Once called “the most lovable punk band on the planet” by MTV, Shonen Knife have come a long way since 1981, when sisters Naoko and Atsuko Yamano teamed up with Michie Nakatani to play Ramones-inspired pop punk. In the meantime they’ve gone through various line-up shifts, played with the alt-rock elite, survived the death of a former bandmate and generally persevered through all the ups and downs of a 33 year long career in punk rock. They released Overdrive, their 20th studio album earlier this year and just played their first ever gig in India at the New Wave Music Festival. We talk to guitarist, vocalist and the only remaining founding member Naoko Yamano about food, cats and The Ramones.
Overdrive is your 20th studio album. How difficult or easy is it to keep writing songs for so long?
I can create melody lines easily but it’s a little difficult to write the whole song. It’s always difficult to write lyrics. Since I’m not a native English speaker, writing lyrics in English is particularly difficult.
Food is a recurring theme in Shonen Knife’s music. How would you describe your relationship with food?
People have to eat to live and I like to eat delicious food. It’s an important and global topic.
Cats are another of your favourite muses. Could you tell me a little about your new music video for Like A Cat?
I’ve [always] had cats as pets. I like their faces, it’s so cute. Cat’s eyes are beautiful and cats are selfish. It’s attract[ive] for me. A woman from our English label made a suggestion that we should collect cats’ videos from all over the world through the internet and make a music video for Like a Cat song. She edited it by herself. It was a very fun project.
You’ve been touring for over 25 years now. Any tips for new musicians on how to survive the grueling experience?
When I started overseas touring, everything was a big adventure. There was no Internet. I exchanged postal mail. Now I am used to tour[ing] and I know how survive. [My advice is to]… take it easy and keep yourself healthy.
I know Ramones and the Beatles are major influences for the band. What else are you listening to these days?
Buzzcocks, Jam, XTC, KISS, Nick Lowe, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Judas Priest, Boston, Chicago etc. There are too many but I especially love 70s rock music.
You released a Ramones cover album called Osaka Ramones a few years ago. Any plans on playing any live shows as Osaka Ramones?
We’ll be playing an Osaka Ramones set in Hobart, Australia in January 2015.
What is the best, and worst, show you’ve ever played?
All shows are the best. Playing in front of our fans are always fun. I don’t have a good memory. I always forget the details. I just remember the vague images for the tours. Anyway, the Lollapalooza tour in 1994 was fun. I could enjoy other bands on stage. The headliner was Smashing Pumpkins and the opening band was Green Day.
What do you think is your best album that you’ve made so far and why?
Overdrive. It’s the latest one, of course.
You just played a headlining set at the New Wave Music Festival in India. How was the experience? Were you surprised to find out you have fans in India?
I was so happy to find out we have fans in India. The New Wave Music Fest was great. The atmosphere was peaceful, happy, artistic and fun. It became a precious experience for us.
Did you check out any Indian bands at the festival? Were there any that you liked?
I had no chance to see many bands and I can’t remember the names because I had to prepare for our show but all bands I saw there were great. Their music was ROCK!
1. Bad Luck Song
2. Black Crow
3. Dance to the Rock
4. Ramen Rock
6. Fortune Cookie
7. Like A Cat
8. Green Tea
9. Robots from Hell
10. Jet Shot
Naoko Yamano chose our Sunday Sessions this week. Click here for the playlist.
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