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Hotel Cafe | Rachael Yamagata – Indie Enigma

Submitted by on 18 Mar 2009 – 5:34 PM Comments
Music by Rachael Yamagata

In a cloud of cigarette smoke, a voice emerges from behind the case of a black piano. Gritty, yet undeniably feminine, it rises, lucid as air, above sustained chords played beneath the weight of fragile fingers. Brimming with emotion, it urges you to cling to every syllable, every vowel. The voice is that of 29-year-old Rachael Yamagata, the Italian-German-Japanese beauty, and if you haven’t seen her live, you don’t know what you’re missing.

Rachel Yamagata

Rachel Yamagata photographed by Laura Crosta for Movmnt Magazine

It is this potent blend of vulnerability and veritable stage presence with which Rachael Yamagata amassed a legion of devotees over at Hotel Café before her first EP (aptly titled EP) was even released back in 2003. She has since seen her highly acclaimed first full-length album, 2004’s Happenstance, come to fruition, and her music has been prominently featured on both the Monster-in-Law and Prime soundtracks. But Yamagata still remembers her early days back at Hotel Café, before she became her own indie enigma. “I definitely credit my fan base in LA [to my] having started at the Hotel Café,” she says. It’s one of those places… that would keep an artist coming back no matter how big a venue they grow to play.”

Yamagata has also toured with Hotel Café, which she describes as “Summer Camp times one hundred.” Much like the LA base, life on the road with the performers and crew of the Hotel Café Tour is a traveling clubhouse where lifelong friendships are forged and respect and adoration among the players runs thick. Yamagata even managed to snag a couple of players for her recent early spring tour in Singapore. “Everyone is up for learning everyone else’s songs and [willing to] hop on whatever instruments are available to chime in. The lack of egos is refreshing — there are no headliners — it really is a group effort and everyone cheers one another on.”

Photography by Laura Crosta | Text by Bruce Scott