Music

The Let's Go's: Guitar, bass, drums, vocals and plenty of beer

by William Archambeault

Contributing Writer

The Let’s Go’s are a celebration of pure rock ‘n’ roll energy.

Dressed in matching, vivid, cherry-red outfits, the Tokyo trio delivers upbeat tunes with infectious enthusiasm.

Fresh from a recent trip to the United States, The Let’s Go’s released their new album, “Heibon Cherry,” on July 10. The band will start a two-month Japanese tour in support of the release on July 15.

“Heibon Cherry” showcases a band that is both over a decade old and simultaneously brand new. Since founding The Let’s Go’s in 2006, guitarist Coco has led the group through multiple configurations. The current version featured on “Heibon Cherry” only made its live debut in September last year.

After three previous full-length albums and a plethora of EPs and compilation tracks with other lineups, Coco is now joined by drummer Mariko Mariko and bassist Sakura, the daughter of Seiji Anno, singer and guitarist with Japanese garage rock stalwarts Guitar Wolf and better known as just Seiji.

Over the past three decades, Guitar Wolf has earned a reputation both domestically and internationally as rock ‘n’ roll hellraisers with a diet consisting of beer, beer and more beer. However, Seiji is more than just a loud, rambunctious guitar player who is a heavy drinker. He is also a supportive father for his daughter.

Last month, Seiji took Sakura and her bandmates under his wing when The Let’s Go’s toured the U.S. After Guitar Wolf completed a month-long U.S. tour in early June, Seiji’s band lent The Let’s Go’s some of its gear. Instead of returning to Japan, Seiji stayed in America and traveled with The Let’s Go’s for the group’s six dates. In New Orleans, the leather-clad rocker hung the band’s banner behind the performers himself and spent much of the night personally introducing his longtime fans to members of the band.

“He gave us power and beer,” says Sakura, reflecting on her father’s involvement in the tour.

And the cherry doesn’t fall far from the tree. Despite the intense heat of her band’s live performances, Sakura wears a bright red leather jacket on stage, bringing to mind her father’s signature wardrobe. She began the band’s set in New Orleans by drinking a beer out of her bright red cowboy hat. At other points during the set, the sweat-drenched rocker ran into the audience, screaming lyrics at her fans.

“The rock ‘n’ roll I sing is exactly like Seiji from Guitar Wolf,” Sakura says. “I copied his actions, everything.” She has clearly taken her father’s boisterous showmanship to heart.

The Let’s Go’s’ live performances have a raw theatrical energy similar to Guitar Wolf but their music is closer to the more refined stylings of Johnny Thunders and Joan Jett.

On “Heibon Cherry,” The Let’s Go’s cover “Everyday People,” a late 1960s soul tune by Sly & the Family Stone. However, Sakura admits that she hadn’t heard the original when The Let’s Go’s recorded their cover.

“I just knew the Joan Jett version,” she says, referencing her admiration for the American musician who reworked the soul number into a rock tune in the 1980s.

But aside from “Everyday People,” “Heibon Cherry” is all originals.

The album kicks off with excited chanting, thumping drums and sharp guitars on the title track. All three members handle vocal duties on the album, often in unison, with Coco and Sakura typically taking the lead.

These elements pile up to create a surprisingly huge sound for just three people. The phrase “Kaiju Let’s Go’s,” the title of one of the songs, could easily be used to describe the band’s sound (kaijū translating as monster). That tune and “Lovesong Nightmare” are fiery one-minute sprints bursting with energy. On lively number “Can’t Sit Still Anymore,” Coco sings about breaking loose with a leather jacket and guitar. Mariko Mariko even handles lead vocals at the same time as playing drums on “Highball.”

Hey ho, let's go: Drummer Mariko Mariko is a recent addition to the band, which has seen multiple lineup changes. | AMY NGUYEN
Hey ho, let’s go: Drummer Mariko Mariko is a recent addition to the band, which has seen multiple lineup changes. | AMY NGUYEN

Some songs on “Heibon Cherry” are autobiographical. On “Traveling Girl,” Sakura sings about a girl relying on her broken English to travel alone in the United States.

“I was traveling about four years ago in the States — in New York and San Francisco by myself. Alone. No mom, no dad, no friends,” says Sakura. “This song is for that memory.”

In late May, Sakura returned to the United States, but this time she wasn’t alone. She joined Guitar Wolf’s tour briefly, working on the merch stand, before her bandmates joined her for their own tour.

The six-date U.S. tour was part work, part rock ‘n’ roll pilgrimage. Coco and a previous version of the band had toured different parts of the country in 2016. This time, The Let’s Go’s performed in southern cities including Memphis and New Orleans, both of which Coco recognizes for their influential roles in the history of rock and blues.

In Memphis, the band visited Sun Studio, the famous former recording studio where Elvis Presley and many other early American rock artists recorded during the 1950s and ’60s. When Coco visited New Orleans, she wore a shirt depicting one of her influences, Johnny Thunders. She says the fashion choice was an intentional nod to the guitarist’s 1991 passing in the city.

The tour also allowed the band to try regional foods like po’ boys, gumbo, and hot chicken. But Sakura explains her favorite memory from the tour wasn’t of sights or food.

“Just one day before we left (to return to Japan), my Dad and I went to a bar in Memphis on Beale Street and we drank together,” says Sakura. “The last song (we heard at the bar before leaving) was ‘Everyday People’ from Sly & the Family Stone. When we got ready to go back to the hotel, I just heard ‘Everyday People’ and I was crying and I was dancing.”

The Let’s Go’s play at Chiba Look in Chiba on July 15 before embarking on a tour of the country, culminating in an extended performance at Shibuya Chelsea Hotel in Tokyo on Sept. 9. For more information, visit www.theletsgos.jimdo.com.

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