Sure, it helped that Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain was enough of a fan to pick them as the opener for Nirvana’s 1991 United Kingdom tour, but who could deny the pop allure of three Japanese women in technicolor dresses rocking out to songs about ice cream, asparagus and jelly beans?
That’s Shonen Knife, the trio that will perform at the closing show of this season’s Twilight Dance Series, along with headliner The Knack, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, September 1st, on the Santa Monica Pier, (ocean end of Colorado Avenue), Santa Monica. Admission is free.
The band’s sound has been described as a “Ramones-meet-The Beatles brand of sticky sweet punk-pop.”
“When I finally got to see them live, I was transformed into a hysterical nine-year-old girl at a Beatles concert,” Cobain once commented about his affinity for Shonen Knife.
The band was formed in 1981 by sisters Naoko Yamano (vocals, guitar) and Atsuko Yamano (drums), and former member Michie Nakatani (vocals, bass), as an escape from the drudgery of work. They started playing shows in their hometown of Osaka, Japan the next year.
They first hit the ears of listeners in the United States in 1986 when Sub Pop Records released the Shonen Knife track, “One Day of the Factory” on a compilation. Shonen Knife was a band that was able to grow a cult following in the United States by being nurtured on college radio and self-published fanzine hype.
Atsuko Yamano switched to bass guitar after Nakatani’s departure.
Following the group’s tour with Nirvana, Shonen Knife became the hip name to drop as Nirvana’s Nevermind skyrocketed up the charts.
The group’s two biggest albums were Let’s Knife and Rock Animals, released on Capitol Records.
The group was also part of the 1994 Lollapalooza tour, a much anticipated part of the alternative rock phenomenon of the time.
The group’s most recent studio album, Genki Shock, was released only in Japan and features songs mostly sung in Japanese.
Earlier this year, Oglio Records released reissued, remastered versions of the early Shonen Knife albums Burning Farm (1983), Yama No Attachan (1984), Pretty Little Baka Guy (1986) and 712 (1991).
Naoko Yamano, the most prolific songwriter in the band, explains that songwriting has always come naturally.
“I often pick up topics for my lyrics from my daily life,” she says. “I’m impressed by the convenience of a rubber band. Every day is a jewel box for ideas and lyrics.
“Even if I have hardships, it doesn’t reflect in my songwriting. My policy is that music should be fun. Music is entertainment.”
According to Carla Parisi, the group’s publicist , the Yamano sisters have found another activity that rivals their passion for rock ‘n’ roll — tennis.
“It’s not likely you can go through an entire conversation with one of the Yamano sisters without the topic of tennis coming up. They are avid tennis players,” Parisi says.
Information, (310) 458-8900.