ZZZ’s hone skills abroad and have some chance encounters

by Shawn Despres

Special To The Japan Times

The highlight of 2012 for experimental postpunk trio ZZZ’s was meeting Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore in Miami. It turns out the feeling was mutual. American record label Matador Records posted their artists’ and employees’ favorite things from the past 12 months online recently and Hyogo Prefecture’s ZZZ’s (pronounced “zee zee zees”) were No. 1 on Moore’s list.

ZZZ’s met Moore by chance while both were in Miami to perform at Art Basel in December. The act were walking around looking for a laundromat when they ran into Moore on the street.

“We couldn’t believe it when we saw him there,” says bassist Yukary (all three members use single names as stage monikers). “We talked with him and said that we wanted to play another show while we were in Miami. He invited us to join his event later that night.”

Moore’s show was a secret noise event at a warehouse. He raved about ZZZ’s performance on Matador’s website and compared them to Osaka’s acclaimed experimental noise-rock duo Afrirampo, writing, “I haven’t stood there so enjoyingly stunned in front of a band since maybe seeing Afri Rampo (also Japanese girl noise) tear sh-t up when they first came over 10 years ago.”

“The venue wasn’t very large,” Yukary says. “There were maybe 200 people there and it was so hot. I couldn’t stop sweating after our gig.”

Yukary, guitarist Youkaku, and drummer Lyn formed ZZZ’s in October 2011. They all previously played in the glam-rock/postpunk hybrid act Hystoic Vein. When Hystoic Vein’s vocalist decided to split from the group, the ladies started anew as ZZZ’s.

Quickly getting to work on their new band, ZZZ’s played their first concert in November 2011 in Hyogo and started working on their debut EP, “Prescription,” in December. In February 2012, they traveled to the United States and stayed there for three months on 90-day tourist visas. In March, they released “Prescription” and gigged across the country as part of the Japan Nite tour — a pretty remarkable accomplishment considering they had only played a total of seven concerts up until that point.

“We were surprised to be invited to be a part of Japan Nite,” Yukary says. “We had many discussions about whether we should do the tour. We knew that Japan Nite was a good event, but we were a new band so we were worried. But doing the tour was definitely the correct choice for us to make. It helped shape our music and stage show. Before the tour, we were still figuring out our sound and who we were.”

When their tourist visas expired, the group came back to Japan. But they returned stateside for another three months this past October. During their six-month stint abroad, ZZZ’s were based in Brooklyn and shared a one-bedroom apartment together. Yukary admits that the cramped living quarters were stressful at times, but that it was a good bonding experience for the band.

“We were always together,” she says. “So it was easy to share our feelings and ideas.”

Wanting to take full advantage of their time in the United States, ZZZ’s played 80 shows during the six months they were there. At a November concert in Brooklyn they were approached by Jonathan Kreinik who has done studio work for numerous alt-rock acts and is also the live-sound engineer for The Rapture.

“We thought he was really funny because he spoke some Japanese to us,” Yukary says. “We asked how he knew Japanese and he told us he traveled to Summer Sonic with The Rapture. We hung out with him several times after that and really liked him. So we decided to record some music with him.”

Kreinik and ZZZ’s hit the studio together in December to record the four-track EP “Magnetica.” ZZZ’s will put the album out on Feb. 14 via their Bandcamp website and it will also be available at select record stores across Japan.

A noisier and more experimental affair than “Prescription,” the tightly wound tracks on “Magnetica” have a dark feel to them that should be heightened by the group’s live performances.

“When we started ZZZ’s we used to use a lot of lighting when we performed and talked a lot between songs,” Yukary says. “Now we use our own green lights and never use the venue’s lighting. And aside from saying three things, we don’t talk onstage.”

What are the three things?

“We are ZZZ’s,” “Thank you,” and “Last song.”

ZZZ’s play Feb. 14 at Pangea in Osaka (7 p.m.; ¥3,000 in advance; [06] 4708-0061); Feb. 16 at Apollo Theater in Nagoya (6:30 p.m.; ¥3,000 in advance; [052] 261-5308); Feb. 17 at Club Asia in Tokyo (5 p.m.; ¥3,500 in advance; [03] 5458-2551). For more information, visit www.facebook.com/zzzs.official.

  • http://twitter.com/MsDarker Dorothy Darker

    I <3 the ZZZ's! Please add Photo Credit : Adrian Buckmaster – thank you. Dorothy Darker, Stylist.