INTERVIEW: Shonen Knife | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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There are few bands who reach their milestone 40th anniversary. Formed in Osaka, Japan, in 1981, Shonen Knife are presently celebrating their landmark achievement whilst on tour.

Speaking from the road in mainland Europe, lead singer Naoko Yamano said, “We’ve finished eleven shows in Scandinavian countries in eleven days. So, it was very busy, but most of the shows are sold out.” In terms of the group’s anniversary, the band remain focused towards the future. “I’m happy that we could have a 40th anniversary, but for me, the years are just a number. So, I’m just thinking about the very close near future, and I never look back.”

Of course, a lot has changed since those early days of the band. Technology has made the world a lot smaller. “When I started Shonen Knife, we only had postal mail,” explains Naoko. “I always used to write letters to overseas people. Our first overseas shows were in 1989. It was in Los Angeles. I never saw the promoter at the time, and I just exchanged paper letters. I bought an air ticket to LA and went to the airport. I couldn’t understand English much at that time. So, it was a very big adventure.”

One of the band’s most notable admirers was Kurt Cobain from Nirvana. The group toured together and won over the late Nirvana frontman. “Kurt was so kind to us. He came to the side of the stage and watched our show every day,” she says. “The backstage was very cold in the UK. It was November, and Kurt let us in their dressing room. Our room was very cold. But Nirvana’s dressing room was warm, and he offered us strawberry jam and peanut butter sandwiches. It’s very American.”

I’m happy that we could have a 40th anniversary, but for me, the years are just a number

Stage image is very important to Shonen Knife. The group often perform in colour coordinated costumes. “All of our stage costumes are made by our bass player Atsuko,” she says. “I like The Beatles and matching costumes are very important for the band. Because the Beatles wore Pierre Cardin suits.” Naoko adds: “Our daily costumes are very simple. So, I think the clothes of the audience are more fashionable, so we should wear matching costumes.”

Shonen Knife released their new studio album, Our Best Place, in February. “I produced the album myself, and we recorded it from July to December last year, in Osaka,” explains Naoko. “The sound has our early Shonen Knife tastes like punk pop. And also, our new Shonen Knife taste is a very strong part. I thought about the arrangement very much. I played many interesting guitar riffs, and I put down some keyboards too.”

Shonen Knife will shortly be making their eagerly anticipated return to the North East. Recollecting the band’s last show at the Sage Gateshead, Naoko said: “I enjoyed it a lot. I like Newcastle.” But in terms of how the set might look, the artist didn’t want to give too much away. “Our setlist is secret so far, but since it is our 40th-anniversary show, we will play our best hit songs and also songs from our new album.”

Shonen Knife will perform at The Cluny, Newcastle on Friday 21st of April.


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