If the independent (indie) music scene can be defined as something that is completely contrary in spirit to the 3,000-yen-a-CD-charging, copy-control-CD-inventing Major Record Labels, then maybe its truest expression can be found in demo-CDs. Outside of Tokyo music clubs you sometimes see musicians passing out these disks, which they burned themselves at home and whose covers they also designed and printed themselves, in hopes that giving them to show-goers would leave a bigger impression than merely handing out flyers. Or, often bands that are just starting out bring their demo-CDs with them to shows and sell them for about the price of the blank disk. It’s a way for bands to get their songs listened to by strangers in the big wide world, one disk at a time.
Unfortunately, to be honest, many of these demo-CDs aren’t that good. You don’t generally get great music for free. But at times, miracles happen. Which brings me to a band with the unusual name of Contrary Parade.
I’d heard a song by Contrary Parade called “Happy End” in the great Bluebadge Label compilation CD guitar pop crazy!, enjoyed it, and wondered who these guys were. Several months later, in a conversation with a fellow music fan this band’s name came up, and this fan said he had bought a demo-CD of theirs. I told him I liked “Happy End” and would be interested in buying their CD too. He said the band is based in Osaka but he would e-mail them to see if they would send me a copy of the CD.
A little later he e-mailed me to say that when he told Contrary Parade that I wanted a copy of the demo-CD, they replied, “It makes us very, very happy to hear that he wants it, so, of course, we will send it to him”. In a couple of weeks I found in my mailbox the envelope containing the CD, with a note from the band saying: “We pray that this CD-R arrives at your place alright, and gets put into your audio player alright, and the speakers produce its sound alright, and that you like it alright.” And—I did!
The sound that came out of the speakers hooked me immediately—bright and ascending guitar chords, a piano, and a female voice that was passionate in a warbling way. The first song on the disk lasted six minutes and a half, audaciously long for a demo-CD, but I liked them even more for that. There’s a joyful and relaxed quality to this band’s pop music, similar to that of other great Japanese bands like the Waffles and Ku-ki Ko-dan.
I’m not sure what good it does for me to tell you about this band, whose CD I found almost by chance even living in Tokyo. It probably wouldn't be easy to track down their songs outside of Japan. But, one justification for my writing this is that, if Contrary Parade ever makes it big, I can say later that you heard about them here first. So, remember that name. Maybe one of these days they might put up a song sample or two on their website so you can judge for yourself. In the meantime, I urge you to get a copy of guitar pop crazy!, a compilation of many neat bands by a neat label that truly embodies the indie spirit.