Shonen Knife is nearing the thirty-year mark of continuous pop-punk output. Starting with a self-released cassette tape in early-80’s Osaka, Japan, the trio has gone on to tour the world and release sixteen albums. Over the years, their energetic D.I.Y.-influenced sound has earned accolades from the likes of Nirvana and Sonic Youth, who took the trio on tour and covered their songs, and Simpsons creator Matt Groening, who hand-picked the band for England’s All Tomorrow’s Parties, which he curated in May of this year.
After years of albums and shows, Naoko Yamano is the only remaining member who still regularly plays and tours with Shonen Knife (sister and co-founder Atsuko Yamano left the band in 2006 but still occasionally performs). She recently agreed to answer a few question for Each Note Secure as Shonen Knife prepared to embark on their North American tour. They will perform at the Contemporary Art Center’s stage at MidPoint Music Festival on Thursday, September 23rd at 11:00 pm.
[Each Note Secure] Do you still live in Osaka? Do you feel like the city contributed to your sound and development?
[Naoko Yamano] Yes, I do. Osaka is the second largest city in Japan. Every over ground thing is in Tokyo. Osaka is rather underground. The fact effects me. I grew up in the downtown area of Osaka. There were a lot of record shops. It was easy for me to buy records. I was influenced by western rock music a lot.
[ENS] Which Western artists contributed to Shonen Knife’s sound?
[NY] I always like Beatles, Ramones and Buzzcocks. They influenced me. I like ‘70’s music, too. Judas Priest, Kiss, Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Doobie Brothers, Earth Wind & Fire, Wishbone Ash, Strawberry Alarm Clock and so on.
[ENS] How did Shonen Knife get together in the beginning?
[NY] In late 1981, I was bored with my daily life and I wanted to start something interesting. At that time, I was a fan of punk pop rock music. I decided to start band. I asked to my friend Michie and my younger sister Atsuko to be members of my band.
[ENS] The band has been around almost 30 years now. How has Shonen Knife and the way the band makes music developed over time?
[NY] Musically, I think we developed a little. My rock spirit is always the same. When I find something interesting during my daily life, I write down the key words on my notebook. I expand the word to lyrics. Then I put melody line on it and fix the lyrics. My approach and process to writing music hasn’t changed.
[ENS] Longtime drummer Etskuo Nakanishi left the band a few months ago. How have you adjusted to this change, as well as the others you’ve had over the years?
[NY] She wanted to take care of her daily life. Our manager and I looked for a new drummer and we found Emi [Morimoto]. She is a good drummer and a very nice girl. Of course, when the player changes, the sound will be changed. Each member has good character. I’m influenced by other the members.
[ENS] Shonen Knife has developed a rapid cult following over the years. What kind of relationship do you have with your fans?
[NY] We always meet and greet with our fans after our shows. It’s so fun. I like that. I’ve even gotten the words “marry me!” [yelled at me] on stage.
[ENS] What’s the future for Shonen Knife? After so many years together, is there an end in sight?
[NY] I’ve never think about quitting the band. I’d like to continue if there are people who want to listen to our music. Continuity is ROCK
interview by John Crowell @terriblesounds
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