HOSHI★FURU is a rock band from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Ontario, Canada. Originally formed in 2008, the line-up consists of Maria on vocals, Nan on guitar, Nick on bass, and Danny on drums. Their music is influenced by a variety of genres such as Japanese rock and pop, hardcore punk, metal, and screamo. The band released their debut EP on March 15th, 2013.
As a long-time friend and fan of HOSHI★FURU, Style Invasion would like to mark the occasion by giving away 2 CD copies of their EP.
EDIT: The giveaway is now over – thanks to those who entered!
Here is their freshly released first ever music video, for the song “KIWOONG KIM”!
Steven Tanaka may be one of the most insanely passionate fans of Japanese indie/underground music you’ll ever meet. The Vancouver-born Tanaka has a Japanese CD collection numbering in the thousands, and has attended more than 500 live shows in Japan in just the last five years. To top it off, in May of 2010 he started a cross-Canada tour called Next Music From Tokyo (NMFT), which saw a handful of Japan’s most intense and energetic live bands launch a sonic assault on the people of Montreal, Vancouver, and Toronto.
Now in its third installment, the twice-yearly NMFT tour will once again be hitting the Great White North, October 13-18. I sat down with Tanaka in Toronto to find out what drives his musical fervor, how he’s able to almost single-handedly organize a national tour while working a full-time job as an anesthesiologist, and what motivates him to take on the mammoth financial demands of running NMFT.
How did you first get interested in Japanese indie/underground music?
Most of my life, I hadn’t listened to Japanese music because my impression was that in Japan, the indie/underground scene wasn’t too prevalent, and it was mostly stereotypical stuff like J-pop, enka and visual kei, so I always thought that there wasn’t much that would interest me if I were to listen to local bands from Japan.
But there was this one band called Chatmonchy that became probably my absolute favorite band for a while. I’d go to Japan just to watch them play. They started off as an indie band, but then they got signed to Sony and they progressively became more and more sort of pop and more focused on selling CDs, as opposed to making music that they really wanted to – at least, that was my opinion.
As they became more mainstream, I got more interested in other bands. So, I’d go to Japan to watch Chatmonchy, they’d play with another band that I might like, so I’d follow that band, and they’d be playing other shows with other bands, and that sort of ballooned into a huge list of bands that I became interested in.
What do you think makes the Japanese indie/underground music scene so great?
I see shows in Canada, and I just feel it’s a bit homogeneous in that a lot of the bands tend to sound similar, and there isn’t as much diversity in sound. A lot of bands in North America are excellent in terms of creating great studio works, but when it comes to watching them live, how they sound on stage isn’t too different from the way they sound on CD. In Japan, the focus is almost completely on the live performance. So, if you listen to (a Japanese band’s) CD, you might not be too impressed, but if you were to watch the same band play live, they would just blow your mind, because they play with so much more passion and intensity.
How often do you go to Japan to watch shows?
Before I started this tour, I tried to go to Japan as many times as possible in a year. My record is eight times in one year. But I only go for one week or two weeks max at a time. My record for shortest visit was when I went to watch Chatmonchy’s bass player (do a DJ gig). I went to Japan on a Thursday, arrived on Friday, and then flew back on Sunday. I was just there for basically two days.
So, I watched that show in Tokyo, where the bass player from Chatmonchy DJ’ed, and then I went all the way to Kyoto to watch one of my favorite bands – Viridian – play, and then I went back home. When I go to Japan, I usually see a show almost every night, and sometimes I might see three or four shows in a day, because compared to Canada, shows tend to start earlier. Most shows start at 6pm or 7pm, and a lot of times they even have shows during the day.
What were your goals when you decided to put together the Next Music From Tokyo tour?
In terms of why I wanted to do this tour, I thought of three main goals I wanted to achieve. One was just giving the bands – bands that I love – an opportunity to come and perform in another country since most of those bands haven’t had that opportunity in the past, so I wanted to be able to provide that for them.
And two, I wanted people in Canada who are already fans of Japanese music to have an opportunity to see bands perform live, because it would be really expensive for them to fly all the way to Japan to see bands play. I wanted to do something for people who are already pre-existing fans of Japanese music.
But probably the biggest reason that I wanted to do it was to help cultivate an interest in Japanese music here in Canada, because, for me – I go to Japan a lot, I love the food and I think the girls are awesome – but for me, the best part of Japan is its live music scene, and because it’s so under-recognized, I really wanted to do something to give it some more recognition.
How did you come up with the name of the tour?
I didn’t coin the name of the tour. I was struggling to come up with a title on my own, but the bands did their own brainstorming and came up with Next Music From Tokyo. For me, I thought it was a little bit problematic, because it was not my intention to limit the tour to bands from Tokyo alone, because there are a lot of bands in Fukuoka and Osaka that I liked as well that I also intended on bringing in the future. But it had a nice ring to it, and I couldn’t think of anything better, so I decided to leave it at that, knowing full well that I would probably be inviting bands from other cities in the future.
You spend an insane amount of money putting these tours together. At what point did you know this wasn’t going to be cheap?
Oh, I knew off the bat I was going to lose anywhere from 30- to 40-thousand dollars. Paying for airfare makes up about 80% to 90% of the cost of the tour. Even if I didn’t pay for the flights, I’d probably still lose money. Now, with the cost of fuel skyrocketing, it’s ridiculous how expensive flights are from Canada to Japan.
For the first tour, there were 18 band members. I spent about 20-thousand dollars on airfare, and I also paid for a hotel in each city, so about a thousand dollars a night, and this was for about 10 nights. So, 10-thousand dollars in hotel, 20-thousand dollars in airfare, and I also bought food for them, there were expenses in terms of renting the venues, and then buying ads promoting the tour, so in total, it was probably at least 35-thousand dollars. And that was the cheapest one, for sure.
As someone who had no prior experience organizing a tour, what did you learn from putting together NMFT Vol. 1?
What I learned was that it’s actually doable, because in the process of organizing the first tour, with the roadblocks of finding venues and securing work visas, I seriously thought that the tour might not be able to go through, just because of all the red tape. Logistically, with four or five bands, having so many people and having to sort of babysit them myself across Canada, I was afraid that, you know, “Would I be able to take care of them properly over the course of ten days?”
I realized that it was doable, that if you put your mind to it, it’s achievable. And that it was worth doing, because even though I knew I was going to lose a ton of money no matter what, the amount of fun that I had and the memories that I’ll take with me for the rest of my life, it was worth it.
How do you balance a full-time job with organizing a tour?
I have to make sure that the tour doesn’t compromise my ability to practice medicine. A lot of times, I do stay up late at night, long hours, to do a lot of the organizational stuff for the tour, and that can impact how vigilant I am during the day. But work, in general, is pretty regular. I do eight-hour shifts at the hospital, and occasionally I have to work a 24-hour shift on-call, but it is pretty predictable.
Your many tour responsibilities include booking and renting venues, designing posters, writing press releases, securing instruments and backline, chaperoning the bands, emceeing the shows, and even acting as doorperson at the clubs. Has anyone stepped up to give you a hand with things?
For this tour, I specifically emailed the bands that I was a little bit unimpressed with the bands on the second tour, because they left a lot of the organizational stuff and promotion to me. So, I let them know that I really wanted their help in terms of, at the very least, giving me band photos and helping create a promotional video to get the word out for the tour. And they all said that, oh yeah, they’ll definitely help in that regard, but I find once again that it’s just sort of me and my friends doing most of the work.
So, from an organizational standpoint, it has been a lot of work, but what has helped quite a bit is a lot of my friends and a lot of fans in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, are now starting to help a lot more in terms of helping design and distribute posters.
Are there any plans for U.S. tour dates?
What I’m doing, as it is, is too much of a financial and logistical burden. To actually bring it to the U.S., in terms of the work visa issues – if you think Canada’s bad, the U.S. is even worse. So, the red tape would be the biggest roadblock to being able to bring it to the States. Initially, when I pitched this whole idea to the bands, it was that we were supposed to do Canada and the U.S., and they were heartbroken when they found out that we wouldn’t be able to go to the U.S., but it would just be too much of a hassle.
Where do you see NMFT heading in the future?
In terms of the future of this tour, I don’t really necessarily need it to grow more than this. I’d love to get a little bit more media coverage, just so that the Japanese music scene gets a little bit more recognition, but I don’t want to be doing shows at large venues.
The Biltmore Cabaret in Vancouver is probably the largest venue the bands play at, and that holds about 400 or 450 people, and I think that’s more than enough. The whole point of this tour is to have bands play at sort of an intimate setting, and with a lot of energy in the crowd, and I find that if you get too large of a venue then it sort of becomes a little bit more impersonal.
Basically, the most important thing for me is seeing how happy the bands are, coming to Canada. It might be the only opportunity they ever get to perform in another country, and I’m just really happy I was able to do that for them.
Can you talk a bit about the bands appearing on Vol. 3, and what can people expect to see at the shows?
NATSUMEN is the marquee band on this tour. They’re an eight-member instrumental super-group who play a blend of experimental jazz and powerful hardcore with timeless melodies and boundless energy. Picture Miles Davis jamming with Jimi Hendrix and At The Drive In.
Chiina is composed of three females on piano/vocals, violin and contrabass, and two males on guitar and drums. They play orchestral indie pop mixed with jazz, folk, and post-rock, and the singer has a sublimely beautiful voice. They’re all classically trained and incredibly skilled.
Hyacca are from the southwestern tropical city of Fukuoka and play lightning speed punk colored by mathy riffs, krautrock rhythms and shoegaze soundscapes. They have dual male-female vocals, occasionally with guttural screaming, and play to an incredibly catchy new wave beat that the crowd can’t help but dance and mosh to.
Akai Ko-en are four girls aged 18-19 who play melodic emo-hardcore with a level of intensity and passion that must be seen to be believed. They keep all of their music and video footage off the internet so you don’t know what to expect and are completely blown away.
Merpeoples will only play with us in Toronto. They’re four girls who play indie new-wave pop-punk oozing with sex appeal and charm.
People can expect to see bands performing heartfelt music with skill of the highest caliber. Even if you don’t understand a word of Japanese, you can still enjoy the show thoroughly because the passion, energy and talent with which the bands play, transcends any language barrier. NMFT Vol. 2 was named best show of 2010 in Montreal by multiple journalists in the year-end issue of the Montreal Mirror. So, if you’re not allergic to fun or good music, you should definitely come out.
It’s 11:30am on an almost unbearably hot Sunday. I’m sitting on the patio of a Toronto pie shop, chatting with The Zoobombs, the Tokyo-based rock band known for their explosive, freewheeling live shows.
Singer/guitarist Don Matsuo is detailing the beginnings of the group he’s fronted for over 15 years, which also features original members Matta on keyboards and Moostop on bass, along with newest member Pit on drums.
In mid-sentence, Don pauses, unable to find any words. “Sorry, my brain isn’t really working today,” he says. “I’m just too tired.”
That’s not surprising, considering it’s the day after an intensive three-week U.S./Canada tour (June 22 – July 10) filled with endless hours of driving in a van from city to city, and capped off with 10 shows in as many days. MORE…
Tokyo, Japan – Shonen Knife have been rocking out and making audiences happy for over 25 years with their unique brand of punk-pop.
I sat down and spoke with the Osaka-based trio – original member Naoko (lead vocals, guitar), Etsuko (drums, vocals), and newest member Ritsuko (bass, vocals) – before their concert at Lush in Shibuya, on Saturday, September 12.
They shared their thoughts on fashion, their upcoming North American tour, and their latest album, “Super Group.” MORE…
June 21st – The sun is shining brightly on a beautiful Sunday morning in Toronto. It’s fast approaching 11 o’clock. I’m on the Spadina streetcar heading for Kensington Market. I have an interview arranged with Tokyo, Japan’s funk-rock masters, the Zoobombs (www.thezoobombs.com). I’m running late. MORE…