NMFT10: Diamonds in the Rough
Three to four years ago I envisioned planning something spectacular for the 10th tour by inviting some bigger name bands. I flirted with the idea of: 凛として時雨(Rin Toshite Shigure), group_inou and Tokumaru Shugo. But group_inou went on hiatus and bands/artists like Rin Toshite Shigure, Suiyoubi no Campanella and RADWIMPS (LOL. I know one of their staff) ask for waaaaaaaay too much money along with having to pay to bring an entire entourage (e.g. manager/staff/roadie(s)/engineer +/-photographer etc). I was willing to put in a lot extra for a superstar line-up but the reality is it wouldn't have been worth it since the price is way, way higher than even I expected and the tours are much more fun hanging out with younger, hungrier bands. (way more expensive and less fun = hell no).
Then I thought about my good friend Geoff who has helped me immensely in helping this tour grow and how much he would dig an exclusively post-punk/HC/noise line-up like: 百蚊(hyacca), otori, DEEPSLAUTER, skillkills and Qomolangma Tomato. But Qomolangma Tomato just broke up, otori can't come in May (neither can Hyacca most likely), skillkills' drummer is way too busy managing a studio to probably ever get more than a week off from work and when I think about it despite how awesome it would be to go full-on underground punk/HC I don't want to alienate a large chunk of fans who might find such a line-up too abrasive.
So I decided not to go for a 'big name' indie line-up, a completely hardcore/noise line-up or even an all-star cast of NMFT alums. Instead, I'm inviting four great acts that aren't that well known (at all!) but are guaranteed to kick as much ass as any of the bands I have brought to Canada in the past. Plus I'm going to ask for some input from you guys to round out the line-up with a 5th band/artist.
Here are four of the five acts:
1. The Taupe
The Taupe had been on my radar for a while with friends on twitter lauding them for putting on one of the craziest, LOUDEST and most awe-inspiring shows around. Along with Hitsuji Bungaku, then were invited to play the Rookie Stage at Fuji Rock Festival last year. So even though The Taupe are fairly unknown (just 804 followers on twitter) they've already been recognized as one of the best up and coming bands by the organizers of Japan's best music festival. Their music is mostly psychedelic post-punk with similarities to Hyacca. Not as fast or with as much punk energy but lots of unusual sonic textures where the music just envelopes you with its breathtakingly odd yet beautiful tones and dynamics. And they are better than almost any band at going from soft and melodic to ear-shatteringly LOUD in a heartbeat.
They also surprise you with their versatility as with this song "Fiction":
2. 指先ノハク (Yubisaki no haku)
In Tokyo I have a group of friends I always see at shows featuring female bands like Akai Koen, Gozen Sanji to Taikutsu, Hitsuji Bungaku and Regal Lily. And the band they like the most by far is Yubisaki no Haku. I had tried really hard to like Yubisaki no Haku's music for the past 3-4 years but for some reason their music never grabbed me like the other aforementioned female bands. I actually fell asleep standing watching one of their shows but jet lag might have played a small part in that. It seemed to me they were in the underground scene but aiming for the mainstream and they tried to force their music into sounding emotional but without putting any real soul into their compositions. I also just assumed my friends adore Yubisaki the most because they are arguably the most attractive female band in the underground scene (See! I am all about the music not the looks. LOL) However, I don't know what happened but within the past year Yubisaki have made a number of small tweaks and the accumulation of those have in my mind made them into a completely different band that I think rules. Obviously my friends will argue that they've always been this good and I was just too dumb to notice. tricot fans might complain that Yubisaki are biting tricot's style hard but Yubisaki have been around longer than tricot and they've always had a prog rock element to their music. However, I do agree that tricot may have influenced Yubisaki into taking a more serious tone and technical approach to the music than they already did in the past. Yubisaki and tricot are good friends and they recently played a two-man show together at Shimokita Shelter that I would have given my left testicle to have seen (no not really but I would have planned a trip around that show had I known earlier). Their latest ep "Full Range" is one of my favorite releases of 2016 and I'm happy to tell my friends I've finally come to my senses and wholeheartedly embrace the opportunity to brink Yubisaki no Haku to Canada.
3. bakyun the everyday
I am bringing bakyun the everyday to Canada mainly because the guitar/vocal duo of Nobumi Nanamure and Yuji Ino are two really good friends of mine. Seriously, that is the primary reason. Because I think it would be cool to bring them to Canada and just hang out with them. Me and my friends Eric and Sania went to watch a band called しゃっく play at Shimokitazawa ERA two years ago. After しゃっく's set, we went to go get drinks and snacks at the LAWSON conbini with members of しゃっく and that's where we met Nobumi and Yuji. They mentioned they were in a band called bakyun the everyday and I said (in Japanese) "No fucking way! I've actually been meaning to see your band play live since I thought your songs on soundcloud are pretty cool." And then when I mentioned I was planning to leave ERA and go to nearby BASEMENT BAR to see the peggies and OWARIKARA, she said she was thinking of doing the same and asked if Eric, Sania and I already had tickets. When I said no, she texted the peggies' manager and got all of us into the show for free. So instantly we became pretty good friends but it was a few months before I actually got a chance to watch bakyun the everyday play live. I had listened to their CD and liked it but watching them live the first time I was COMPLETELY. BLOWN. AWAY!! Mostly because they play way louder and faster than they do on CD. Going in to the show I was planning on cheering them on regardless of how good or bad they were but it was a pleasant surprise to see they were incredibly badass. Right after the show, I messaged Eric: "Dude! bakyun the everyday are actually fucking AWESOME live. Maybe not to the point I'd bring them to Canada but they were surprisingly good!" And the more I saw them, the more I liked them but I always felt that maybe it's just me and the fact that Nobumi, Ino and I are friends had biased my decision. Then a few months later it was Eric's first time to watch bakyun the everyday at a tiny livehouse where he was basically the only audience member other than the other bands playing. I had to go to different shows to watch Regal Lily and Toranoko Rammy who were under consideration for NMFT8. And while I'm watching Toranoko Rammy Eric messages me: "HOOOOOOOLY SHIT! bakyun the everyday are fucking amazing!!!!" So that made me feel happy because it's not just me. There's at least one other person with great taste in music that thinks bakyun are awesome.
bakyun the everyday play melodic punk. They aren't elite musicians and Nobumi will never be accused of having perfect pitch. In fact, a lot of people might cringe at her singing but I actually feel it's the imperfections in her voice and delivery that give her singing so much character. She knows she doesn't have the greatest voice but she gives it her all when she sings and that's what punk is all about. The main reason I'm bringing bakyun the everyday to Canada is because they're good friends of mine. And after you see them perform, hopefully, you guys will agree that they're an incredibly fun band to watch live and they're definitely worthy of being part of the NMFT line-up!
4. ゆくえしれずつれづれ (Yukueshirezutsurezure)
Until I discovered Maison book girl I never listened to idol music. I hated how popular it was and how it took attention away from talented musicians who wrote and performed their own music. Well idols still don't write their own music or lyrics but at least the underground idol scene has upped the ante in terms of producers creating decent music for their female muses. ゆくえしれずつれづれ's "Antino未deology" was one of my favorite releases of 2016. Due to the immense popularity of BABYMETAL and the punk antics of B.I.S., idol groups with a heavy metal/hard rock sound started coming out of the woodwork. However, to me ゆくえしれずつれづれ (YSTZ) was the only group that had a great emo/HC vibe with quirkiness and intelligence to boot. Unfortunately their follow up 'double A' single "六落叫 / ニーチェとの戯曲" had less soul and the full album released in December is mostly generic metal fluff. I think the producers at Codomomental realized that they'd get a much larger fanbase if they sounded less Emo/HC and more like BABYMETAL which is a shame. Having said that, YSTZ put on a craaaaaaaaazy, energetic and intense show. And as long as they play three of the classics from their first mini-album their performance can't miss. To be honest a lot of the craziness and energy (screamed chants, moshing, crowdsurfing) comes from the audience at YSTZ's shows. Because of the aggressive style of the music their fans tend to be more youthful than the older dudes usually seen at idol events. They also have a greater proportion of female fans than most idol groups. YSTZ's fans call themselves "群青" (goonjo) which is the color 'ultramarine.' The Gunjo are really creative in their support of YSTZ and often plan ahead all sorts of interesting things to do at the shows to make them more fun. 12-15 fans of Maison book girl came to Canada all the way from Japan to watch NMFT9. I'm gonna challenge the Gunjo to see if they can improve on that. LOL. Seriously, even if just a couple of Gunjo were to make it to Canada they'd show us how it's done and the audience would become 10x more hype. I have really great footage of YSTZ's awesome performances with the crowd going ballistic but right now I'm not allowed to make these videos public as Codomomental prohibits any of YSTZ's live footage from being shown. But I'll be able to use portions in the teaser for NMFT10 where you can witness the YSTZ/Gunjo insanity for yourself.
So these are four of the five acts. I know Geoff, Jason (Soybomb) and some of you are shaking your heads and rolling your eyes because I've invited another idol group. Yeah, I'm not sure what I'm doing myself either sometimes. LOL. But having underground idol groups and punk/noise bands play together is commonplace in Japan and as long as there is enough integrity and artistic merit in the music I'll be open-minded to inviting the occasional idol act to add a twist to and increase the variety of the line-up.
So a number of bands who were potentially going to be the fifth act had to back out. They really wanted to be part of NMFT10 but couldn't come because of work/scheduling conflicts.
Bad news is original bassist Miyata had to quit the band due to work and family reasons. Great news is OWARIKARA's Tsuda-san became the new bassist and HOOOOOOOLY SHIT is the new line-up absolute fire! otori will be releasing a new album soon and they totally wanted to come to Canada and showcase the new songs to their Canadian fans. Unfortunately, I don't know if you guys remember but NMFT7 was held in June and the reason why is because otori and PENs+ couldn't come in May. And the situation remains the same that otori's guitarist can't get time off work to come in May this year either. But don't you guys worry because I'm doing another tour in October and otori have already committed to clearing their schedule to come to Canada then.
I was actually super close to having Uchu Conbini reunite to be part of NMFT7 in 2015 but Daijiro and Yuto couldn't convince EmiChoco to strap up the bass for one last tour. Daijiro loves Canada and I've been in close contact with him on bringing his next band on the NMFT tour. JYOCHO were almost part of NMFT9 but many of you probably don't know that JYOCHO has never played a single show... ever. Not even in Japan. The singer, rionos, refuses to do any live performances which is why they couldn't be part of NMFT9 (obviously). Daijiro has been scrambling to find a new singer in time so that JYOCHO could play their first ever show in Canada as part of the NMFT10 tour. Daijiro thought it would be fun and an awesome publicity stunt to play their first show in Canada before Japan. But so far Daijiro hasn't found a suitable replacement for rionos and he's said it would be safer to wait to come to Canada in October for NMFT11.
That's right otori and JYOCHO are basically confirmed for NMFT11!!
So I thought, CRAP! Since JYOCHO can't do NMFT10 and neither can otori maybe a math-y band similar to JYOCHO would be good. And the band that immediately came to mind who I had been wanting to bring for a while but couldn't because the members had army duty is a band that isn't even Japanese. They're from Taiwan and they're the supremely awesome Elephant Gym who release their music in North America through Top Shelf Records Since I was sure either otori or JYOCHO would be able to make it in May I was late in asking Elephant Gym. Their guitarist Tell replied back that they've heard amazing things about NMFT and would be STOKED to be part of the tour but they have a prior commitment to play an important show in Taiwan that conflicts with NMFT10. Tell said they'd absolutely love to come next year but I didn't tell him about the tour in October yet. Honestly, when I was emailing Elephant Gym I wasn't sure how they'd feel about playing with the four bands already in the line-up because none of them are math/emo and they usually play those type of shows. But how awesome would it be to have JYOCHO and Elephant Gym on the same bill in October?!! With otori!! I'm going to email Tell back and see if Elephant Gym can make it in October instead of waiting till 2018.
校庭カメラガール (Koutei Camera Girl)
To be honest my first choice as idol group to bring for NMFT10 was actually Koutei Camera Girl Zwei. In October, the staff of Maison book girl stayed with me at my parents' home in Vancouver. They asked if I was going to bring another idol group to Canada after Maison book girl and I said I was considering either Yukueshirezutsurezure or Koutei Camera Girl Zwei. And they said, "Oh really?! Well that's too bad then because tapestok records just announced that Koutei Camera Girl Zwei would be disbanding in January." And I thought to myself "Fuck!" because I had a feeling that KCG whose music I liked but hadn't seen live yet might be the best underground idol group around. Then in November I got to see KCGZ perform and indeed they became my favorite idol group by far. YSTZ arguably put on a more intense, energetic show but I loved KCG's music so much more. And then in December, KCGZ released their final album "Night on Verse" which became my favorite release in all of 2016. The same day YSTZ released "ポスト過多ストロフィー" which I felt was their weakest effort thus far. At first I preferred KCG's sister act Koutei Camera Gal more because it was closer to traditional hip hop (note: I realize they're using a Nas instrumental in the link) whereas KCGZ was EDM with rapped vocals. But more and more I started to lean towards the uniqueness of KCG Zwei because the music was much more diverse and creative and the vocal delivery wasn't as laughably 'thuggish.' In a span of five weeks I got to watch KCG Zwei seven times before they broke up on January 13. Out of any band or idol group listed on this page (including otori, JYOCHO and Rin Toshite Shigure), Koutei Camera Girl Zwei became the act I wanted to bring most to Canada because their music and live show was just THAT good.
The good news (for me maybe not for Geoff) is that just last night tapestok records announced they're forming a 3rd incarnation: 校庭カメラガールドライ (Koutei Camera Girl Drei) (note: shoutout to daze for pointing out my mistake in romanizing it as 'dry.' Zwei = 2; Drei = 3; Steve = Dummkopf in German)
And if the producers continue with the same quality of supremely dope beats and manage to find new members that are as charismatic and talented as KCG Zwei were then I have a feeling I might already be preparing to invite KCG Drei to Canada as early as October. (note: one of the biggest reasons I fell in love with KCG Zwei is because of warwar2me who is a huge fan of group_inou just like me and it's depressing to know that Kouteka3 won't have warwar in the line-up).
I love this band so much. When Ryo decided to live in Canada for a year and put PENs+ on hiatus, Ariga decided to form his own band based on solo material he had been writing and accumulating the last couple years. He recruited one of the dopest young drummers around in Sho Sato (from fulusu) (<--- you MUST watch his drumming) and invited his friend Ginya Kato to play bass. They started off as a 3-piece but then Ariga recruited Ino from bakyun the everyday for an unrivalled twin Jazzmaster attack. arigarnon friends were a shoe-in to be part of NMFT10. I was actually going to invite them to NMFT9 but decided to bring Hitsuji Bungaku instead. Unfortunately, Ariga starts the daily grind of office work life in April and once that happens he will never be able to get 10 days off to bring his band to Canada. I joked that I would save up money to buy the company he works for and bring arigarnon friends to Canada one day. LOL. I'm not that rich but hopefully one day Ariga lucks out and manages to get enough time to sneak off to Canada for an abridged tour.
So these are a number of bands (and idol group) that I had tried to get on the NMFT10 roster but lady luck refused to smile my way. At least, NMFT11 is looking mighty badass already. But don't sleep on NMFT10!!!!!! The Taupe and Yubisaki no Haku alone will have you shitting your pants and I am certain bakyun the everyday and YSTZ will surprise you with their awesomeness as well.
And oh yeah, I still have one more band to choose!! Since this post is already way too damn long I'm going to end it here and start a new blog entry for you guys to weigh in on the possible choices for the 5th band of NMFT10. Wait for it! (hopefully later today!)