It’s just after midnight, and central Tokyo has its eyes wide open. From the hordes of maniac street hustlers in Roppongi – luring tourists into dodgy stripbars before fleecing them – to the 10-storey arcades of Akiba (wanna train a virtual racehorse to eat grass on a 30ft video screen for two hours straight? Course you do), the city pushes a million different scenarios into the face of anyone daring enough to absorb it.
Radar has opted for the most clichéd of them all. We’re sat, Lost In Translation-style, in a tiny karaoke booth next to the world’s busiest zebra crossing, Shibuya. We’re also being outclassed by the members of Taffy, who not only sing miles better than us, but also know the words (and in the case of ‘Common People’, the hip-movements) to the following songs like they’re tattooed onto their hearts: ‘Friday I’m In Love’, ‘New Rose’, ‘There She Goes’, ‘How Soon Is Now?’ and – oh yes – ‘Everything Flows’ by Teenage Fanclub.
Now, Jap-pop historians we most certainly are not, but we’re guessing that the last one wasn’t exactly a hit over here. So what gives? “They’re so clever… so catchy,” Taffy’s super-sweet singer Iris enthuses to us. She’s mainly a Beatles-head, she adds, nodding that lead guitarist Asano (pictured second left) is responsible for their more surprising influences. Which gives, ’cos he’s dressed exactly like Jarvis Cocker.
It’s these reference points, along with Echobelly and Graham Coxon’s late-’90s guitar-playing, which make up Taffy’s DNA. What’s more, they’re literally the only band in the whole of Tokyo tapping into it at present, with debut album ‘Caramel Sunset’ doused in a swoony, shoegazey lilt. They’re also – due to being completely cut-off from the everlasting UK hangover of Britpop – somewhat immune to falling into the Viva Brother-filled trap of parody.
And it’s all paying off. The basement gig we attend is packed to the rafters with rabid fans, as models mix with paying punters while a DJ spins ‘The Rat’ by The Walkmen. “We love this whole scene here,” Iris explains, “but what we really want now is to try to repeat it all in Europe.” We’re practising our Joy Division karaoke real hard here…
Need To Know:
For Fans Of: Echobelly, Elastica
Buy It Now: ‘Caramel Sunset’ came out in the UK last week, via Club AC30
See Them Live: The band have just landed a UK promoter, and a tour is tentatively planned for late summer
Believe It Or Not: Drummer Kensuke (pictured right) is a virtual pop star in his spare time (kinda) – he anonymously records drums for one of Japan’s biggest Manga bands
This article originally appeared in the May 12th issue of NME