Home > Interviews, J-Pop, J-Rock, Music, Uncategorized > Interview: NO CARS Talk Samosa, Cress, And The Mystery of Yoko

Interview: NO CARS Talk Samosa, Cress, And The Mystery of Yoko

A tongue-in-cheek pub-rock band that merges jazz, punk and even Punjabi!

NO CARS Pic 12NO CARS are having the time of their lives on stage as they play their headline show at the Spice of Life in London. Dressed in brightly coloured Saris and a racoon onesie, the band is getting the audience to chant “Samosa” alongside them before they dive head first into their comic set of songs. If there’s one thing that should be taken from this performance, it’s that NO CARS know how to put on an entertaining show.

Playing on their stage personas of 17-year-old girls from Japan, lead singer, and guitarist, Haruna and keyboardist Tomoko put on heavy Japanese accents throughout the night — reading introductions to their songs from paper cues. Even bass guitarist takaco has a gimmick at tonight’s show — using her phone to relay messages to the crowd after having the flu has meant she has temporarily lost her voice. Asking for medicine to help cure her, a friend of the band appears dressed in a nurse’s outfit. Since she only has NO CARS merchandise on her though, she agrees to stand-in as a backing singer for the rest of the show. It’s a charming interlude, and adds to the events tongue-in-cheek humour.

NO CARS Pic 1

Photo copyright Roxy Simons

Before they took to the stage this evening to delight the audience, though, Diverse Japan had the chance to talk to them about their music. The band was formed in Hackney by Haruna in 2007, and consists of four Japanese girls, Haruna Komatsu (vocals, guitar), takaco (bass guitar), and Tomoko Komura (keyboard), and Candy Tanaka (drums), aka Will Huckerby, who is also a racoon. Having had different members over the years, the current line-up was completed when Tomoko joined the band a little over two years ago. The most curious thing about their line-up is that they have a raccoon for a drummer.

NO CARS Pic 2

Photo copyright Roxy Simons

“When I joined the band I didn’t want people to notice that I was the only male non-Japanese member,” Will says in a backstage room of the venue. “So I thought we should try to make a story behind it.

“The idea is that the band were travelling around Japan looking for drummer, they went north, they went south, and then they arrived in Hokkaido where they found me, a kanuki, in a tree.

NO CARS Pic 3

Photo copyright Roxy Simons

“I was impressed that they had travelled the world and could speak English, and they were impressed that I could drum. So they asked me if I could join the band, and I asked them to teach me English and show me around the world in return.”

Mythology is an important part of the band’s identity. The group are farmers by day and idols by night, for example, which is a pun of the band’s name (no-u-ka means farmer in Japanese). Since they began their journey together, NO CARS have made three albums, Yoko Eats Whales which was released in 2011, Yoko Makes Tits Bigger with Airbrush which was released in 2014, and finally YOKO GOES TO BOLLYWOOD which was released last year. The latest of which was recorded in Summerhill School in Sussex. As you can see, every album focuses on the character Yoko and her adventures. The question is, though, who is Yoko?

NO CARS Pic 4

Photo copyright Roxy Simons

“That’s the mystery,” Will says. “Yoko is up for a lot of things, she’s a pretty wild character.” That she certainly is, as the band’s latest album sees the girl go on an adventure on the Silk Road, as well as the ongoing battle for dominance between Japanese curry and Indian curry. Indian culture and cuisine is a key part of British society, and this is something that the band wanted to reflect in the album.

“I think we decided we would be on a journey on the Silk Road to Bollywood because of the song Curry,” Tomoko says. “It was one of the first songs that became ready for the album, and Haruna wrote it because it was supposed to be about Japanese curry, but the rest of us wanted it to be about Indian curry!

“Then we continued making a song called Samosa, and the concept for the album went from there.”

NO CARS Pic 10

Photo copyright Roxy Simons

They proclaim to have musical influences that range from rock to jazz and even Punjabi, so it’s hard to clearly define where NO CARS fits in the music scene. Tomoko seems to have an answer, though: “We struggle to categorise ourselves. But someone said that No Cars music is from 1978, in between glam punk and punk. From that time of transition where a lot of people sing about stationary and food.”

“Pub rock! We are a pub rock band,” Haruna adds.

For the most part, Haruna has been the one in charge of writing the songs for the band, and the topics for songs have ranged from Tipp-ex’s inferiority complex to a man’s struggling with an incurable disease.

Cress is about a guy who wakes up one day to see that cress is growing on his legs, and he’s about to die from that. There’s a novel about this, and the song based on that but no one has realised yet.

“Whereas Tipp-ex is about sellotape. One day I was thinking about how I found sellotape really useful and how much I loved it, but then I thought ‘what about tipp-ex?’ As soon as I started to think about tipp-ex I started to realise that it’s just like me. Everyone loves sellotape, and no one really talks about tipp-ex so I felt really sorry for Tipp-ex. In the song I’m basically just telling tipp-ex not to worry, you’re not alone.”

NO CARS Pic 11

Photo copyright Roxy Simons

When they begin to perform Tipp-ex tonight the band are at their most mischievous, covering Haruna in sellotape as she defends poor tipp-ex, and then putting sellotape on members of the audience as well. Their amusing performance makes it clear how the band has gotten a significant following in the UK, but even though they’re doing well here it is interesting to note that the band has only performed in Japan once, and, according to Haruna, it didn’t go well.

“When I say ‘hey, I’m 17 years old’ to a Japanese crowd, who would believe me? Or if I say ‘the next song is about tuna’ in Japanese then people would just laugh.”

“I mean this whole thing, of UK-born Japanese arts and culture is difficult when you try to import it back to Japan,” Tomoko adds.

“In a way I think that what we do is to encourage immigrants in general to be proud of the third culture that you’re creating by using your heritage and how you’ve established a completely different point of view.”

“The idea of what we do and the lyrics that we write has a lot to do with your experiences as Japanese women in Britain,” Will continues. “So that doesn’t work so well in Japan for obvious reasons.”

Their music certainly fits in this atmosphere though, as the room of elated fans cheers at every opportunity. Everyone is laughing and singing along with the band, even taking part in a pantomime chant of “He’s behind you” when the song Where is David Bowie? starts and Tomoko impersonates the superstar and stands behind Haruna. So even if their unique style of music didn’t work in Japan it definitely works here, and NO CARS is definitely a band to look out for.

NO CARS continue their tour with the following shows:

February 19 in Hoxton at the Underbelly.

February 26 in Stokey at The Others.

February 27 at Daylight Music at the Union Chapel in Highbury & Islington.

For more information about the band check out:

http://nocarsmusic.com/

http://jpurecords.tictail.com/products/non-jpu-releases/no-cars

http://nocarsband.tictail.com/

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/no-cars/id485187214

https://www.facebook.com/nocarsmusic/?fref=ts

Words and photos by Roxy Simons

Author Profile:

Roxy Simons is a journalist who has been in love with all things Japanese ever since she first set her eyes on Sailor Moon at the age of five. Since then she has become fascinated with the culture, cuisine, and history of the country, and has a particular obsession with Rurouni Kenshin, Shaman King, and Bakuman. When she’s not watching things to review or playing Touken Ranbu, she can be found plotting her next trip to Japan.

Websites: www.mainichientertainment.com, www.viewofthearts.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/viewofthearts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/roxysimons

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