Interview: Japanese Voyeurs
Published on July 8th, 2011 | Jonny Abrams
“When we started out, there weren’t that many new groups making heavy music, the kind of music we liked to listen to when we were growing up. We wanted to recapture that spirit and that brutality.”
So says Japanese Voyeurs front woman Romily Alice who, quite aside from dripping with star quality in every conceivable way, has one of the most visceral and intense voices going.
At least, when she’s not in ‘scary little girl’ mode.
Romily’s exhilarating and borderline psychotic theatrics are matched blow-for-blow by the rest of the band, whose sonic onslaught has drawn widespread comparisons with the greats of the early nineties grunge scene.
Season that notion with lashings of metal and sheer melodic menace, and you’ll be a bit closer to understanding what this London-based five-piece are all about. (Or, you know, just watch the videos below.)
Rocksucker caught up with the band’s keyboard player Rikki Waldron for a bit of a chinwag ahead of the release of their debut album Yolk, which they recorded in an isolated Canadian farmyard with effervescent producer GGGarth Richardson (Rage Against The Machine / The Melvins / Jesus Lizard) and which features a vocal contribution from Dinosaur Jr. legend J. Mascis.
Oh and did we mention that they’re supporting Slash on his forthcoming UK live dates?
Before all that, however, came the release of latest single ‘Cry Baby’ on Monday. Here it is, watch it…
The music press has generally pegged you guys down as ‘grunge’. Are you happy to go along with that?
Well, we didn’t go out and say, “We’re gonna be a grunge band.” We’ve just been put into that category but we definitely take influence from Nirvana and things like that, although we also have other influences like Pantera and Down which we try and get in our music as well. I see that there are grunge elements to it but I don’t think we’re necessarily all grunge.
Romily’s voice is, well, pretty mental. How does she maintain it? Does it ever just go completely?
Yeah, it does; I think the limit we can play for is three days in a row. It’s quite annoying for her on tour because she has to risk her voice quite a lot and she can’t drink as much and stuff, but I’m sure most singers lose their voice if they keep singing constantly.
What’s the significance of the name Japanese Voyeurs? And indeed of your album title Yolk?
Our friend in Japan was at a park and he saw these couples having sex at night time and there were people in the bushes looking at them, so he took photos of it and made it into an exhibition called Japanese Voyeurs. We found that quite fun. The title Yolk is because the album is like the birth of our band.
Any idea what ‘Get Hole’ is all about?
(Laughs) I’m not too sure about the content of the songs. I should read up about it!
We were going to ask about ‘Double Cheese’ as well…
I know that one’s about burgers, at some point!
We’re big fans of cheese here at Rocksucker, so we have to ask: which two cheeses would you plump for in a double cheese scenario?
Halloumi and cheddar.
Solid. Anyway, we’ve been going through your YouTube channel and it has to be said that Garth’s a bit of a star, wielding chainsaws and whatnot. Are there any other ‘found sounds’ on the album other than the chainsaw?
There’s a pinball machine at the end and there’s one of Romily’s brothers talking or singing, or something. And in ‘Heart Is A Fist’ there’s a heartbeat at the beginning.
You must be quite excited about your imminent support slots with Slash…
Yeah, it’s unreal. It’s going to be awesome. I didn’t think anything like that would happen, really. It’s going to be pretty fun and there should be big crowds too, so that’ll be good. I’ve heard that he’s a really nice guy so it’ll be cool if we do get to meet him.
Can you tell us about Tamago the baby?
It’s a way for fans to interact with us without using Twitter and stuff like that. We don’t want to be all like “oh, just had a bath yesterday” which is a bit rubbish, so it’s a way for fans to have an influence on things and interact with us in our own special way. It’s quite fun: we get to draw all the comics and get people’s ideas down in them as well. (Rocksucker says: if, like us, you’re still pretty much none-the-wiser after this answer, then this blog should prove more illuminating.)
Who takes the pictures of the so-called “toilet dirt” (don’t worry readers, it’s just graffiti) on the Slimeball section of your website?
Oh, that was us! We started writing ‘slimeball’ on the toilets and taking photos of it. Mainly out of boredom (laughs). But also because it was quite fun.
Are there any other up-and-coming artists you’d like to give a shout out to?
Our friend’s band Dud, who are supporting us at our album launch party, and Dinosaur Pile-Up, who are good friends of ours but they’re doing pretty well, so…
Finally, would you be able to name – as of this very moment – your top three albums of all time?
NOLA by Down. Nevermind by Nirvana (Rocksucker says: way to go with the baby artwork solidarity!). Songs for the Deaf by Queens of the Stone Age.
Japanese Voyeurs’ new single Cry Baby is out now, to be followed swiftly by debut album Yolk on July 11th, both on Fiction Records. For more information – and a list of live dates including an album launch party at London’s Hoxton Bar & Grill and an appearance at Download Festival – please visit japanesevoyeurs.com