Wednesday 31 October 2018

Foreign angles

Growing as a band or as a label in Japan can be a difficult and often dispiriting experience. Bands rehearse, write songs and play shows week after week and yet never seem to get a foothold. The paths to something greater seem few, and distant. However, looking overseas can be one way of breaking this sense of inertia.

This brings its own set of difficulties, since the cost of physically travelling overseas and the short amounts of time most Japanese musicians can take off work mean that foreign tours are only for the very wealthy or very dedicated. Embarking on something as logistically challenging as a tour isn’t the only way to reach out and keep things fresh though, and some of us here in the CAR family are working on a few different projects at the moment.

The most immediate one is a tour by US band Pregnant, starting November 1st and which Shingo from Tropical Death has (among others) been working hard to help set up and support.

Pregnant (from USA) Japan Tour:
11/1 Tokyo, Shimokitazawa Basement Bar, w/ Tropical Death, Bonstar
11/2 Tokyo, Akihabara Studio Revole, w/ 1000s of Cats, Mekare-Kare
11/3 Tokyo, Shinjuku Ninespices, w/ Loolowningen & The Far East Idiots, Windowz
11/4 Tokyo, Kunitachi Chikyuya, w/ Tropical Death, / Loolowningen & The Far East Idiots, Suppa Micro Pamchopp
11/7 Osaka, Namba Bears, w/ Los Oxxo Sexos, Tokiyo (And Summer Club), Sou + Kanchenjunga
11/8 Fukuoka, Kokura TBA
11/9 Hiroshima 4.14, w/ Usagi Bunny Boy, Uma-darake, Le Film, Shyboy

The other angle we’ve been working is setting up releases of a couple of split singles/EPs with overseas bands, although as always with projects like this that have so many moving parts, it’s difficult to know when is a safe time to announce any details. For now I’ll just say that one is a vinyl single that we’re producing in collaboration with a UK-based label, while the other will probably be a CD EP with another Asian band. In both cases, releases early next year are most likely. As far as tours supporting the releases go, they’re both under discussion and we’d love to do something if possible, but let’s just see how that goes, alright?

Other news from CARland is that I’ve given notice to quit one of my jobs in order to spend more time with writing and the label – two activities that are becoming increasingly difficult to separate, with all the problems that entails. Meanwhile, I’m DJing at about a hundred events over the weekend (well, three), so if you’re not catching the Pregnant tour on that particular day, by all means drop by.

11/3 (evening) @ Koiwa Bushbash – Excellent noise-rock event featuring Jailbird Y, In The Sun and more great bands.
11/3 (night) @ Shibuya Lush – Another event with a great looking lineup, which I’ll be joining at some insane hour of the night/morning.
11/4 (evening) @ Roppongi VARIT. – A ‘90s-themed DJ night featuring a pretty eclectic-looking range of DJs, at which I’ve threatened to play a set composed entirely of Guided By Voices but probably won’t follow through.

Thursday 25 October 2018

Experimental Cocktails

To celebrate the release of the Velvet Ants’ debut album Entomological Souvenirs I, I took a trip to Nagoya the other weekend for the release party at Spazio Rita. Rita is a really nice venue — just a simple, open space with no raised area for the stage, so you can move around freely, without feeling cramped in the way you can in a place like the differently lovely Bar Ripple, where Call And Response’s last event in Nagoya was held in 2017.

The lineup Joe from Velvet Ants put together was superb as well, with the Sonic Youth-esque Free City Noise kicking the party off ferociously. Osaka-based experimental electronic duo Nehan were an interesting follow-up, while the always entertaining new wave/postpunk band Compact Club were visiting from Tokyo and the excellent Noiseconcrete x 3chi5 held things up from the Nagoya end.

Hiroshima noise-rock maniacs Jailbird Y were also visiting, although they brought most of their band from Tokyo, including guitarist Mayumi from punk/no wave band P-iPLE, playing what I think might have been her first gig since having a baby in the summer. Mayumi is also my main collaborator on the Tension! events that we’ve been running on and off for the past couple of years, and the first thing she said to me after not seeing her in three months was, “Let’s do Tension! in Taiwan!”

I’ve written on here before about how, maybe even more than the music, the thing that determines what artists I work with is whether they’re someone who is going to be a good experience to work with. With 95% of the people I know, when you suggest something to them, the first thing they start thinking of is reasons why they can’t do it, but with people like Mayumi, and Anndoe from Jailbird Y is like this as well, if you suggest something to them, the first thing they start thinking of is ways they can make it happen. I’m probably a bit more cautious than either of them, and I’m certainly very selective in who I choose to be enthusiastic with, but at least with people who are feeding me good energy, I try to respond positively in return. “OK, let’s go to Taiwan!”

Also joining me on the trip to Nagoya was Julien from Lo-shi, who I coaxed into coming by telling him, “It’s not a gig: it’s an adventure!” The day after the show, we went to Hamamatsu in Shizuoka prefecture to visit Sone Records — a really nice little record shop that’s been supportive of Call And Response in the past. I was pretty hung over and generally feeling icky, but Julien went straight for the chu-hi at the first convenience store we passed in the morning. We arrived in Hamamatsu only to find Sone Records wouldn’t be open for another four hours, and we quickly realised that Japanese cities with populations of less than one million people are wastelands on a Monday afternoon. The only place we could find that was open was Saizeriya, a cheap family restaurant mostly frequented by schoolkids, so we parked ourselves in there for a couple of hours and made experimental cocktails with the drink bar and the disgusting wine they serve.

The record store was a productive experience in the end though, and with the Velvet Ants heading to Hamamatsu the following weekend, it was good to get their CD in stock. Meanwhile, I came away with a trio of releases from excellent local Shizuoka bands Towel, Half Kill and Qujaku.

The other useful thing I was able to take away from this trip was a lot of video footage of the Velvet Ants live, which I’ll soon hopefully be able to cut together into a music video. I’m also working on an music video for Sea Level, whose album came out on CD in July and who have recently made it available via various online and streaming outlets. While the Velvet Ants video should come together fairly quickly once I start, the Sea Level video is all being done with animation, which is inevitably a slow, tedious process. At the same time, though, there’s something calming about all the mechanical repetition it involves, and it gives me an opportunity to listen to a lot of music in the background, which is something I don’t usually feel like doing when I’m at home.

We’re also working on a couple of new releases, both of which are trapped in a spiral of interminable delays, but which I’ll hopefully be able to talk more about soon.