This month marks the 20th anniversary of Tokyo rock ‘n’ roll act Zoobombs. It also marks their demise as the group has announced they will part ways at the end of September.
Things went well for Zoobombs and their brand of jam-laden garage rock through the 1990s. The group’s more notable accomplishments included touring the United States with successful alt-rock acts The Flaming Lips and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, getting a nod from Rolling Stone magazine and inking a major-label deal with EMI Music Japan. Through most of the 2000s, they operated as an indie act. Even though their stature dropped, they continued to turn out high-quality albums.
Early this year, Zoobombs’ bassist, who goes only by the name Moostop, informed guitarist and vocalist Don Matsuo that he wanted to leave the band.
“Moo and I met to talk about what new things we could do with Zoobombs, but he seemed kind of uncomfortable,” Matsuo says. “Then he told me he was tired and wanted to quit. I wasn’t really surprised, and knew that maybe this would happen one day, but I still wasn’t happy about his decision.”
Moostop agreed to do a final recording and tour before bowing out. So the band quickly crafted a limited-edition tour-only EP titled “On the Jungle” and played 11 dates across the country in late spring to support it.
Wanting to keep Zoobombs alive, Matsuo found a new bassist after the tour. Hoping to further diversify the act’s sound, he hired a synthesizer player too. But before the new lineup could perform together, Zoobombs’ drummer, who uses only his stage name Pitt, also quit. At that point, Matsuo decided to put Zoobombs to rest.
“We are not super rock musicians, but sometimes we made super music and gave super shows through our relationship as a band,” Matsuo says. “I strongly believed that Zoobombs was the best thing in my life and helped me to feel alive. Without music, I can’t stand up. So that’s why I play music.
“But after those two quit it showed me that I was the only one believing in such a foolish dream. I felt like I was being told the world is not like that and that I should see reality. So I thought that this experience we all shared called Zoobombs should finish. It was a bitter result, but I have to use what I’ve learned and head in a different direction now. It’s time to open a new door. (I just wanted to say) thanks to the people who loved the band, but it’s time to close this door.”
Moostop and Pitt will perform with Zoobombs this month at farewell gigs in Nagoya, Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo. Matsuo is glad to play for Zoobombs’ fans a final time, but it’s obviously bittersweet.
“I love all the music that was created by the band,” he says. “All of it is very special to me. I can see my life through those songs.”
As for post-breakup plans, Matsuo and his wife, Zoobombs’ keyboardist Matta, intend to form a new band together.
“We’re going to try and make something interesting and cool,” he says. “As everyone knows, the music business has really changed over the past 20 years. No one knows which way to go. I have to look inside and find out what I really want to do with this new group. I have to find my passion and seize it.”
Zoobombs play Tokuzo in Nagoya on Sept. 13 (7 p.m.; ¥2,000 in advance; 052-733-3709); Fandango in Osaka on Sept. 14 (6:30 p.m.; ¥2,500 in adv.; 06-6308-1621); Nano in Kyoto on Sept. 15 (2 p.m.; ¥2,000 in adv.; 075-254-1930); and Shimokitazawa Basement Bar in Tokyo on Sept. 22 (6:30 p.m.; ¥3,000 in adv.; 03-5481-6366). For more information, visit www.thezoobombs.com.