In 2015 it's increasingly rare to discover and fall in love with anything that doesn't already have some ties to the world you inhabit. The last time I really, truly stumbled upon anything was about a year ago, when an endless tumblr jag led me to this amazing music video:
And then this one:
And then the other half-dozen similarly executed videos by Tricot, a three-piece (since the departure of their drummer) from Kyoto, Japan, made up of Ikkyu Nakajima on vocals and guitar, Motoko "Motifour" Kida on guitar, and Hiromi "Hirohiro" Sagane on bass. (For now they're rotating drummers from their local scene.) There was very little written about them in English, so all there was to go on was a less-than-illuminating Google translation of the bio on their website ("unique and thrilling music that can not be predicted deployment"), their ace visual aesthetic, a handful of EPs and their 2013 full-length debut, 'THE', which they released on their own label, Bakuretsu Records.
Tricot's music is characterised by the frenetic math rock rhythms that underpin Ikkyu's vocals, which flip from sprightly to a sprawling rage on a knife's edge. Fans of Battles, Speedy Ortiz, Zach Hill's pre-Death Grips band Hella, and proto-emos Don Caballero should find plenty to like here. With that in mind, we're delighted to present the world premiere of 'E', the first track from Tricot's second album (due in March), what I think is the first English-language interview with the band (as kindly translated by their manager), and a playlist of Tricot's favourite Japanese bands to aid further discovery.
Are you all from Kyoto originally?
Ikkyu: Hiromi is from Kyoto and Motifour and I are from Shiga, which is next to Kyoto. Shiga is a suburban area in Japan and its freaking stinky fish dish, funazuchi [fermented crucian carp] is famous. But it’s a good area to live in and I like it.
What are your musical backgrounds?
Ikkyu: I had always been thinking about becoming a singer since I was a child. I was writing lyrics about “what is love, blah blah blah” in my notebook even though I had not fallen in love with someone. I have been in many bands but I have not sung about love yet.
Motifour: My father had a guitar and I started playing it when I was 14. When I turned 18 I started to make songs by myself and was in a different band at that time.
Hiromi: When I was in my senior year of high school I went to see a gig with my friend and thought that I wanted to play too, so I joined an after-school music club and started to play the bass there. After I started college, I started to write songs. I was in a three-piece girl band before Tricot.
Which bands inspired you to start playing music?
Motifour: Number Girl and Acidman are two Japanese bands. And the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
How would you describe the kind of music that you make? We might call it math rock, but I don’t know if that’s a term you would use.
Motifour: I don’t know… I think it’s rock. We don’t set out to make complex songs but people say our music is complicated. In our songs there are many elements and gimmicks from various genres, which might be confusing. We just enjoy making songs.
What’s the new single, ‘E’, about?
Ikkyu: The temporary title of ‘E’ was “virus” so I wrote the lyrics about Twitter hijacking, which was going on in Japan.
How did the new album come together, especially after your drummer quit? Why did he leave?
Ikkyu: Tricot was originally formed by the three of us and there were many things only we could understand and share. I wanted to focus more on that sense. That is very special and I could not force it on him, so we told him to choose his own way. After he left the band, we made a new full album with the great drummers who we wanted to play with. This album includes a song we recorded with the ex-drummer for the last time when he was in Tricot so it should be interesting. You can feel a lot of things from it.
Motifour: We recorded it with 5 drummers and the drum sounds are different on each song. I think that makes the tastes and characteristics of Tricot stand out strongly. It is self-produced.
Tricot has a great visual identity. Are you all involved with the videos? How do you think of the visual concept for each song – is there a relationship between the visuals and the theme?
Ikkyu: When I make a song, the images from the beginning to the end come up with me. But most of them are too spectacular to shape into a movie. So basically I leave it to the manager and directors that I can trust although I tell them a small idea or image sometimes. There is not a relationship much between the visuals and lyrics. Our movies are full of interesting ideas. I put all my energy into making a cool face in order to contribute to make a good music video.
The video for ‘Break’ seemed to be very directly related to the lyrics – people write down words that scare them and then tear the paper in half. Is your aim as a band to empower your listeners?
Ikkyu: This song was the first single after the ex-drummer left the band, and in that song we wanted to break the old Tricot and create a new Tricot. To me it wasn’t just about the band but the way that everyone breaks up with him or herself in the past and goes on with their lives. We wanted to collect things everyone wants to break in this music video.
The video was our manager’s idea but I edited the video by myself from the videos our fans sent us. The three of us shot our own parts. I was so moved by watching everyone’s faces in the videos, breaking things that they wanted to break. That song became a very important song to me.
The video for ‘Pool’ features loads of kids filming you through their phones. Is that a problem at gigs in Japan?
Ikkyu: Taking photos and videos are usually prohibited at gigs in Japan. Audience should look at, listen to, and feel the moment and that’s a live show. It’s not ideal to cut the moment into a small display of photos or videos.
What was your experience of playing the UK last year like? Were you fans of the Pixies before playing with them at the Eden Project?
Hiromi: I couldn’t imagine what was going to happen, but we did our best as usual and I was relieved that it seemed like the audience accepted us. I thought we could do it and felt confident during the Europe tour. I first heard of Pixies because a Japanese alternative rock band called Number Girl that I like so much were influenced by them. I couldn’t believe when I was told that we were going to play with them.
Tell me about Bakuretsu – did you start the label? Is the intention to sign other bands too?
Ikkyu: Yes, we started Bakuretsu Records before we met our current manager. At first, we just named it in order to manufacture and release the album, but since there was no other record label we wanted to belong to, we decided to continue this label. I didn’t have any intention to sign other bands. It was just for Tricot.
Tricot's Japanese playlist