??????(Tai-hen da!) – or “Oh my God!” in roughly translated Japanese.
Whether you didn’t need an explanation for that phrase, or you have trouble differentiating between your usagi and unagi, it didn’t matter one bit – not with an engaging frontwoman like Ikkyu Nakajima. Dropping us a visit off their Asia tour – courtesy of KittyWu Records – the surprise arrival of this Japanese indie band piqued curiosities not just because they were an almost-all-girl outfit (oh, you mean their drummer’s not a girl?), but also 'cos Japanese indie exports are not something commonplace in our local gig climate.
Instead, for the bulk of audiences who know relatively naught about the Japanese music scene; all they’re exposed to here are J-rock powerhouses like L’Arc~en~Ciel and ONE OK ROCK, J-pop heart-thieves like flumpool and Namie Amuro (albeit a cancelled gig), and perhaps more ‘Western-relatable’ post-rock luminaries like Envy and Toe. Japanese indie on the other hand – well now you’re speaking our language, so to speak.
Stuffed to capacity with rubbing elbows and tip-toed stances, the Home Club audience was first rowdily warmed up thanks to the post-rock symphonies of 7nightsatsea. We’ve seen these boys capture crowds a bunch of times now – notably at milestone shows like Baybeats and Singapore Night Festival, and not to mention their subsequent Mosaic gig days later – and it’s no exaggeration that they raise more and more goosebumps each time.
Even with their primary bassist, Abdul Malek, temporarily switched out (congrats on being a daddy!), the escalating ensemble left no stone unturned as they found their way yet again into the positive impressions of fans old and new. Rattling the roof with swelling riffs and quaking distortions, the instrumental performers stunned with tracks off their latest EP Drift Easy, Heavy Hands, and especially so with their monumental closer, “Trailing Ghosts” – with a shredded guitar motif so catchy it’d stick to you in your sleep.
And with ears buzzing and vibrations still seething off the walls, it wasn’t long till we were treated to our Nippon visitors. Draped in an elegant white tunic, Nakajima-san demonstrated that she was anything but, with raw unbridled showmanship that would’ve easily made her a contender in the ‘Crazy Japanese Chick’ category. But Nakajima-san was no lone trooper in her wild ways, with guitarist Motoko Kida and bassist Hiromi Sagane bouncing erratically on stage beside her, and solo dude Kazutaka Komaki swishing his long flowy hair on percussion.
Yet despite their explosive introduction that was shamelessly in-your-face, we couldn’t help but feel a certain inkling of reservation in their personality. Maybe it was because they hadn’t said a word to the audience, or they were just being ‘politely Japanese’; we all secretly wished for the band to open up beyond the music, at least for a teeny bit.
So when Nakajima-san finally mustered the courage to bust through the language barrier with a “Hello”, the crowd went nuts. Like some whackily fan-appeasing episode of The Price Is Right, every sentence, phrase, or murmur of a word was welcomed with a grateful response of affectionate cheers. Beginning with customary bow-accompanied greetings like “We are tricot from Japan” (woo!) and “Thank you all for coming tonight” (yay!), Nakajima-san grew visibly more comfortable on stage as the easygoing fans flooded her and the band with dearest appreciation.
But of course it wasn’t just their endearing interactions which the audience gave credit for, tricot was indeed one heck of a band. Throwing us off with the 5/4 beats of “POOL” and the quivering guitar hooks of “?????”, the band’s performance was a tight blend of math- and indie-rock, with the fiery potentials of post-rock simmering in the mix. Nakajima-san even had us involved at one point by asking everyone to shout “Taihen da!” along with her; and frankly the combination of maniacal Japanese singer shouting “Oh my God!” to dozens of responsively echoing Otaku fans was admittedly amusing to behold.
More small talk ensued with the help of a handy speech note, as Nakajima-san followed songs like “G.N.S” and “????????????????” with banter about visiting the MBS SkyPark, Sagane-san’s deceiving age (old enough to drink despite her baby-face looks!), and the true meaning behind “Ochansensu-Su” – which alas, remained a mystery still no thanks to random musings of curry and pizza.
However the band eluded our disappointment by transitioning sharply into the song, “Ochansensu-Su”, which was crystal clear as a standout track with its hypnotic melodies and fluctuating progressions. And from one sonic eruption into another, “???????” flung everyone into a dancing fit with its sliding bass grooves and hi-hat-heavy drumwork. Yuh uh you can bet we were yelling along to this one, even if we didn’t understand a thing we were saying.
And so what if none of us didn’t? That didn’t stop all of us from having a ball of a time, nor did we feel any less obliged to sing “Happy Birthday” to Kida-san after an awkwardly initiated hand-clapping session from Nakajima-san. Though that wasn’t how tricot was gonna leave us that evening, as they delivered an encore with “????” – which translates fittingly to “Good night”.
The people in attendance certainly thought it was; regardless if this was possibly the first time they’d ever encountered Japanese indie. Needless to say, we dug what we saw and heard. And as much as we love our Pamyus and Hamasakis, we’d all definitely benefit from an augmented surge of Japanese indie bands in our direction. The scene there exists people, and it’s bands like tricot that are paving the way.
Text Kevin Ho
Images Rueven Tan / KittyWu Records