Sunday, January 16, 2005

What Happened To Teeny Frahoop?

Wee Wee Pop Posted by Hello

I’ve been wondering what happened to Teeny Frahoop.

Teeny Frahoop was a Japanese pop-punk girl trio that recorded two albums with the independent label K.O.G.A. Records in the late-90's, then disappeared around 2000. I found out about them listening to a K.O.G.A. compilation album called Good Girls Don’t, a great album featuring the many girl bands for which K.O.G.A. is famous. I liked the entire album, but I thought a song in it called "Eat Candy" by a band named Teeny Frahoop stood out.

The song was good enough that I immediately headed to Tower Records in Shibuya to get my hands on any albums the band had recorded. I found and bought their first album, called Wee Wee Pop.

Listening to it for the first time I experienced one of those transcendent indie pop fan moments - the feeling that here was a great band that the public, for whatever reason, had overlooked, and I was one of the few that knew how good they were. Teeny Frahoop played super-catchy two-minute pop-punk songs with unusual titles, a bit like Shonen Knife (the two best songs on Wee Wee Pop are called "Soy Bean Sprouts" and "Heavy Smoked Salmon Sand(wich)").

All their songs are in English, and while, unlike many other Japanese bands who sing gibberish English, Teeny Frahoop’s English lyrics are grammatically mostly correct, the words are nevertheless eccentric. With a knowledge of Japanese, I can guess what they were trying to say, but still, their lyrics can be mysterious and haiku-like.

Take their song "Soy Bean Sprouts" (which my iTunes library records show I’ve already listened to 35 times...), which starts:

Play with me?
I’m tired of soybean sprout boys.
If they’re still there, I will put
them in Chinese noodle and eat.

And ends:

I felt as if. I was floating in the air.
Will someone, please, break me?

Tiny cat. I want it.
Why do you need milk?

One can giggle at the strangeness of the English lyrics, but the music is catchy enough the lyrics don’t really matter, and you can fill in the blanks on the question of what emotions the band was trying to communicate with the song (I think weariness and directionless... the Japanese word moyashi, or soy bean sprouts, is slang for very skinny people, by the way).

A year after Wee Wee Pop in 1999, Teeny Frahoop released their second album, 2nd Hospital. It was to Wee Wee Pop what Nirvana’s In Utero was to Nevermind: darker, more emotionally direct, less pop.

2nd Hospital Posted by Hello

It begins with a song called "Stone", which refers to the singer, who wants to "be a stone" that is noticed by "you". Giving a feel for what the rest of the album will be like, "Stone" opens with the words: "I get up early morning, and/ I regret I was born, so that/ I go to bed late night/ I fear a nightmare everynight".

The second song, called "Where is cancer?", closes "Hello, the darkness of night/ Hello, you know my rainy day/ However hard I try,/ I can’t reach it/ I can’t shine."

A gloomy album? Not really. A casual listener can take in the album without ever noticing the darker emotions the band sings about in 2nd Hospital, and indeed most of its Japanese listeners probably don’t bother translating the English words.

But maybe because I know that this is Teeny Frahoop’s last album and that soon after its release the group called it quits, I sense a weariness in the way that the group sings (though they did sing in a flat tone to start with).


I don’t know why this band, which recorded two very good albums, left the scene so soon. Actually, I don’t know much about the group at all. From the photos on the two albums I can see they were three ordinary-looking girls and I’d heard they were shy on stage, but beyond that Teeny Frahoop is a big mystery. Why did they form a band? Who influenced them? How did they end up recording with K.O.G.A. Records? What in the world does "Teeny Frahoop" mean?

I also wonder what the three are up to now. Are any of the three still playing music? Or did they become office ladies (OL’s, as they are called in Japan)? Or housewives? Or are they spending their days in a slacker state?

If I put my mind to it, it probably wouldn’t be too hard to find people who know about late-90's K.O.G.A. Records musicians and get answers to these questions. But I think finding more about the band would only satisfy me for a moment - I know there are many other bands like Teeny Frahoop, bands that shined for a brief moment, but then disappeared from view with only small reminders they existed.

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