Led by singer-guitarist Naoko Yamano, the band have played 1,200-plus shows, supported Nirvana and The Ramones, and released 18 albums including last year’s ‘Adventure’. However, Shonen Knife has only visited Australia three times. Now the band will return for their fourth trip down under next month.
Shonen Knife began in 1981 as a creative outlet for Naoko. “I was working at an office for two years and fifteen days when I was very young,” she explains.
“I was a big fan of late '70s punk-pop bands like The Ramones, The Buzzcocks, The Jam, XTC. I wanted to be like them and I was bored by daily life, so I wanted to start something interesting.”
Affectionately called the Osaka Ramones, the band gained famous fans when their albums were released in America by K Records. Their songs were covered by Sonic Youth, while Nirvana asked them to tour with them twice. “When I toured with Nirvana I didn’t know them, so I was just wondering how the tour would go. In 1991 we played with them in Britain and all shows were packed. And in 1993, we toured with Nirvana in America and all shows were at arenas,” Naoko recounts.
Shonen Knife has had many members, with Naoko the only constant. Her current bandmates are drummer Risa Kawano and returning original bassist and Naoko’s younger sister Atsuko, who also creates their stage costumes. “Our new costumes for our new album is silver glitter costumes. Every Shonen Knife member loves the costume. And also, [Atsuko] makes some sporty cool, dry textiles because we get very sweaty on stage. It’s very shiny and I like that,” Naoko laughs.
The band is known for their catchy pop-punk songs, but Naoko’s new songs are inspired by a genre she initially disliked. “When I started Shonen Knife, I was inspired by late '70s punk-pop, and at that time I didn’t like 70s hard-rock or heavy metal bands because it was out of fashion when I was young.
"But after I grew up and got some age [sic], I began to find that '70s classical rock music is great because I like guitar riffs, and also melody lines are usually very pop and very catchy and easy. Also, ['70s metal] bands were wearing very cool stage costumes with long hair, so I like that.”
Many of their songs are about food and animals, including ‘Wasabi’ and ‘Tasmanian Devil’. “I’m ashamed to write songs about love. If I write songs about animals or food, I can express my feelings very much [sic],” Naoko explains.
Along with touring Australia, our food has Naoko excited. “I’m looking forward to seeing Shonen Knife fans in Australia. And also I’m looking forward to eat delicious food,” she laughs. Is there anything in particular she wants to eat? “Everything was delicious in Australia when I went in 2015. What do you recommend?” A cake called a Lamington. Maybe you could write a song about them? “Ok, I should try,” she laughs. “I think many people in Australia like sweets.”
She’s right! It’s why Australia loves Shonen Knife.
Shonen Knife ShowsThu 21 Sep - The Zoo (Brisbane)
Fri 22 Sep - National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne)
Sat 23 Sep - Karova Lounge (Ballarat)
Sun 24 Sep - Wave Rock Weekender (WA)
Mon 25 Sep - Badlands Bar (Perth)
Wed 27 Sep - Oxford Art Factory (Sydney)
Thu 28 Sep - The Basement (Canberra)
Fri 29 Sep - OZAsia Festival (Adelaide)
Sat 30 Sep – Republic Bar (Hobart)
Sun 1 Oct – The Corner Hotel (Melbourne)