When a group mysteriously describes themselves on their website as a "knock out or pound cake band," it's hard not to be intrigued by such an appealingly off-the-wall characterization. And Otoboke Beaver, an all-female four-piece from Kyoto, Japan is definitely intriguing. Off the bat, their avant-garde moniker was inspired by Japanese love hotels, and fittingly, their songs are a big F U to shady boyfriends, bad relationships, and sexism. Together, members Accorinrin, Yoyoyoshie, Hiro-chan, and Pop are defining the Japanese feminist punk scene one song at a time. Combining garage, punk, and pop, the four-piece makes fast-paced tracks fueled with anger that fight against gender norms and the patriarchy.
On March 24, Otoboke Beaver will release their second EP, Love Is Short - a flurry of gritty guitar work, complex arrangements, and both Japanese and English lyrics. Their Riot Grrrl attitudes and passion for noise-rock make them stand out as true renegades in the underground scene. Premiering below is the record's title track, which is a lesson in gender frustration through raucous vocals delivered at lightning speed. Because all of the band members have full-time jobs (and it's culturally frowned upon to take more than a week's vacation in Japan), Otoboke Beaver rarely play shows outside of their home country. However, they'll make their US and UK debuts this year with a select number of shows.
Ahead of their SXSW dates, Otoboke Beaver fill us in on the Japanese punk scene and the meaning of "Love Is Short."
How did you guys come up with the name Otoboke Beaver?
Accorinrin: Our guitarist Yoyoyoshie and ex-bassist Nishikawachi went to high school near one of the love hotel districts. When we were deciding on the name of band, they picked up a list of love hotels, and we chose Otoboke Beaver because the name sounded good. The meaning: not so much.
Which bands and labels are dominating the underground punk scene in Japan right now?
Accorinrin: It's so exciting! There are some interesting labels that handle punk music like Less Than TV, KiliKilivilla, and so on. Pizza of Death may be the most famous in Japan. The sounds of Otoboke Beaver are categorized as punk music, but we ultimately want to make and play music without being caught in a music genre. We like local underground music like Afrirampo, Oshiripenpenz, and MOST. But we don't just think music itself is punk, it's also the posture and attitude of the music. For example, Afrirampo's music includes many world elements, J-pop, noise, and new wave.
How does style play into the punk scene for you?
Accorinrin: We go to used clothes shops in Osaka together and choose dresses to wear for our live shows. Then, we check how each dress fits our personalities and make sure the colors and patterns of the dresses are different from each other to show our individuality. There are many styles of punk band. Some people wear torn-up clothes, some wear t-shirts, jeans and sneakers, some wear many accessories, some wear matching clothes and some don't wear clothes at all. We may look different, but we show one personality.
How did you guys meet?
Accorinrin: Me (vocalist and guitarist), Yoyoyoshie (guitarist), Nishikawachi (ex-bassist), and Pop (drummer) met in a music organization during college. We are coincidentally all the same age. Maybe it's because we weren't that friendly with the boys in the club that we're an all-girls band. We recruited our new bassist Hiro-chan after Nishikawachi retired from Otoboke Beaver in 2013. Hiro-chan was a fan of ours, came our shows many times, and sent us an email. Miraculously, Hiro-chan is also same age.
What does the phrase "Love Is Short?" mean to you?Accorinrin: It means that love is ephemeral and easily broken. Most of our songs are about love, of many different kinds - either from our life experiences or in imagining other girls' lives. We're also about to play in the U.S. for the first time, at SXSW, so we wanted to have a song that audiences from overseas can shout.
Which artists influenced your forthcoming release?
Accorinrin: I can't explain! I don't know what music inspired [our EP]. Maybe it was inspired by comedy shows and the conversations from people passing by. I'm conscious of using my high and low voice like Yapoos and Hikasyu. The reason our songs become faster and faster is that they're just fun to play.
Hiro-chan: Songs by BlondnewHalf influenced the bass lines. They're a punk band from Japan.
Pop: School Jackets, Catch A Diver, Ariel Pink and White Wreckles [inspired me].
Yoyoyoshie: I admire guitarists like Kirara Nakabayashi from Oshiripenpenz, and Shintaro Sakamoto from Yura Yura Teikoku.
Do you prefer singing in English or Japanese?
Accorinrin: I like to play with the Japanese language while singing. I also like to mix English words that are similar to Japanese words [into my music].
What do you think U.S. punk can learn from Japanese punk?
Accorinrin: I haven't thought about that because we just do what is natural to us. I don't think we think exactly about what we do.
Pop: I respect the U.S. punk scene, but I think the Japanese punk scene shows how our lives should be: more free. Although a band's music may not be exactly considered "punk," their style may be punk. Japanese bands tend to have a collective behavior, so punk is a strong message.
Text Ilana Kaplan
Images courtesy of Otoboke Beaver