Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Feb 24th 2010 1:30PM by Samantha Whitehorne
There's a lot going on for Brooklyn-based Japanther. First, there's the new album 'Rock 'n' Roll Ice Cream' set to be released in March, plus upcoming appearances at SXSW and a cross-country tour this spring with the Bronx. Spinner recently spoke with band member Ian Vanek about the new album and the reasons why you need to check them and their telephone microphones out at SXSW, especially if you're looking to meet that special someone.How would you describe your sound?
Japanther is a girl group, in that it's a band for girls to dance to. We emulate girl groups like The Shangri-Las and The Ramones, who were emulating girl groups as well. We're emulating a boy band who's emulating girl groups. We're like a cartoon girl group. A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle girl group.
How did the band first get together?
We started as an art project at an art school in New York City in 2001.
Who are your musical influences?
The Shangri-Las. Madonna. Pop music. We like a lot of classical music and oldies. We listen to the oldies station a lot. And we love The Ramones.
How did the name Japanther come about?
We were drawing logos and that was the one that won out. We came up with it because we love Iron Maiden and we love bands that have an allure to their name. We wanted something that would hang on a banner with Iron Maiden -- and people would think all those band names work together. Something that was epic and was tough but was its own thing.
What's your biggest vice as band?
We don't drink alcohol or use drugs. I guess Matt drinks Diet Pepsi, and I like chocolate. Our vices are working too hard and being complete destroyers. Graffiti is a big vice for our band. We both are graffiti writers.
What's your musical guilty pleasure?
I don't know if I believe in musical guilty pleasures. I just love everything. I love classical music. We listen to Guns N' Roses, even the new album 'Chinese Democracy.' We listen to a lot of hip hop and Jay-Z. All that shit is great. I don't know if it's a guilty pleasure, but if you can dance to it and your friends are in the room and people are smiling, there's no guilt in that.
Beatles or Stones?
The Rolling Stones all day.
What are the craziest things you've seen or experienced on tour?
About two months after [Hurricane] Katrina, we played in New Orleans in the ninth ward. That was pretty eye opening. We also played a month after September 11th in New York City.
We see a lot of weird stuff. I got left behind at a rest stop for nine hours before. Another time snow was crazy and flipped the truck five times and destroyed all of our equipment. We've been through some s--- on tour, good and bad, but we love it all. I guess the craziest experience is that we're still alive and still hear doing this despite the odds.
In one sentence, describe your new album 'Rock 'n' Roll Ice Cream.'
The cartoon fox of Robin Hood is the ultimate babe.
What other bands are you hoping to check out at SXSW?
Ninjasonik, Cerebral Ballzy, The Death Set, DJ Dirty Finger. Man, there are so many good bands that are going to play there. The Pharmacy.
What's the back story on the telephone mics that you use in your shows?
We're just art school boys, and we were having fun watching performance art and thinking that a lot of bands are really f---ing boring to look at, and maybe if we were a little cooler to look at, maybe girls would like us a little bit more.
Like you just said, you guys are known for really putting on a performance. Do you have a favorite show that you've been to that exemplifies this?
I think that every human being needs to be amazed every day, or you're just wasting your life. I saw Little Jimmy Scott, an 84-year-old jazz singer recently. He blew me away. He's in a wheelchair wearing a tux, but he has this amazing falsetto voice. There wasn't much more to it than that, but he's just a consummate performer. He would make a motion with his hand, and it would send chills down your spine because it was coupled with his voice and smooth, quiet drumming.
A lot of New Orleans music and dance music coming out of Detroit are some of the best performances I've seen. They don't have s---, so they're performing for each other to get out of the moment and not necessarily performing for $5,000 or SXSW. They're making a song because they don't have s---, and that's where Japanther still wants to come from.
Last question: There are lots of bands performing at SXSW. Why should people come see Japanther?
Maybe you'll meet your wife there or your husband. Come and dance and smile. We're offering that, and I think we're kind of revolutionary as far as other bands who are talking about their positioning and their blog and their agent. We're talking about how we've got a dance beat. If you want to come out and dance and swing, the kids seem to like to dance to it, so why don't you all come out and experience it and smile. You might bump into your wife or husband there, so who knows?
Samantha Whitehorne is a contributor from Seed.com. Learn how you can contribute here.