitarist/vocalists Dale King and Mike Ouellette, and drummer/singer Ben Lorenz - the October Babies have an upbeat super-smile dance energy and so do their audiences.

Their lyrics are predominantly in Japanese, though their bright spirit is not lost in translation, with music as their vehicle. Their original songs are a catchy multilcultural potluck of rock, reggae/ska/dub, funk, jazz, R&B, techno, latin, bluegrass, drum&bass, surfpunk, hip hop, downtempo, orch pop, blues, Okinawa folk, and ... they love variety, do you?

They've won major Japanese music competitions, like J-WAVE MUSIC HYPER MARKET and Yahoo Japan Indies Jump, and Toko was voted the Outstanding World/Reggae/Ska Vocalist at the 2011 Detroit Music Awards.

Check out their cool videos, available at your local October Babies website! Go Go Go!

Their record "Keep Vibrating", released in 2013, is now available at http://www.oddfellowmusic.com/.





Band Members