With a sound that seemingly channels two decades’ worth of American and UK pop culture, taffy have been invariably compared to some of the worlds’ greatest indie bands. It’s perhaps a little surprising, then, that this charming foursome happen to hail from Tokyo; crafting a sound that feels quite exciting next to that of what is currently seeping into our charts.
With their sights set on conquering the UK market, April 21st sees taffy release the single ‘So Long’ in celebration of Record Store Day, through UK label Club AC30. This will be followed by the release of their debut studio album Caramel Sunset on May 7th. In the run up to these dates The Music Fix proudly welcomes taffy as it finds out what makes them tick. (Please respect that English isn’t their first language, as we have decided to print the interview in its original form.)
Please introduce yourselves to our readers. How did the group get together?
- Iris, sing and plays some guitar.
- Koichin plays bass.
- Asano is our guitar player.
- Ken on drums.
Iris - First Koichin and I got together and started to play after each of our bands had broken up. We went through a lot of drummers and guitarists, but none of them really stayed, for many reasons. After a while I called Asano-kun and Ken-ken, for I knew them since way before, and I also knew that their bands I knew had been separated as well, and I asked if they wanna play with us and see what happens, and it went very well. We decided that this is the band.
Your music has been compared to the likes of Echobelly, Teenage Fanclub and Throwing Muses. I’ve listened to your latest album and I’d have to echo such sentiments when I say that it really does give off a vibe that feels particularly intrinsic to the British indie scene of the nineties. I’m curious as to how this came about? Please describe ‘Caramel Sunset’.
Iris - Well, to start with, actually I have never heard Echobelly nor Throwing Muses. But I do know Teenage Fanclub. But then again I only know few songs and I like this song called ‘Cabbage’. Was it? ‘Cabbage?’ Anyway, a very nice song. I probably have heard them all somewhere, you know like in stores or radios or at someone’s house, but listening not knowing that they are their songs.
It’s funny to be compared to the bands that I quite don’t know. So, I’m not so sure how I can explain to that question. I like a lot of British music and any music from other countries, if they have nice melodies. I guess all the good things I’ve listened just became the way it is.
Describing Caramel Sunset... It ended up with all kinds of music coated with our taste. A lot of people say our sound is rock, pop, shoegaze, fuzzy sound, alternative, etc but we’re just putting all the sounds we feel right for each song without categorizing our music and that turns out to be the “taffy sound”. We have those taffy essence in, not song by song, but in each songs. And that taste make the taffy sound. Aren’t we greedy, hah! You can enjoy all kinds of music in one album.
The album is further notable for being recorded entirely with English vocals. Was this always the intention?
Iris - It’s more like it was natural thing for me to sing in English, so I never thought of singing in Japanese, though it is my first language.
It’s a strong way to attack the European market. You’ve already visited the country, so what is your overall impression of the UK and its music scene?
Iris - Oh, we loved it a lot. I mean a lot, everything there in the UK! Liked it so much that after I came back, I really considered moving to the UK in the future. At first, we had no idea of what it will be like to play there.
In Japan, most of the audience is like “Who are these people not sounding Japanese?” Singing in English and all, we are treated so as aliens. I mean it seems like they like our music but not sure how to react. So, when we played in UK, it was really fun and happy to see people enjoying our music. And not even that, after the gig, many people came to us and told us how they really liked our music. I felt I finally found the place to play...
Are you all incredibly sweet-toothed?
Iris - Yes, I like sweets, but not too sweet.
Asano - I like it, as much as an average person would.
Ken - I like cheesecake!
Koichin - Yes, I down beer with chocolates.
What is your earliest musical memory?
Iris - There was The Beatles always playing in the house. It was always The Beatles or classical.
Asano - I got really scared of ‘Please, Please Me’ by The Beatles that was on TV when I was little.
Ken - I was listening to ‘Doo Wop’ on a little record player.
Koichin - I was listening to concertos on a big record player.
Which artists would you love to perform with?
Iris - The Beach Boys. I’d like to sing with their harmony.
Asano - Poster Children.
Ken - Jimi Hendrix.
Koichin - Azunyan (a character from Japanese cartoon Keion).
You are going to live on a desert island for a year, which three albums do you take with you?
Iris - The Beatles by The Beatles and Shop Lifting by Straw. This is enough.
Asano - Pink Moon by Nick Drake, Time Acid No Cry Air by dip and Luke Haines Is Dead by Luke Haines.
Ken - Chairman of the Board by Count Basie, Morning Glory by Oasis and What’d I Say by Ray Charles.
Koichin - The Beatles, Help, Magical Mystery Tour and Abbey Road by The Beatles. Any three of these four.
Where do you see yourselves in five years time?
Iris - I guess I’ll still be writing songs and singing; somewhere, anywhere, whenever I feel like it.
Asano - I’ll be playing video games in five years as well.
Ken - Being a vocalist.
Koichin - Climbing mountains, or living in one.
If we were to look at your MP3 player, what is the most embarrassing track or album that we'd find?
Iris - None!
Asano - Greatest Hits by Sebastian Bach.
Ken - Opening theme song of Japanese classic cartoon Sazaesan.
Koichin - Most of them. It is full of soundtracks for Japanese Animation.
What are your plans after Caramel Sunset?
Iris - Write new ones, record and release. As usual.
Asano - Make the next album.
Ken - Hopefully I’m gonna be able to put my song in the next album.
Koichin - Beer and a meal for now.