3 is a Magic Number ! (Lucie,Too / Paranoid Void / UlulU)
A while back I wrote this post on the best up & coming female bands in Japan. This is a follow-up with three bands who might make an appearance on the NMFT tour this year. Three bands, each with three female members.
Lucie,Too hail from Utsunomiya, a town a couple hours away from Tokyo famous for its gyoza. I learned about Lucie,Too a year ago seeing their name in show listings and from friends in Tokyo mentioning them from time to time. Some friends highly recommended them but others warned me they're probably too poppy and straightforward for my tastes. Nevertheless,the video trailer for their first ep "Hi Lucie" intrigued me with its emotional sound and moments of power:
Even though I went to Tokyo five times last year, prepping and organizing two NMFT tours kept me busy and prevented me from seeing the band early on. But In November I finally got the chance by making the trek out to see Lucie,Too in their hometown of Utsunomiya. I almost didn't go though. There was another band I like named UlulU who I cover later on in this post, and they had a show the same day in Tokyo. Travelling two hours by train to Utsunomiya is kind of a pain in the ass compared to a 10 min commute within Tokyo. But Bakyun the everyday was playing with Lucie,Too as well as the band CHIIO who are pretty cool. On the other hand, UlulU was the only band I was interested in at the show in Tokyo but it would have been great to see them perform at Shimokita Shelter.
I had actually watched Bakyun the everyday perform the night before at Shimokita ERA. Ariga (arigarnon friends; ex-PENs+) also came to watch Bakyun and was going to Utsunomiya to hang out as well. I told them I wouldn't go to Utsunomiya (too far) but ended up changing my mind the next day and surprised Bakyun and Ariga at the live house—Utsunoimiya Hello Dolly.
Bakyun's guitarist Yuji told me that Lucie,Too's bassist Kanako currently studies at a university in Tokyo and that she hitched a ride with them to Utsunomiya. He talked with Kanako a lot on the car ride over and was really impressed with how down to earth she was (never mind the fact she is cute as hell). He, Ariga and I had never seen Lucie,Too perform live before and we didn't know what to expect. The other two members of Lucie,Too who still go to school in Utsunomiya work part-time at Hello Dolly and it was cool seeing Chisato (gt/vo) tend the bar and mix my drink (rum&coke).
Bakyun the everyday went on first and they killed it. There were only ~30 people that night and most of those people were there to perform on stage. So when Lucie,Too went on next Yuji, Ariga and I got close to the stage to show support. And this is what we saw:
HOOOOOOLY Shiiiiiiiiiiiieeeet! All three of us were in shock. We didn't expect them to be THIS good. Yuji couldn't shut up about how Kanako rocks the bass with so much swag and looks like Flea of RHCP. I loved watching Kanako too but Naho (drummer) also really impressed me. And Ariga flat out said they're now his favourite female band and he really liked Chisato's vocals. Lucy,Too's music is simple and straightforward but that's part of its charm. The guitars aren't tricky but the rhythm section is seriously on-point and Chisato has a real knack for writing songs with an appeal that's timeless. It was a no-brainer that Lucy,Too needed to be on the roster for NMFT 12.
Some Lucy,Too trivia:
- Kanako (bass) loves math rock. The header photo on her twitter account is Don Caballero. And she was CHOKED to find out one of her favorite bands Elephant Gym had to bail out on NMFT12 and will be part of NMFT 13 instead. It would have been a dream come true for her to tour with Elephant Gym.
- Kanako recently played support bass for Regal Lily
- Bakyun the everyday's bass player Shunsuke is also from Utsunomiya. He sings and plays guitar in his own band called Said. Said was actually supposed to be the 'it' band to break out from Utsunomiya but they had to go on hiatus because the bassist became too busy after opening a successful coffee shop (White Room Coffee ). There was a rumor on twitter that Shunsuke and Kanako are actually brother and sister. But although Shunsuke is like an older brother to Kanako, they are definitely not related. As a bit of sad news, Shunsuke's band Said is starting up again so he won't be playing bass for Bakyun the everyday when they come to Canada.
- Naho used to drum for Utsunomiya band: Sunny Car Wash
Paranoid Void was one of the bands I already wrote about here.
I first met Meguri (gt/vo) of Paranoid Void in 2012 when she became the support guitarist for MASS OF THE FERMENTING DREGS after Chiemi left. Back then Paranoid Void didn't exist yet but a couple years later Natsuko of MOTFD performed solo at Shimokita THREE and Paranoid Void played their first show in Tokyo at the same event:
Natsuko re-introduced me to Meguri and tried to convince me to bring Paranoid Void to Canada. I thought they were pretty fierce but they only had a 2-song demo at the time and I wasn't sure how I felt about the quality of the songs. I was impressed but they also seemed to be trying too hard to be the next MOTFD.
Paranoid Void are based out of Osaka and they don't do shows in Tokyo too often. It wasn't until over a year later in 2015 when I saw them in Shimokitazawa again. This time they seemed to be ripping off tricot's style somewhat blatantly especially with the hushed, rushed free-flow lyrics.
To me Paranoid Void sounded like a hybrid of MOTFD and tricot which is pretty amazing when you think about it but I wanted a bit more originality.
They released「POP MUSIC」in 2016 which was a 6-song mini-album with three old songs and three new songs. The new songs headed in an even mathier direction. (It was around this time one or two NMFT fans emailed me about potentially bringing Paranoid Void to Canada).
And last year they went beyond tricot and went full-on math rock. Literally. They named their album 「Literary Math」if you don't believe me.
Meguri e-mailed me last year and sent me a digital copy of the album. She asked me to listen to it and if I liked it to come see them perform before years end and consider inviting them to Canada for NMFT 12. I really liked 「Literary Math」. It was much heavier on instrumentals with few vocals but Paranoid Void finally seemed to develop their own identity.
It was perfect timing too because Yubisaki Nohaku never seemed that appreciative of how much work and money I put into bringing bands to Canada. They'd be all "Thank you Steve!" in front of my face but outside they'd pretend as if they had gone to Japan on their own without my help. Not only that, they're never put me on the guest-list despite me notifying them in advance of my plans to come and watch. This includes when I travelled all the way to Nagoya to see if they had improved enough to be on the NMFT tour. I had to stay overnight in a hotel as well since trains returning to Tokyo stopped at 10pm. A band trying to impress me and earn an invitation to Canada isn't off to a good start when they make me spend $$$ and ++time travelling to watch them and don't even have the decency to put me on the guest list. I had second thoughts but I let it slide and invited Yubisaki Nohaku on the NMFT10 tour. Then on my next trip to Japan I had to meet with the NMFT10 bands to prepare them for Canada. I actually treated Yubisaki Nohaku to an awesome dinner at an exclusive restaurant and at that meeting I told them I would be coming to their next show to film footage to create a promo video. AGAIN, they made me pay full price for a show that THEY were curating. Last time in Nagoya it was someone else's event so I gave them the benefit of the doubt but this time there was no excuse. The video footage was for our MUTUAL benefit. So it's cool that I spend about ten thousand dollars bringing them to Canada but they can't even be nice enough to let $30 slide. At that point I regretted inviting Yubisaki Nohaku but I had already bought their airline tickets and it was way too late to switch bands. During the NMFT10 tour we all had a blast. Yubisaki Nohaku thoroughly enjoyed their time in Canada and they put on amazing performances. Finally, Yubisaki Nohaku understand what NMFT is about and they should be a little grateful for the opportunity I gave them, right? WRONG! I went to watch them twice in Tokyo after the tour and both times they chose not to put me on the guest-list. This is after me saying that I wanted to bring them back to Canada again for NMFT12.
"Fuck Yubisaki Nohaku" is how I felt and I really looked forward to replacing them with Paranoid Void. So I emailed Meguri and told her I'd be coming to their show in Osaka on Dec 17. I let her know I'd be travelling all the way from Tokyo to see the show too. I didn't ask her to put me on the guest-list but I wanted to test and see what she did. I knew they would kick ass live having seen them twice already so basically—if Meguri put me on the guest list she had some decency and common sense and I would have no qualms breaking my promise to Yubisaki Nohaku and replacing them with Paranoid Void.
Paranoid Void were f*cking amazing!! (Sorry about the noisy feedback in the video above. The bass sound was too obese!)
The extremely smooth and technical sound of their mathier new songs blended perfectly with the louder, ROCKier old songs. If they didn't deserve an invitation to Canada before they absolutely did now.
But I'm sure you guessed it already. Meguri neglected to put me on the guest list. At the show I told Meguri I loved their performance but I emailed her later and said that I couldn't invite Paranopid Void to Canada because not putting me on the guest list was a serious red flag that suggested poor character and a sense of entitlement. Meguri wrote me back and was so sad and apologetic and said the reason I wasn't put on the guest-list is because it was curated by the other band (My December). She said if it were her own event she wouldn't have thought twice about placing me on the guest-list. That's actually BS since secondary bands put me on the guest list all the time but I gave her props for a decent and rational excuse. I told Meguri that I would try to break my promise to Yubisaki Nohaku and replace them with Paranoid Void. Problem was the NMFT 11+12 tour finale was being held in Tokyo on Dec 26 which is my birthday but also Yubisaki Nohaku's drummer's birthday, and if there was one person in the band that actually seem\ed to give a sh*t about NMFT publicly on twitter/Instagram it was Yumiko.
Yubisaki Nohaku killed it at the tour finale and Kana (vocals) told the audience how much they really appreciated what I did for them in bringing them to Canada. (I'm sure either the Taupe or Bakyun spilled the beans to Yubisaki beforehand that I was planning on revoking their invite) Plus it being Yumiko's birthday I didn'tI have the heart to tell Yubisaki Nohaku that they're off the NMFT12 roster.
I really didn't want to do the tour twice this year. Two tours costs me over one hundred thousand dollars ($100K !!!!). That's $70,000 net loss because I only make about $30,000 in ticket sales.
But there are a lot of great new bands I want to bring to Canada and MASS OF THE FERMENTING DREGS are dying to come again in 2018.
Paranoid Void and MOTFD are best friends, Elephant Gym say they will definitely participate in October if I hold another tour then and finally the third band I wanted to talk about in this post is a band I've kept my eye on for a while:
I discovered UlulU the same time I learned about Hitsuji Bungaku. Back in early 2016 I was in Tokyo struggling to find a show to go to when my friend Naoto tweeted about a free show held in Shinjuku (6 min walk from my hotel!) with the bands Ululu, Hitsuji Bungaku and Clapper Boy. Problem was he tweeted about it after it ended! When I looked into the music played by these bands I was CHOKED because both Hitsuji Bungaku and Ululu were totally up my alley.
I ended up seeing Ululu the next time I went to Japan. They were sloppy and even made mistakes big enough to have to start songs over again BUT for some reason I really liked their music and stage presence and tweeted about how much I was looking forward to the band's progression.
Kayo Ootaki (gt/vo) started off as a solo artist singing acoustic folk but she soon developed an interest in performing rock songs and formed her own band, UlulU.
UlulU's music has a retro 70's feel with a dash of garage punk guitars, solid bass-lines and a touch of jazziness in the drumming. Whereas Lucie,Too's music is almost perfectly composed with all the fat trimmed off, UlulU's music is playful and adventurous risking moments of filler to achieve moments of brilliance. Their music is definitely rough around the edges and even more so when performed live.
But to me Ululu's imperfections are part of the charm. Half the time when they perform the drummer and Kayo are completely drunk. Well let me elaborate because the last three times I've gone to see UlulU it's been at a monthly 'house party' event held at Shimokita r.p.m called 'X-Farm.' X-Farm is like a drinking party at a super-tiny bar that fits no more than 15-20 people in its performance space. The acoustics/sound system is crap so it's just a free show emphasizing fun music and getting drunk. That's why I really wanted to see UlulU perform a proper show at Shimokita Shelter (instead of travelling to Utsunomiya to see Lucie,Too) because it's unfair to judge UlulU based on their shows at X-Farm.
Having said that, I really enjoy watching UlulU at X-Farm. Yeah, the sound at rpm is terrible (worse than Soybomb) and the girls normally play a lot better (but not by too much) but similar to Lucie,Too it's refreshing to watch a band so completely unpretentious, having fun on stage playing music simply for the love of it.
October 28, 2017:
This was a Halloween party which explains the blood on Kayo's hand and face. They were the first band to play so they weren't that drunk this time. I went to this show after seeing Koutei Camera Girl Drei's debut performance in Japan at Shimokita THREE. KCG3 were dope AF especially when the crowd got so crazy they bumped into the audio system too hard and the music went kaput. But that didn't phase the girls... they kept going acapella and did the song a second time when the audio came back. But yeah, being able to watch KCG3 in the afternoon and UlulU in the evening reminded me how fun it is watching shows in Tokyo (the reason I do NMFT).
November 25, 2017:
In November they went on at 1130pm and were piss drunk. When I told Nao (drummer) how much I enjoyed the show she got embarrassed saying 'I f*cked up so many times. I'm soooo drunk'. LOL. This night too I went show hopping and saw The Taupe and Matashita 89 at Kagurane before catching UlulU catch wreck.
Also, here's the October version of the above song which is pretty rad.
December 30, 2017:
Yup, I actually managed to catch UlulU perform at X-Farm in October, November and December of last year which is pretty amazing considering I live in Canada, not Japan. They were pretty drunk this time as you can see in the video above (note: bassist Rie is always sober. She can drink but is definitely the most responsible one. If it weren't for her UlulU would be in shambles.)
Before I got to the show I ran into Hikaru and Kenta of しゃっく just outside of rpm. I asked them if they just finished rehearsing at a studio or something and they said "No. we're just hanging out until UlulU's set starts."
"Whaaaaaat?!" Here I thought I was the only one in my circle that liked UlulU other than a couple friends and it turns out one of my favourite bands also digs UlulU.
It turns out UlulU frequently plays shows with a lot of ultra-post-punk/HC type bands and they did a gig with しゃっく, Emily Likes Tennis, Toubou Kusotawake, 神々のゴライコーズ, Totsuzen Shonen etc. And last week they just did a show with otori and Matashita 89. So it's a relief to know that other bands and booking agents with awesome taste seem to like UlulU as well.
しゃっく and UlulU became good friends after their show together and Kayo is lending her voice to しゃっく's next album.
And after UlulU's set I run into jas (Koutei Camera Girl's main producer, A&R and owner of tapestok Records) outside the club. He introduces me to his friend who happens to be UlulU's manager.... who happens to be the former manager of Koutei Camera Girl!!! What the blood?! Too crazy of a coincidence.
Anyhow, the X-Farm clips don't do UlulU's true performance capability justice but they do show how awesomely raw and fun they can be.
Me and Chris are big fans of UlulU so our mutual friend Eric decided to check UlulU out for himself and he was thoroughly unimpressed. And that's sort of what I expected. Even sober they're a bit sloppy as musicians and their songs have weird arrangements but that's what I love about them. The reason I haven't invited UlulU to Canada yet is because there are probably a lot of Erics in the NMFT fanbase that won't appreciate the things I like about UlulU.
Kayo sings with so much f*cking soul and she plays riffs on guitar while singing that are a lot trickier than most female guitar/vocalists do. Nao's drumming has tons of character and Rie is an absolute stalwart on bass. The music is on the simpler side but is quite a bit more technical than Lucie,Too's. UlulU are nowhere near as tight as Lucie. but they have a quirky, raw, soulfulness that most female bands lack.
Lucie,Too are destined for greatness just like Regal Lily whereas UlulU will probably never make it big but maybe they'll get the chance to come to Canada in October.
note: Holiday!Records, a relatively new distro/label based out of Osaka is sort of a 'tastemaker' (hate this term) in the Japanese indie scene. They've helped a number of bands become popular (including Lucie,Too) and they're currently pushing UlulU as a band to watch. Great news for UlulU.