Band Profile – The Earth Earth


I am always looking for recommendations when it comes to good Japanese music and recently it was suggested that I check out The Earth Earth, an Aomori-based rock band.  For many fans of Japanese music, the first thing that comes to mind when “Aomori” and “band” are mentioned in the same sentence is Supercar.  Since the band broke up in 2005 there has been an Aomori-shaped hole in many hearts.  The Earth Earth are one band doing their best to remind us that the prefecture still has quality music to offer us.

The Earth Earth, at first glance, look like a throwback to goth-rock bands of the 80s and 90s.  Their sound also offers a blend of vintage styles ranging from textured shoegaze-type noise tunes to somewhat poppy hook-driven songs.  There is a nice variety from track to track, but it is all held together by a consistent amount of fuzz and muddiness.

The band itself is still relatively young.  Formed in 2010 in Aomori City They have been playing out for just over two years and have released two albums:  “matador is dead” (2011) and “dead matador’s funeral” (2012).  The latter is more or less a re-release of the first album on a different label.  The current lineup is made up of Oshima Kosuke (vo & G), Ogawa Kaori (vo & G), Nomura (B), and Harada Ayako.

Here is a link to the band’s web page as well as their soundcloud profile and a Youtube video for one of my favorite of their tracks.  Enjoy!

http://the-earth-earth.com

Art-School Return With a New Lineup, New Album in the Works

Just months removed from the news that their rhythm section had left the band, Art School have announced the addition of three new support members to support core members Riki Kinoshita and Satoshi Todaka.  The future had looked bleak after it had been announced that bassist Takeshi Uno and drummer Hiroyuki Suzuki decided to part ways with the band.  With Kinoshita and Todaka focusing a lot of time on their side-projects (Killing Boy and Ropes, respectively) there were a lot of questions about whether Art-School was nearing the end, and some ominous tweets from Kinoshita made it seem like that was the case.
Now here we are in late-March and how things have changed.  The band has showered its fans with a series of exciting announcements.  The first of which is the addition of three new support members:  bassist Kentaro Nakao and drummers (yes drummers) Yuichi Sakurai and Isamu Fujita.  The new lineup will make its live debut at the also recently-announced “Kinoshita Night AX 2 Days” which will take place at Shibuya-AX on June 2nd and 3rd.  Both nights will be headlined by Art-School with Asian Kung-Fu Generation opening on Saturday and Straightener and The Mirraz supporting the Sunday evening show.

The last of the big announcements was that the band would be recording a new album.  Normally, this sort of news is exciting enough for fans of any band, but news that the band is currently in Chicago recording with legendary producer Steve Albini at Electrical Audio.  Taking a look at the laundry list of bands with whom Albini has worked (Nirvana, the Pixies, Mogwai, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the Stooges, Helmet, to name just a few) it seems safe to say that his unique and distinct recording style should complement Art-School’s sound wonderfully.

Hopefully this is just the start of a resurgence of a band whose fans have spent the last few months worried and confused about what the future would hold.  At least for now, we have a lot to look forward to.

Interview: Oeil’s Mitsuko Hoshino (English and Japanese)

It has been a lot of fun looking at a growing shoegaze scene in Japan and finding a ton of cool bands who represent the genre well.  This week I was privileged  enough this week to be able to speak with Mitsuko Hoshino of Tokyo-based shoegazers Oeil.  Oeil has been active in the shoegaze scene for years and Hoshino has also participated at such events as My Bloody Valentine night under the alias mitsuko strange as a DJ spinning shoegaze tracks.
As a brief introduction, Oeil is a 3-piece band consisting of Takafumi Hibino (vocals/guitars/programming), Nina Kurosu (synths/guitars/vocals), and of course Mitsuko Hoshino (vocals/bass/keyboard).  I absolutely recommend checking them out as their tracks are wonderful and dreamy.

You can check them out and give them a listen on Facebook and Myspace.  You can purchase their first EP “Urban Twilight” here.

A big special thanks to Mitsuko Hoshino for taking the time to be interviewed.  Enjoy!

MusoJapan: When was Oeil formed?

Mitsuko Hoshino: The band started in 2006, and that summer performed its first live show as far as I know, as I joined in 2008. Oeil’s lineup underwent a lot of changes in 2008, so it can also be said that that is when the band actually formed.

MJ: Who is the band’s biggest influence?

MH: Kevin Shields [of My Bloody Valentine]. From what I am told, the band was initially “themed” after “Loveless.” We are also largely influenced by bands like The Cure and the Sundays.

MJ: Does Oeil have a principle songwriter or is it more of a collaborative effort?

MH: The songwriting is done by Hibino.

MJ: How would you describe your sound to someone who isn’t familiar with Oeil?

MH: A strawberry drowning in cream.

MJ: Oeil’s last album “Urban Twilight” was released in 2007, and in 2008 the band appeared on a shoegaze compilation album. Since then have you continued writing new songs? Are there any plans for a new album release?

MH: We have been performing new songs live since 2008. As far as a new album, we will probably use the songs we’ve written to this point.

MJ: In addition to playing in Oeil, you also DJ. What sort of music do you spin?

MH: It all depends on how I feel and what sort of party it is. Lately though, I’ve been into Soft Metals, Grimes, and Echo Lake.

MJ: The underground scene has a wide variety of sounds to offer to foreign fans of shoegaze music. What is your opinion of the Japanese shoegaze scene and the overall indie music scene in Japan?

MH: When Oeil was first formed there weren’t many opportunities to see shoegaze bands out there, and Oeil was still pretty rare, but lately a lot of bands with sounds similar to ours are becoming less rare. Recently, the recognition of shoegaze bands has been rapidly increasing, but I feel like it is still early to call it this generation’s shoegaze scene. I think there is still room for growth.
As for the entire indie-music scene, there are lots of bands with a variety of sounds and I feel it is very substantial. We are always excited to hear this new stuff.

MJ: What are Oeil’s plans for 2012?

MH: We played live in January, and this year we will release music in some form. As soon as we figure anything out we will be sure to let Muso Japan know.

 

MusoJapan: いつどのようにOeilは結成されたのですか?

Mitsuko Hoshino: 2006年に結成され、その夏に最初のライブをしたと聞いています。 私が加入したのは2008年からです。 Oeilは2008年にメンバーと編成を大きく変えました。 ある意味では2008年が結成した年とも言えるでしょう。

MJ: Oeilの音楽に一番多大な影響を与えたのは誰ですか?

MH: Kevin Shieldsです。 結成当初のテーマはlovelessだったと聞いています。
他にもThe CureやThe Sundaysから大きな影響を受けています。

MJ: Oeilには主なソングライターがいますか?それともみんなで協力的に曲を作りますか?

MH: 曲は日比野が書いています。

MJ: Oeilを聴いたことがない人にOeilの音楽を説明するとしたら、どのよう表現しますか?

MH: 苺がクリームで溺死。

MJ: Oeilの最後のアルバム”Urban Twilight” が2007年にリリースされ、そして、2008年の シューゲーザーコンピレーションアルバムにも登場しました。それ以降も新しい曲を作り続けています か? また、新しいアルバムをリリースする予定がありますか?

MH: あります。
2008年以降もライブでは新曲を演奏しています。
新しいアルバムはこれまでの作品からヴィジョンを大きく広げたものになるでしょう。

MJ: Oeilに加えてみつこさんはDJ活動もやっているそうですが、その時はどんな音楽をしてますか?

MH: その時の気分とパーティの趣旨によって変わります。最近のお気に入りはSoft Metals、Grimes、Echo Lakeです。

MJ: 日本のアンダーグラウンドシーンは外国のシューゲーザファンに様々なサウンドを与えます。みつ こさんは日本のシューゲーザーシーンとインディーズシーンについてどのような意見を持っています か?

MH: 結成当初はシューゲイザーテイストを全面に押し出したバンドにライブハウスで出会う機会は少なく、 Oeilはまだ珍しいバンドでしたが、最近では私達のようなサウンドで表現するバンドは珍しくありませ ん。 シューゲイザーと言うスタイルの認知度は急速に増加しましたが、それを今の世代のシューゲイザー シーンと呼ぶにはまだ早い気がします。
更なる発展の余地はあると考えています。
インディーズシーン全体については、多種多様なスタイルのバンドが存在していて充実していると感じ
ます。私達も常に最新のものから刺激を受けています。

MJ: Oeilの2012年の活動予定を教えて下さい。

MH: 1月にライブを行いましたが、今年は何らかの形で楽曲をリリースするでしょう。 リリースが決まったら真っ先にmuso japanにお知らせしますね<3

Interview: blgtz’s Shota Tamura (English and Japanese)

Recently, I was fortunate enough to be granted the opportunity to interview blgtz frontman and songwriter Shota Tamura, who took time out of what has been a pretty busy last couple months to answer some questions. This is a very special post because I am a huge fan of his work and it gives Muso Japan the opportunity to get some first-hand input from a musician who epitomizes what Muso Japan admires in an artist: a passion for what he does and a high-quality of craftmanship. I want to thank Tamura-san for taking the time to contribute his words as well as blgtz’s PR staff who made this interview possible. Last but not least a special thanks to Shiho Lukacek for being very patient and helpful! Enjoy.
MusoJapan: When and how was blgtz formed?

Shota Tamura: Blgtz was formed in 2001 as a full group. Since then, a number of members have joined and left or taken leave from band activities. While this has been going on, the band has continued as mostly a solo unit.

MJ: What is the band’s current structure and at what points did you work mainly solo act?

ST: In December 2011 the current band’s support members joined. Until that point, it was a solo project.

MJ: What are your biggest musical influences?

ST: I’ve drawn inspiration from many records and CDs as well as from musicians who preceded me. As far as my biggest influence…it’s difficult to say. I can’t choose.

MJ: How would you describe your sound to someone who isn’t familiar with blgtz?

ST: My intention is to be making honest music that drives straight through the listener’s heart. As far as sound is concerned we have been considered a blend of Western music genres like new wave, post punk, shoegaze, post rock, etc. but those genres are just parts of music. You can even consider my music as J-Pop or J-Rock, so I don’t mind if my music is considered to be a part of any specific category.

MJ: What is your songwriting process like? Do you primarily write the songs yourself or is it a collaborative effort?

ST: I start by gathering all of the ideas I’ve come up with and then writing the songs myself. I then take the songs to the studio and have a band session where we finish the arrangement process. Finally, I write the lyrics. My main job is getting rid of unnecessary words which is the toughest part of the process for me.

MJ: In November, 2011 you released your 3rd album 同時に消える一日. How does this album differ from your previous albums?

ST: The big differences between this album and my previous albums are the vocals and the melodies. I wanted to make music that I could convey to anyone and so I tried to put an emphasis on too many things when making songs.
What is different now than before is that when you first listen the music and singing sound simple, but live there are all sorts of detailed inventions and changes. I think that when you listen to it a bit it becomes understood.

MJ: What are your feelings about the state of Japanese indie-music today?

ST: In my case, I am just active as an independent musician, which isn’t to say I am trying to create a gap between independent and mainstream music, but I think that indie music in Japan offers something very substantial.
There is an excess of information and good music which may be hidden, but there is a lot of high-quality music lying in the underground of Japanese music. Sooner or later I want to break through into the Japanese music scene and see a musical movement that excites listeners.
It makes me happy to see Muso Japan working as a medium through which indie music can be introduced, and to know that the passion of music is being felt.

MJ: You have recently been playing concerts on your CD release tour and have a big show scheduled with the Novembers on February 4th. What else can listeners look forward to from blgtz in 2012?

ST: On February 26, I will be appearing at the ”Yuubari International Fantastic Film Festival” as a solo act.
From March 23-25 blgtz will be playing a 3 day tour in Sapporo.
A release for our live DVD is being planned after that.
Other than that we are planning shows in cities as well as regional tours and plenty of other things.
For more information please check our website: http://blgtz.com.

MusoJapan: いつどのようにこのblgtzは結成されたのですか?

田村昭太: 2001年、バンドとして結成しました。
その後、何度もメンバーの入れ替えと活動休止を繰り返しながら、
ほとんどを田村昭太のソロユニットとして継続して来ました。

MJ: 現在のバンドの形態とソロで活動をされていたのはいつ頃ですか?

田村:現在のバンドのサポートメンバーが揃ったのは2011年12月です。
それまで、ソロで活動してきました。

MJ: あなたの音楽に一番多大な影響を与えたのは誰ですか?

田村: 多くのレコード、CDを聞いて音楽の先人達から影響を受けてきました。
一番というと・・・・・とても難しいですね。選べないです。

MJ: blgtzを知らない人にblgtzのサウンドを説明するとしたら、どのように表現しますか?

田村: 胸に突き刺さる、嘘の無い音楽をやっているつもりです。
サウンド的にはニューウエーブ、ポストパンク、シューゲーザー、ポストロック等の洋楽的な括りで言われますが、それらは歌にとっての一部なので、J-POP/J-ROCKとして隔たり無くカテゴライズして頂いてかまいません。

MJ: あなたの歌作りのプロセスはどのような感じですか?一人で作りますか、それともみんなで作り上げますか?

田村: まず、浮かんできたアイデアをまとめて一人で曲を書きます。
それをスタジオに持って行き、バンドでセッションしながら注文を出しアレンジを仕上げていきます。最後に歌詞を書きます。無駄な言葉を削ぎ落とす作業が主なのでここが一番大変です。

MJ:2011年11月に三番目のアルバム「同時に消える一日」をリリースされましたが、このアルバムは前作とどこがどのように違いますか?

田村: 以前までの作品との大きな違いは歌とメロディーです。
誰にでも伝わる作品を作りたかったので、余計な物を剥ぎ取って歌に重きを置き作り上げました。しかし、以前と違い一聴するとシンプルな歌とバンドサウンドに聞こえますが、演奏面は色々と細かい処理や工夫がしてあります。
何度か聞いてもらえると分かると思います。

MJ: 日本のインディーズミュージックの現状についてどう思いますか?

田村: 僕の場合は、インディペンデントなやり方で活動をしているだけで、
メジャーとインディーの境目を設けて音楽をやっているわけでは無いんですが、
日本のインディーズミュージックの現状を考えると充実していると思います。
情報量が多すぎて良い音楽が埋もれてしまっているかも知れませんが、
日本のアンダーグラウンドでは良質な音楽が沢山眠っています。
いつか、リスナーの皆さんがワクワクするようなムーブメントを発信して
日本のシーンに風穴を開けたいですね。
そして、muso-japanさんの様にこういった個人発信の媒体で紹介してもらえるのは音楽の熱を感じられてとてもうれしく思います。ありがとうございます。

MJ: 最近はCDリリースツアーを行っていて、2月4日にはthe Novembersとの大きなコンサートが待ち構えていますが、その他に何かコンサートやイベント等、blgtzファンが知っておいた方がいいニュースはありますか?

田村: 2/26にゆうばり国際ファンタスティック映画祭に田村昭太ソロで出演。
3/23、3/24、3/25に札幌3daysツアー。
その後、LIVE DVDのリリースが予定されています。
それ以外にも都内でのライブ、各地ツアー等、色々と予定されています。
是非、webをチェックしてみて下さい。http://blgtz.com

New Release: Kinoko Teikoku’s 2nd EP “Yoru ga Aketara”

On January 21st, one of Japan’s most promising up-and-coming bands Kinoko Teikoku formally released their second EP “Yoru ga Aketara.”  Formed in 2007, Kinoko Teikoku got their start in Shibuya playing at local live houses and soon established themselves in Japan’s indie scene.
The band’s sound can best be described as beautifully intense.  Satou’s dreamy vocals carry the listener as the music, driven by a-chan’s guitars, flows from beautiful and melodic to thick and powerful.  Their songs are beautifully composed and sophisticated and above all else extremely catchy.  Kinoko Teikoku provides well-crafted and passionate music.  A definite must-listen and a prime example of a hidden gem in the Japanese music world.

Maintaining their status as a true local indie act, Kinoko Teikoku had previously only sold their music at live shows.  Until now.  The self-produced 5-track CD “Yoru ga Aketara” is now available online through diskunion (http://diskunion.net/portal/ct/detail/IND8920#.Txo16e-s43I.twitter) for a very reasonable ¥1,050 (about $13.53 USD and well worth it) which will get you 30 minutes of some excellent music.

For a taste of Kinoko Teikoku visit their myspace page and sample some tracks at http://myspace.com/kinokoteikoku

A live version of Taikutsu Shinogi can be seen here.  Enjoy this wonderful band!