A short while back, the Japanese rock band The Pillows finished their Delicious Bump tour with all girl rock band the Noodles. While they were here in Los Angeles we stopped by to catch their show and have a brief chat with them.
Best known abroad for their songs off the soundtrack of the famed anime series FLCL, the Pillows have been crafting their distinctly unique rock and roll anthems since 1989. The Noodles are an indie band who have been on the Delicious record label started by Pillows front man Sawao Yamanaka since 2001. Their first stop was The El Rey Theater in Los Angeles, where they played a packed house of fans of Japanese music, anime and rock and roll. Opening for them was the all girl up-and-comers The Noodles, who were both vibrant and heartfelt with their songs. Their performance was a more than a warm-up for the fans of The Pillows. This was a first time introduction for many of us western fans to their own brand of rock and roll girl power.
When the Pillows took the stage, they did so with all the presence of rock stars but the humility of good friends. Frontman Sawao asked the question, “Do you know me?”, to which the crowd responded with enthusiastic cheers. Not only did they rock the house with new material, including their recent hit “Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!,” they also gave a welcome dose of the songs that broke ground for them stateside. Before playing these old favorites Sawao said, “ Yesterday, I discover music is good, new or old!” then launched the crowd into a mass of kinetic motion with “Ride on Shooting Star.”
By the last encore, the Pillows clearly had the crowd in the palm of their hands as they played “Hybrid Rainbow.” People chanted in unison as Sawao emotionally belted out “Can you feel?” All the while, lead guitarist Manabe Yoshiaki played the chords and seemed to act like a skillful puppeteer moving the crowd with his rhythm. During which, Shinichirou Sato banged away at the drums with precision as he subtly smiled like some sort of Santa Claus bringing the gift of the backbeat. This all came to an end with cool blue stage lights creating a silhouette of Sawao making his hand into an imaginary pistol and shouting us all dead before walking of stage.
After the show, my ragtag crew and I set out to score interviews. Having made connections with one of the event promoters before the show was a good sign, but it was still a daunting task. First things first, we managed to squeeze in just a brief moment with the Noodles lead singer Yoko. Mostly we talked about how she felt about playing in the United States. To this she answered that she was very “happy…” and pleased that Americans seemed much “more expressive..” at concerts. When asked about their influences she answered with no hesitation, “the Breeders”. Hearing some similarities in their music and the American band Sonic Youth, I asked if they too might be an influence. To this she stated that their drummer “Ayumi likes them”. After thanking them for their time, we set out for the more difficult task of trying to get some time with the Pillows.
After talking to everyone from my previous contact, security guards, head of security and then finally connecting with the band promoter, we finally managed to get 15 minutes back stage with the band. Both excited and just a little nervous, my translator, photographer, and audio tech and I headed back stage. There we found the band members having drinks and relaxing.
I introduced myself along with my crew and gave them my sincere thoughts on how the show went.. Sawao kindly offered me a seat on the couch to the right of the chair he was now lounging in and I started with my questions.
Many American fans of your music found out about your music through FLCL? How did you feel about being part of this project?
Ah, at first I wasn’t really interested in FLCL, but the director is a fan of the Pillows and I heard that was the reason he wanted to use our music. So we OKed, but at the time we were not aware of how FLCL is supported or influential world wide. Only because the director was our fan and we were happy about it, and that was the reason we accepted. However, we came to America for the first time three years ago, and discovered most of the people learned about the Pillows because of FLCL, and we were surprised by that. We were glad and grateful. I thought it was a good thing that our music was used as a soundtrack of FLCL.
However, I’m sure you want to be known outside of anime….
I definitely feel that you are beginning to do that.
Oh, yes, of course, because in Japan we are not really associated with FLCL or animation at all, but the people who we met outside of Japan, 90% of them are through FLCL.
When I play your music for my friends who don’t know anime and haven’t listened to you before, they really seem to like it.
Yes, that’s how we want people to think…cool.
I’m not just an Anime fan, but also a music fan.
Oh, that’s good.
Who would you say were your major influences?
The Breeders…Do you know the Pixies, bassist Kim Deal, his other band’s name is Breeders..
I like them.
Suki desu mo. Translation: “I like them as well”
(points and grins) Ahhh, (nods emphatically)… you like them as well..
The Noodles also like the Breeders…
Yeah, Yeah, Yeah…. When the Breeders came to Japan the Noodles opened for them.
About that time we were cued that our time was about up and so I moved to my final question and since it is much more dramatic in visual format I have provided the clip for it here. You can also download it for yourself, in AVI/DivX format.
Thus ended our little adventure of interviewing the Pillows and I personally have to say one of the most interesting experiences of my life.
Photos & Video: Ingrid Aquino
Translator: Sally Fujimoto