Monday, October 15, 2007

The Best Melt-Banana Interview I've Ever Read...

It's from the Japan Times Online, and it explains a lot about why I'm attracted to this whole Melt-Banana phenomenon. In it, interviewer Simon Bartz talks to Yasuko (the singer) and Agata (the guitarist... bassist Rika doesn't participate in interviews) and lets them explain their new "pop" direction.

And when Melt-Banana talks about going pop, it's like Jackson Pollock claiming his later works were representational. If he ever did that, which I doubt. But is roughly in the same realm of possibility as a pop album by Melt-Banana.

This is Melt-Banana doing "pop:"

Yasuko and Agata seem to be excellent interviewees as well. To hell with sullen, ungrateful "rock royalty" with surly, belligerent responses even to simple questions. Reading these responses just affirms a lot of what I wanted to believe about them in the first place- charm, joy in making music, clear articulation of their aesthetics and goals.

Interestingly, Bartz asks them what they think of playing for 100 people in Shinjuku and 1000 people in Brighton, UK. When I saw them on September 30 of this year, in Shin-Okubo, there were a lot more than 100 people there; the show sold out and the club was absolutely packed. Granted there were 5 bands on the bill but from the audience mayhem that erupted during Melt-Banana's set, I'd say more than 100 of those people were there specifically for Yasuko and company. I don't think it's journalistically objective to build this myth of the "popular abroad/ignored at home" dichotomy.

Their sound isn't accessible for mainstream music fan, or even the listener wanting Radiohead or Coldplay. It isn't meant to be, so comparing them to more melodic acts in terms of audience turnout is a bit disingenuous, maybe a little bit of reverse-elitism common in music subcultures. Our thing is more special than your thing, those 100 fans are the cognoscenti. The same people who promote this false dichotomy would become outraged if all the Tool fans (Melt-Banana toured earlier this year with Tool) suddenly glommed on in a superficial way.

Those are not the true believers! They're not of the family.

And yet each time I've seen Melt-Banana, it's been in sold out venues. Small venues, to be sure. But packed and thronging and sweaty and full of dedicated MxBx addicts like myself. The myth-making begins? Or is well under way?

The horrific thing is, some of that same elite cadre may take the latest CD as "selling out." That's the other Faustian bargain bands make when they appeal to a hardcore subculture and maintain a personal accessibility (Rika's silence notwithstanding... although her bass does a powerful, persuasive amount of talking on its own) while creating such an idiosyncratic body of work. Any sign of growing beyond what fans have come to expect isn't seen as musical growth or evolution, but as a personal betrayal of whatever unspoken contract or manifesto exists between band and fans. The end result is musical typecasting.

In its most ridiculous form it consists of cowardly acts like Pearl Jam and Oasis releasing virtually the same album year after year. But it also consists of bands graduating from a local scene and being lambasted by those they left behind. I'm no fan of theirs, but the rise of Green Day is an example of this. You can watch "Behind the Music" or whatever documentaries there are about their early days to see this phenomenon in action. REM and Weezer both have been victimized by this mentality as well.

I'm going to bend a personal rule now and give you some advice: If Melt-Banana bring their "Bambi's Revenge" tour to a location near you, go and see them. Given their legendary status as road warriors, there's a good chance they'll be playing at a time and venue you'll find quite convenient.

Failing that, watch this (MTV-rejected) video:

It features the classic line, "I'm looking for the best American beef. Give me 50 burgers."

And failing that, enjoy my Shin-Okubo show pictures here and here.

Actually, what you want to do is open the videos in separate windows, then listen to them in the background while you look at my awesome photos. Then go see Melt-Banana live and thank me with money.


Nathan said...

Great video, and first time for me to come across this band...

Joel Bryan said...

Nathan- Thanks for the comment and glad you enjoyed the video! Yeah, those videos are fantastic. Their live shows are even more impressive.