Trippple Nippples serve up a hot mess

by Jody Godoy

Trippple Nippples deal in terminally infectious party music, electropop infused with punk attitude and new-wave frivolity. They also do a nice line in chaos.

“The moment when someone who has been watching us with their jaw on the floor goes nuts and starts dancing is the most fun,” says Qrea Nippple. “Sometimes we’ve been invited to play at some posh place by some kind of mistake and that’s when I want to mess with people the most.”

Qrea and Yuka Nippple sing, dance, flail about in cream and explode things at their audience while Australians Joseph Lamont and James Masheder hold up the musical end of the act on keyboard, synthesizer and laptop. As support members, Brazilian Gui Martinez and American Elliot Hasiuk alternate on drums at their live performances. Since their formation in 2005, the group has cooked up all manner of mischief including smashing hollow eggs filled with flour on audience members, setting a photographer’s hair on fire with an errant firework, and exploring the wearability of various foodstuffs.

“We made a pasta costume; it was one of the first we did,” relates Yuka. “We got too excited and made the costume a week before the gig, but we didn’t realize that boiled pasta goes bad. You’ve never smelled anything like it . . . but it was fun.”

The nonsense all started at Meat, an underground electroclash party in September 2005. “We were bored of what Tokyo had to offer,” says Roxi, one of Meat’s organizers and DJs. So she and two friends planned a party featuring “grinding, glitter, aerobics, hand claps, pashing, leotards, wieners, controversial slow dancing . . . and music that sandwiches Madonna between Justice and Wolfmother.”

There must have been something in the punch. Meat gave birth to a tribe of unabashed fashion rebels including Mademoiselle Yulia, who was still a teenager when she made her DJ debut at the party. Coincidence or not, within a month other gender-bending mixed-genre parties, including FancyHIM and Tokyo Decadance (both still running), had started up.

For Tokyoite and artist Qrea, the party was a new chance for expression. For Yuka, who grew up in Tottori Prefecture, it was a revelation. “I had never been to any parties in Tokyo before. I didn’t know this kind of world existed; I was really excited and I wanted to get to know everyone there.”

Meat’s organizers commissioned the original trio (at the time the group included Sayaka Watanabe, who has since left the group but sometimes lends her vocals in the studio) to perform the shtick that gave the band its name.

“Just serving alcohol in a glass was boring, so we thought it would be more interesting if we served it from our tits,” that is, fake breasts made from rubber gloves, explains Yuka.

They then took the gag to another level, creating costumes and putting on a performance. Lamont was impressed, and approached the girls with the prospect of turning their cabaret act into a musical outfit. From then on, their creative energy only grew. They even created a bizarre back-story about “three girls who accidentally ate the meat of milking cows and became cow-human mutants,” a tale which is chronicled in the song “R.I.P Meat.” Another of their singles, “Cavity” (about a girl who “brushes her teeth with lollipops and gargles with Coke”), was used in a LaForet Harajuku TV commercial.

Their performances were a staple at Meat until its demise in 2006. After a hiatus in which Qrea went to art school in Paris and Watanabe left the group, the Nippples started to play shows again in 2008.

Outside the walls of Meat, their beloved kitsch warren, they sometimes found less license to wreak havoc. After an early spat with one venue over the mess, they made it a policy to let organizers know “what they were in for,” says Lamont.

“If they say no, we can always think of another thing, we just have to be creative,” adds Yuka.

Via non-Japanese audience members and the Internet, Trippple Nippples were invited to play in Mexico, South Korea and at the Kirin-sponsored Big in Japan event in Australia last year. In March of this year, they took their demented disco to China.

“The Shanghai show was the best,” Qrea says of their warm reception. “There was this overwhelming feeling that something was going to go down. When we started to play, people just went insane from the intro of the first song, like they’d been listening to us for years.”

As they gained notoriety, the group found it difficult to bring their energy to larger stages. But when the band members were “having real fun and weren’t trying to push too hard, the audience started being more able to be involved,” and Yuka found that large shows were “really not that much different.”

It’s a good thing, too. Even though the band is working on an EP, it’s the live performance that really captures their essence.

“I think that these days when the entire recording industry is being brought back to a state closer to what existed before music became a physical product, the live show becomes rightfully very important to a band,” says Lamont. “We put a lot of effort into making each show we do a unique experience that will not be repeated.”

Qrea adds one caveat, a small price to pay: “Don’t be afraid of messing up your clothes.”

Trippple Nippples play Rogue Wave on Aug. 3 at Shindaita Fever in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward. Tickets are ¥2,500 (¥2,300 in advance). For details, visit www.roguewavetokyo.com or www.myspace.com/trippplenippples