Friday, December 11, 2009

Goodbye, The Capris; Fukui Surf Scene

Until quite recently, I had no idea there was surfing in Fukui prefecture. In fact, it never really occurred to me that people surf on the Sea of Japan side. Which is ridiculous if you think about it: if there are good waves and a beach, surfers will come.

Anyway, what awoke me to the realization there's surfing in Fukui was the discovery of a great surf pop-punk band called Browny Circus from that prefecture. They were one of those groups whose CD I bought but didn't listen much to, until that one moment, when, during a random listen, suddenly I got pounded by their brilliance. I remember when. I was walking in LA, listening to their album SURF-TRIP! on the iPod, when the song “Ride On” came on. When it was over, I repeated it. And then again. And again...

An energetic but fairly run-of-the-mill 2-minute pop-punk song, the thing about it that got my attention was the vocals. It was an unusual female voice that was sweet, nasal and kid-like. But there was also electricity that ran through it—it tapped into some rock current. It was a cherry coke voice, spiked with some rum or vodka.

When I got back to Tokyo, I bought their other albums, and found great tunes like “Super Surf Jet Girl”, “Happy Days”, “Summer Beach” and a nice cover of Sadistic Mika Band's “Time Machine ni Onegai”. I also learned that while Browny Circus had disbanded, the vocalist Kaori had formed another group in Fukui called the Capris. I daydreamed about traveling to Fukui, about a four hour train trip northwest of Tokyo, to see them perform in their local scene. Fukui wasn't a strange place for me, in any case. I'd been there one winter, and had one of my most memorable seafood dinners ever—fresh shellfish popping over a fire, the meatiest crabs...

I wanted to see what Fukui surfers and surf rockers were like, and the characteristics of their scene. What was a Fukui live house like? Did the musicians talk in a Fukui dialect, stretching out vowels at the end of words in that distinctive way? Mostly though, I wanted to see what Kaori and her new band were like on stage.

But, alas...a few weeks ago I read on their website a short notice saying they've decided to call it quits. Now the website itself is gone. My Fukui pilgrimage to see the local surf punk wasn't meant to be. Unless...perhaps Kaori will one day form yet another band?


By the way, one thing I've been pondering recently is that fact that so many great Japanese girl rock bands and groups led by girl vocalists were formed in the 90's, and what was behind that band boom. Just listing my favorites, this was the period of Browny Circus, the sublime Teeny Frahoop, Mix Market, Ketchup Mania, the Automatics, and the genius Supersnazz. What were the factors that came into a perfect alignment to lead to the birth of bands like those? A major thing is there must have been a shift in consciousness that made it normal, acceptable, and cool for girls to play together in a rock band. How did that happen? (And I'm not saying there weren't girl bands before the 90's, the idea of them just seems to have become more normal in the 90's. Am I wrong?) K.O.G.A. Records' Mr. Koga must have been one big impetus too: all of the bands I listed above except Supersnazz have recorded on K.O.G.A. I don't know how many of that label's CDs I own.

What's the status of girl rock bands now, nearly at the end of the turn-of-the-century decade? Honestly speaking, I haven't discovered that many good ones recently. Sometimes I wonder if (for reasons I haven't worked out), rock in Japan is reverting to be a guy thing. Or am I missing awesome great girl bands I should know about?

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