Japanese rock powerhouse Shonen Knife return to our shores

Japanese rock powerhouse Shonen Knife return to our shores

After an illustrious history with Australia, including playing at the 1997 Big Day Out, Japanese pop-punk icons Shonen Knife are returning for another tour down under.

“I am very excited to come back to Australia! The last time was 2015 and we had a very good reaction,” exclaims the bands charismatic and softly spoken lead singer Naoko.

Starting the band in the 1980s, Naoko recruited her sister Atsuko to be the groups drummer.

“When I started Shonen Knife it was when I was a high school student and that was around 1980,” she says. “It was easy to listen to Western rock music at the time; many Japanese record companies released Western rock bands. I usually went to an imported record store and many radio stations played The Ramones or The Buzzcocks.”

Beginning with basement shows, Shonen Knife quickly established a reputation in the underground punk scene of Tokyo.

“There was an underground music scene in Osaka and we also had an underground scene in Tokyo. There are many small and independent bands around the Osaka area. Our first show was 1982 and we made a plan to play at a tiny studio and invited our friends and had a show. After that we had a lot of offers to play at music clubs and we continued to play in the underground scene through out the 1980s,” Naoko reflects.

While it was heavily publicised that all female Japanese punk bands were scarce at the time, Naoko disagrees.

“There were many all females’ bands in Japan at the time we started the band, especially in the underground scene,” she says. “So I think we are not special, but I do think it gave us an advantage as many bands with men would ask us to play their shows.”

Naoko also relates their success to her Western influences.

“I like to listen to Western rock music and I don’t listen to Japanese music as much, so I think the influence of Western songs on my songs makes it easier for Western audiences to understand my melody line and also my lyrics are about very simple things, like delicious food or cute animals. The topics are universal.”

Paving the introduction of the Japanese punk scene to Western audiences, Shonen Knife quickly achieved acclaim from their predecessor’s such as CJ Ramone, whose support came after Shonen Knife released a tribute/cover album of the Ramones. Along with this, Shonen Knife were also given the opportunity to open for Nirvana on their tour of Nevermind.

“Touring with Nirvana was a very good experience for me,” she says. “I think it is our best tour with another band, but two or three years ago we toured with CJ Ramone and we had a very good time with the CJ Ramone band, they were a lot of fun. We have a lot of great memories!”

When & Where: Karova Lounge, Ballarat – September 23

Written by Alex Callan