Band A to headline Fukuoka club crawl

by Shawn Despres

Fukuoka recently ranked 14th in U.K. magazine Monocle’s annual “Most Livable Cities Index.” Alt-rock duo Band A are unsurprised their city fared so well.

“I love Fukuoka,” proclaims guitarist and vocalist Kouhei Hara. “It’s very easy to live a comfortable life here. People are kind and there are so many delicious types of food.”

Hara and his band mate, guitarist Aiko Oka, have only one aversion to Fukuoka — its distance from the nation’s capital, which finished fourth on the aforementioned list of top worldwide locales.

“It’s hard for us to go to Tokyo,” Hara says. “We travel by car for performances and it takes about 16 hours to drive from Fukuoka to Tokyo.”

While some of the city’s more prominent talents have relocated to Tokyo to further their musical ambitions, Band A aren’t yet ready to jump ship. A future move is not out of the question, though.

“Tokyo is the best place to start playing music if you want to make your living as a musician,” Hara concedes. “If the timing was right, I could see us possibly moving to Tokyo.”

While it may not net the same attention as Tokyo’s musical underground, Band A are quick to extol the strength of their local indie scene. The upcoming Music City Tenjin Live Circuit 2010 festival will attempt to showcase this. The yearly club crawl runs from Oct. 2 to 3 and features 60 Fukuoka and out-of-town acts performing at six downtown live houses for an estimated 2,000 fans. Band A are one of Sunday’s headliners.

“There are so many kinds of interesting bands here,” Hara offers.

“I think groups in Fukuoka are really proud of their hometown, so they try to make some interesting, great events that include music, painting, dance, comedy and art in Fukuoka instead of in Tokyo or other places.”

Originally conceived as a quartet, Band A met through Fukuoka University’s music club in 2005. Grouping together in May of 2006, one month later they debuted live at Fukuoka’s Decadent Deluxe. That December, they self-released an EP, “Nekoru.” In early 2008 an eponymous full-length followed. Only available locally at concert hall CD shops and through mail order, both are now out-of-print.

After spending the summer of 2009 writing material for their proper countrywide debut at that year’s end, bassist Jin Fujimoto and drummer Yuuta Iwamoto quit Band A.

“What they wanted to do was different from what we wanted to do,” Hara explains. “We had very different ideas about rhythms and the kind of music we wanted to play.

“We felt that we couldn’t play together any more. Unfortunately, I seldom see them now.”

Scheduled to hit the studio in February, Band A turned to pals to make their album. Drummers Miyoko Yamaguchi (from garage rockers Detroit7) and Yamada Masato (formerly of pop-rock act Snowkel), and bassists Hama Okamoto (from psych-garage band Okamoto’s) and Hiroharu Kinoshita (previously from L – R and current touring member with Puffy) were recruited. Kinoshita also produced the effort.

“Kinoshita really understood what we wanted to create,” Hara says. “We recorded the album in Tokyo because all of the guest musicians live there.

“It was really hard, because we recorded all of the music in only five days due to our budget and the schedules of the guest musicians.”

Issued in June on Band A’s own Tottoto Records imprint, the eight-song “Girl’s End” mixes postpunk and power pop. The catchy “Satisfaction” and noisy title track delve briefly into shoegaze and the latter includes good vocal harmonies between Hara and Oka.

Still seeking a permanent rhythm section, Band A have enlisted more Fukuoka friends from their school music association to tour behind “Girl’s End.” Sanae Kijima is temporarily playing bass and Motoyoshi Nakashima is handling drumming duties. Striving to continue improving Band A, working with others has given Hara and Oka a renewed understanding of what they want to achieve.

“Sanae and Motoyoshi’s technique and personalities have made our music better,” shares Hara.

“Thanks to all of the people who have helped us, I’m now having fun playing music. In the past I felt like we were forgetting to enjoy ourselves because we just focused on the music itself too seriously. We were much too serious to have fun before.”

Band A play Public Space Yojigen in Fukuoka on Oct. 2 (6:30 p.m., ¥2,000 in advance; [092] 741-0552); Vivre Hall in Fukuoka on Oct. 8 (6:30 p.m., ¥1,500 in advance; [092] 714-2121); Shimokita Round Up (venue TBA) in Tokyo on Nov. 3 (2 p.m., ¥3,500 in advance); Shibuya Lush on Nov. 5 (7 p.m.; ¥2,000 in advance; [03] 5467-3071); and Shinjuku Loft, Tokyo on Nov. 7 (4:30 p.m., ¥3,000 in advance; [03] 5272-0382). For more information, visit www.geocities.jp/bandadasu