It’s 25 years since Japanese bubblegum-punks Shonen Knife first came to these shores – supporting Nirvana, no less.
And incredibly it’s 35 years since the cult trio first strapped on the guitars. Now, with their 19th album, Adventure, released last week, the all-female band are back.
It sees the band delving deeper in to the ’70s rock leanings that they explored on their last album, 2014’s Overdrive.
Singer and guitarist Naoko Yamano told WOW247: ‘Our new album, Adventure is inspired by British ’70s rock and American hard-rock. I love classic rock music, so I’m inspired by Judas Priest, Deep Purple Rainbow or Black Sabbath, and there’s also a little bit of ’60s music like The Beatles in there too – I like Paul McCartney a lot.’
The album continues the band’s tradition of singing about food. Wasabi is a Motorhead-esque ode to Japan’s favourite condiment and Green Tangerine is about Kabosu tangerines which are tiny and green and used like a lemon, they are a local speciality of drummer Risa’s hometown Oita. Cotton Candy Clouds is based on one of Naoko’s favourite motifs, cotton candy, and pays homage to latter period Beatles.
Naoko has been the one constant throughout the group’s history, but for this album, her sister Atsuko – who was their original drummer – has returned to the fold as the bassist.
‘She was our drummer but switched to bassist after our original bassist left in 2000.
‘She played bass to 2000 to 2006, then she got married with an American guy and moved to Los Angeles and had to leave the band. Then I played with Ritsuko, but she’s now taking maternity leave, so I asked my younger sister to come back. It’s nice to have her in the band again.’
Nirvana’s frontman, Kurt Cobain, was a huge fan of the band, and his interest in them was key in introducing them to a whole new legion of fans outside of Japan.
Naoko recalls their tour together: ‘It was our first long tour, so it was three weeks in 1991, and we didn’t know much about touring, but the members of Nirvana were so kind to us.
‘Kurt and the other members were watching our set every night, I was so honoured.’
And in a reversal of the Big in Japan cliché, Shonen Knife are more popular abroad than in their homeland.
‘I liked to listen to British or American rock music when I was a teenager, and I think I write songs in the style of western rock music. Many overseas people like to listen to Shonen Knife songs because we have that western music essence.
‘I think we are more popular to overseas people now,’ and she laughs: ‘I wish we could be popular in Japan.’
The Joiners, Southampton
Wednesday, April 20