Wild Animals tell us what it’s like to tour Japan for a European punk rock band
Madrid-based Wild Animals are a punk rock trio with many European Tours under their belts.
They toured Japan this year and we want to know everything about it!
Here’s an interview with Jamie, singer and guitarist of the band.
Listen to their LP “Basements: Music To Fight Hypocrisy”: https://wildanimalsmusic.bandcamp.com/
Order your vinyl copy from E-store: https://goo.gl/4SOjX5
How was your tour in Japan? Did it meet your expectations, if you had any?
It was incredible, without doubt one of the most positive and fulfilling experiences we’ve had as a band up to now. We had high hopes as we’d heard good things about touring in Japan from friends who had done so previously but we had no idea if it would be in any way similar to our experiences touring in Europe. We’re used to crashing on people’s floors and stuff like that which is kind of par for the course in the punk scene over here and didn’t know if that would be the case in Japan. As it turns out it’s pretty similar over there except occasionally you crash on a tatami haha. In any case the tour far succeeded any expectations we had and the three of us came back reinvigorated and itching to go back over there as soon as possible. We met so many kind, charming people and from here we’d like to give huge thanks to our friend Kazu, who runs Waterslide Records releasing our stuff over there, for making it all happen and saving our asses on many an occasion and also to the band Turncoat for joining us on the tour and sorting us out with equipment and so forth.
What were the shows and the venues like?
We played a total of five shows (in Tokyo, Nagoya, Okayama, Tokushima and Osaka in that order) some venues slightly bigger some slightly smaller but all kind of part of the same scene and we played to a more than satisfactory audience at every show. One of the things we thought beforehand was “who the hell’s gonna go see us? who knows us in Japan? but as soon as we played the first show we realised it wasn’t the case and that it’s as much as a faithfull, close-knit scene as it is here in Europe. This became obvious too when we visited record stores and kept finding the same records by Spanish bands and friends; Accidente, Viva Belgrado etc. Our first show, which was in the Shimokitazawa area of Tokyo, wasn’t the tightest show we played as we’d just come straight from a 26 hour flight but it was an indicator of what we were to find. Personally my favourite show of the five was in Okayama where we played in what was basically a big rehearsal studio called Crazy Mama. That was insane…As was our last one at a venue called Hokage in Osaka where we played with about 8 other bands. That was outr last one and it was a total headtrip to see the japanese kids singing along to our songs, surreal almost. Yeah though, the actual venues themselves we played were similar, let’s say small to medium sized punk clubs and all super organised and prepared for bands to play.
How did people respond to your music and to the fact that you are a punk rock band from Europe?
They seemed happy to have us over there and were incredibly generous and hospitable at all times. Spain to them seems a hell of a long way away as does Japan to us but the actual music itself I think is familiar to them, to be honest I don’t think essentially we were breaking any new ground as we played with band after band which could have similar references or influences as ours. They have bands from Europe going over there but it’s kinda weird because they seem almost flattered at times that Euopean bands want to go tour over there where for us I think it’s a peak experience and we’re flattered that they wanna go to see us play. There was one awesome guy who lives in Kyoto and his brother had written a review of us for a Japanese blog. The guy travelled to Nagoya to go see us play and just after we’d finished he came up to us and gave us with an avocado (we have a tune called “Avocado”) and said something super touching and emotive to us, after which we gave him a big hug and kiss which perhaps is not the norm over there haha. Not only that but he took the train to Osaka too to catch our last show! At sometime during our set I saw him in the audience and people around were dancing and kind of moshing and the guy was stood there still, with his eyes closed, mouthing the words to the song. What a genius, stuff like that blows your mind and makes it all worthwhile. Great people in general.
Any cool band you played with that we should check out?
Well first and foremost Turncoat, the band I mentioned before. They’re a three-piece from Shikoku Island with two guys and a girl drummer/vocalist and they play a kind of punk-rock with some indie vibes so I guess you could say they have a similar dynamic to us. Shit, they even do a Jawbreaker cover too sometimes! They are also released on Waterslide and from the moment we decided to go over Kazu said he was gonna try get them to tour with us as we’d make a good mix. We did the whole tour with their backline and they are an amazing band I definitely recommend. We played with another great band in Tokyo called Shipyards, also on Waterslide, punk-pop but technical, as most Japanese bands we encountered were, super tight. We played with a three-piece in Nagoya whose name escapes me now but the guys are like 90s punk legends over there, the bass player looked like a Japanese J.Mascis or something. Really friendly band and dangerously loud! We played with a cool punk rock band too called Big City whose bass player Matty was from Chicago but spoke perfect Japanese, definitely an inspiration in that sense! We also played that last show with a hardcore band called Five No Risk who were fucking unbelievable. Again, really tight but super energetic with a crazy singer full of aggression but channeled in a good way. So many good bands…
What’s the main difference between Europe and Japan in punk rock? And generally?
From a purely musical point of view, bands over there are really tight from a technical point of view and have their shit togther in terms of they know their equipment. All venues provide a great backline and sounchecks are the norm not the exception, which was somewhat surprising coming from what we’re used to here, where you sometimes get a line-check at most. Punctuality is respected and they have an encyclopedic knowledge of bands from Europe and the US. I think perhaps the punk scene over there is somewhat less political than in Europe, as over here bands touring in a similar circuit to us play frequently in squats or projects which over there is not so common, in Japan it’s more in clubs and venues. It was really inspiring though to play with several bands with female members, as although over here now fortunately it’s more common, there is still a conception of Japanese culture being a little sexist, so it was refreshing to see that in the punk rock scene at least it’s not the case. We’d heard stuff like “people in Japan go wild at shows but physically like to keep a distance” and from our experiences neither is strictly true. Over there audiences are definitely animated at shows but not more than at a good show in Europe and though traditionally it’s common to keep a distance in the punk rock scene at least it’s not frowned upon to give a hug to a friend.
Any suggestions and tips for bands who want to go on tour there?
Firstly, there does exist a language barrier as the level of English we take for granted in Europe isn’t common to find over there so sometimes things can get a little confusing. For this reason it’s advisable for bands touring to have some kind of Japanese contact or tour with a Japanese band who can help translate and this is something particularly to bare in mind when it comes to bands with vegetarian/vegan members as these options aren’t so common to find there as when touring in Europe. Fon is vegan and if it wasn’t for Kazu’s help would have had problems as most dishes contain at minimum egg or are made with fish sauce. Evidently, also when going to tour over there the more equipment they can lend you the better as to avoid possible complications. When it comes to merch, if you’re gonna make limited edition t-shirts for the tour, make them black! We made them in yellow and ended up bringing most of them back home with us haha. Japanese kids like their band t-shirts in real colours, not yellow! For the rest, we’d encourage any band thinking of going over there to just do it. Try and make it happen and enjoy every minute of it because the country, it’s people and it’s music scene is amazing. Thanks.