There has never been a girls band like TOKYO SYOKI SYODO before. After they go berserk over punk rock, the next thing you know, they start noodling around to folk or Kayokyoku-esque sentimental ballad or jam a J-pop-like catchy melody awe-ing the listeners. They own a vast variety of tunes, and it is mesmerizingly cool and fresh how they emanate every sound with their high and pure spirits. Unequivocally, they are going to be the kind of girls band that will be sparking fire to the Japanese rock scene for the first time in a while.
I sat down with all the members from the aspiring band to hear about their fascination with Ging Nang Boyz, which is the source of their genesis, their domestic tour that they carried out during the pandemic last year (concurrently announcing the departure of a group member,) and their 3rd ‘ED’ Second Kill Virgin, which is the first to be recorded with the new member.
I didn’t really know who Kazunobu Mineta is, but everyone was yelling his name, and that’s when I was like, “ah, that’s Mineta!”
――First, I heard you guys are essentially a fan of Ging Nang Boyz, and they inspired you guys to start the band. Shiina, you’ve seen their live performance before, right?
Shiina: Yes, I have. One day, my friend took me out to their gig in Shinkiba; since then I got into them and started going to a lot of their shows. In the beginning, I didn’t really know who Kazunobu Mineta was, but everyone was yelling his name, and that’s when I was like, “ah, that’s Mineta!”
――[laughs]. What do you like about Ging Nang Boyz the most?
Shiina: I like their lyrics. Their melodies are great, too, but I can imagine the scenes better with lyrics.
――Which song is your favorite?
Shiina: Let’s see. It would probably be “Poadam,” “Hyouryuu Kyoushitsu,” “Yume De Aetara.” But the first song I’ve ever listened to was “Anoko Wa Ayanami Rei Ga Suki.” At first, I thought their music was just noisy, but they made me want to be a person who understands music. They had fervent, hardcore fans, and I—who had eighth-grade syndrome—was struck by them.
――Mare, I heard you’ve found out about Ging Nang Boyz when you were in high school.
Mare: They were trending. I like how their music isn’t anthemic like, “Life’s fun!” I felt like their music is for people like me, who aren’t good at putting themselves out there.
――Nao, you didn’t go through that path of music, right?
Nao: That’s right….
Shiina: Nao didn’t go through that path at all.
――How about you, Asaka?
Asaka: I had to listen to the band right before joining TOKYO SYOKI SYODO, as I was told, “you’ve got to listen to Ging Nang Boyz.” I like punkish music, so it was easy for me to listen.
――Also, TOKYO SYOKI SYODO started by covering GOING STEADY and GING NANG BOYZ’s “BABY BABY,” right?
Shiina: That’s right. Wasn’t that so boring, though?
Mare: Actually, we weren’t able to finish playing that song.
Shiina: I couldn’t even hold the G chord, so I had to air-guitar at our first show [laughs]. But it was fun. I probably shouldn’t be mentioning this but drawing a poop on my arm has now become my dark past.
Mare: Wasn’t it that you had way too much booze?
Shiina: Yup. Back then, we had a male drummer, but we like the girls vibe, and wanted all our members to be girls. Then, we found Nao, and pulled her into the band.
――Which show was Nao’s first show?
Shiina: I think it was our third show—there were only two audience members.
Nao: I don’t remember that at all….
Shiina: She can obliterate her memories with alcohol [laughs].
Mare: After the show, I was given a tiny one….
Shiina: Yeah, that’s called tequila.
We want to form an array of pretty lyrics, while playing pop songs
――I heard your first ever original song, “Cho-Raku,” was born from trying to create a song like Ging Nang Boyz’s “Anoko Wa Ayanami Rei Ga Suki.”
Shiina: That’s right! Right when we started thinking of writing a song like that, the lyrics, “I wanna get some right now” popped in my head.
――That’s quite a lyric to start off with.
Mare: Didn’t we want to pursue that type of direction?
Shiina: In the beginning, we wanted to do something sort of goading, but that became tiring. We started wanting to form an array of pretty lyrics, while we play pop songs. But once in a year, we get the impulse to write dumb songs. “Kuro Gal No Ketsu Wa Nitamago Ni Niteru,” “Koenji Busu Syugo,” and our latest song “Samalove❤︎” are among the songs born from such impulse.
――Were you guys having fun when writing “Cho-Raku”?
Shiina: Yes, we were goofing around with each other.
――Nao, since you didn’t grow up listening to Ging Nang Boyz, were you ever unpleased with these songs?
Nao: No, not at all [laughs]. I just wanted to be in a band. Honestly, I joined the band not caring about the music.
――So, even with the part where you sing, “Mokkori (bulge)”—you’ve never complained like, “I don’t wanna do this!” ?
Nao: No, never [laughs].
Shiina: Regarding that part, I think Asaka was hesitant the most. She was like, “are you serious?” [laughs]
――Ah, when you performed the song live.
Asaka: Because, I never say things like “bulge” or “I wanna get some right now.”
Everyone: [Laughs out loud].
――Your live show that took place in Tokyo in December 2019, was sold out, and I remember people were raving in the club. You guys were formed in April 2018, and that show happened only about a year later, so I was so shocked. How do you feel looking back at that show?
Shiina: It was fun up until then.
Shiina: About a week after that gig, a member told us that she wants to quit—so, it was fun up until then.
If we catch Covid, then that’s that—you can get it anywhere
――And, in spite of the pandemic, you guys carried out a Japan tour last year. I think there were almost no bands touring during that time frame.
Shiina: I know. A member was leaving the band, and we just wanted to move on as quick as possible…. I mean, if we caught Covid, then that’s that—you can get it anywhere.
――How did you feel touring during the time frame?
Shiina: We were fine as usual, but the audience seemed anxious. We could see from the stage how they were there anxious about getting sick.
――I saw your show in Nagoya, at Imaike Huck Finn (on July 19th, 2020,) and I was wondering how you guys were feeling as the mood of the dance floor was way different from how it normally is.
Shiina: The audience was only able to raise their fists, but we felt that they were raving on the inside. We were like, “you guys are feeling the same way as we are, right?”
――How was it for you, Mare?
Mare: Actually, we announced that the member was leaving the band on the day before our show in Hokkaido, and everyone started crying at the hotel. Then the next day, during the show, Shii (=Shiina) burst into tears when singing “not saying goodbye” from the song “Chuo Sen,” and that induced me to cry, and I think Nao, too.
Nao: I cried.
Shiina: Although it’s been decided long ago, we had to keep it low-key for a while, and we were nervous all along. The Hokaiddo gig was the toughest. I brought a rope with me.
――Why a rope!?
Shiina: I was like, “tie me up, so I won’t go crazy on Twitter if someone makes a rude remark after we make the announcement!” So, I was actually tied up in the hotel for a while.
―― [laughs]. How about you, Nao?
Nao: The Hokkaido show is also memorable to me. It was sad, but we drank a lot of booze and partied hard [laughs].
――How about at your final show of the tour at Ebisu Liquid Room (on August 16th, 2020)?
Mare: I felt sentimental with the fact that it was coming to an end with this member.
Shiina: I was excited about the new member, but at the same time, I was so sad.
Mare: I cried so hard. I still can’t watch the DVD (the band’s first ever live footage, Bokutachi Wa Nandaka Subete Wasurete Shimaune.)
Shiina: Right? I cried so much.
――The song I heard at the show, “SWEET MELODY” is one of the highlights for me—there was a scene where Shiina, you turn your head towards Kaho (the former member) while performing.
Shiina: Wasn’t I immersed in the moment?
Mare: You were like, “poor me” [laughs].
Shiina: I wasn’t seeing anything, even the venue—I was just singing to Kaho.
――I didn’t notice on site, but when I saw the DVD, Shiina, you were weeping offstage in the end.
Shiina: I don’t handle pressure well. I didn’t want to cry ‘till the Liquid Room show was completely over…. Even to this day, I’m like, I have to keep going if someone’s quitting. Anyway, it was the hardest time for me when we did the show at Liquid Room. I kept thinking that maybe Kaho wouldn’t have left if I were nicer to her…. It was tough as there were all sorts of thoughts running through my head.
――And you, Nao?
Nao: We had a great sense of loss that Kaho was leaving.
Shiina: Plus, she was the rhythm section.
――Then, Asaka signed in to join the band, right?
Shiina: That’s right. She ‘liked’ our Instagram post that said, ‘we are looking for a bass player,’ and we noticed she plays bass. We also thought she’s cute, looks like a nice person, and has a positive vibe. So, we DM-ed her saying, “would you be interested in signing up for a try out?” Then she replied, “I was actually about to sign up”—we thought it was kismet.
――How was it the first time playing together in the studio?
Shiina: It was great! She was damn nervous, but I thought that was cute. Plus, she was able to play bass for all of our songs! Even though we had asked her to come to the studio only a week before.
Asaka: I practiced so much. I had to lay out a schedule to learn three or four songs a day.
――I’ve noticed seeing your live performance, you can harmonize well, and I think that’s a great weapon to have.
Shiina: Honestly, we weren’t asking that much, but Asaka was capable.
Asaka: For “Samalove❤︎” I have to be extremely high spirited, and in the beginning I couldn’t sing the song at all.
Shiina: And I yelled at you.
Asaka: First, I started off from breaking out of the shell [laughs]. I’m a bad singer, but I thought it’s important to let my true self out.
――Compared to your previous record, LOVE&POP, the sound of your latest album seems to be more open. I guess it tells how the band is currently in a good condition.
Shiina: I agree. Our previous record was grim.
――I’d say it felt tense and strained.
Shiina: I was furious when recording the previous record. There were days where I didn’t let the members come to the studio…. I did everything by myself, even the harmonies. But everyone was there to sing “Tokyo Syoki Syodo” together.
Nao: I tried to get rid of the dark mood…. I was concerned.
Shiina: I feel bad [laughs]!
――Your previous record was amazing, too, though.
Shiina: Really? Thank you. But for our latest album, we were able to have fun. We’re now getting along well.
Mare: It’s completely different from our previous record.
Our dream is to someday play live at Hibiya Noon
――What was your initial image of the latest album, Second Kill Virgin?
Shiina: We wanted to go with a euphoric vibe. LOVE&POP was far from being ‘love’ or ‘pop,’ so we thought our next record should be more ‘love&pop.’ Also, since Asaka joined, the mood of the band got better, which motivated us to produce energetic and positive songs.
―― “Samalove❤︎” is absolutely outgoing!
Shiina: Yes. Last year we did a domestic tour, but other than that, we couldn’t do anything. During quarantine period, I went out to the mountains and the beach, and was able to feel nature; that probably boosted my positive vibe level.
――The next track, ”blue moon” is completely in contrast with “Samalove❤︎” and it’s hard to believe that they are both written based around the same summer theme—but it’s become my most favorite song in the album.
Shiina: I love that song, too! Summer night makes me want to listen to ballads.
――Makes sense. The melody of that song is so good. It’s sentimental, but my heart flutters.
Shiina: Hahaha [laughs]. I want to make people’s hearts flutter with our songs.
Nao: I got to do different types of rimshots for this song, and it was fun.
――“Ai No Mukidashi” starts off with the bass line; I was thinking that the intro is like marking Asaka’s joining the band.
Shiina: That’s right! Because Asaka joined the band, we wanted to make a song that starts with the bass. I would say it’s a welcome song for Asaka [laughs].
――How about the last song, “Haru”?
Shiina: We wrote “Haru” right when we were releasing LOVE&POP, but abandoned the song for a year. In the beginning, when I had Asaka listen to the song, she said, “you should change the lyrics because it’s too dark.” So, I changed the lyrics on the second day of recording.
――Was the lyrics that dark?
Asaka: So dark that I got worried [laughs]. I didn’t now much about TOKYO SYOKI SYODO before I joined, but when I saw the lyrics, it made me think that they’ve been through some ridiculously rough times. I thought it was better for the band to start shifting to positive mindset from a listener’s point of view. So, I had the lyrics changed.
――So, you’re open to opinions from a new member.
Shiita: If someone I hate tells me something like that, I would be like, “Huh? Who the hell you think you are?” But if it’s an opinion from a member I like, I’m like, “OK! OK!”
Mare: I really love the first verse of “Haru.” We changed the melody as well during recording, and it turned out sounding more vibrant. Shiina’s color came alive in it.
Asaka: Mare’s guitar was amazing. Especially the interlude and outro were incredibly good—I was so moved by her guitar sound that it almost made me cry.
――Your live shows are always incredibly amazing and draw me in, and I think the most alluring thing about the band is how great the melodies and the songs are. Musically speaking, what’s the prominent influence that is reflected in your music?
Shiina: I listen to recent bands like YOASOBI, but I think I mostly listen to Kayokyoku (Japanese traditional pop music) or old music. I like the kind of music that has been around for over decades, especially the ones in textbooks.
――You guys play Doji Morita’s “Bokutachi no Shippai” when closing the show.
Shiina: You see, Japanese people like emotional music—Like Doji Morita’s songs, as well as for example, Chatmonchy’s “Somaru Yo,” Keisuke Kuwata’s “Shiroi Koibitotachi (White Love,)” and Kiyoshiro [Imawano]’s “Slow Ballad.” I probably like ballads myself [laughs]. But it’s easier for me to write rock music—because with ballads, they need to be written based on real experiences and I have to really put my bona fide feelings into them.
――So, what is TOKYO SYOKI SYODO’s future dream?
Shiina: Someday, in the summer, I want to do a show at Hibiya Noon. It’s because Mare was talking about it. And that made me want to do a solo live show there.
Mare: I saw a video of THE BLUE HEARTS playing live there, and it was insanely epic.
――How about you, Nao?
Nao: I want to be able to live off our music. Also, I want to play at festivals with my favorite artists like UVERworld.
Asaka: I just came up with a dream now from hearing you guys speak—I want to play at Hibiya Noon in Tokyo, and since I lived in Osaka, I also want to play at Osaka Castle Band Shell! [laughs].
――Do you have a goal image of the band?
Shiina: I don’t want to think too much further, but you know, there aren’t that many girl bands that last for a long time. For some reason, they all quit while they’re still young. So, I want to establish our own brand of TOKYO SYOKI SYODO. I want to continue the band with how we would look as we age and the music adapting to our age.