8otto, Miila and the Geeks, NOKIES! - The Hare & Hounds, Birmingham
Last week saw three Japanese indie bands perform at Brighton, London, Birmingham and Liverpool venues, two of which were under the care of our friends at Japan Underground. I made my way to Birmingham’s The Hare & Hounds for a night of rock festivities.
Hailing from Osaka, 8otto (pronounced “otto”) is an alternative-rock outfit which formed in 2004. Its members Masaki, Ryo, Seiei and Tora have enjoyed performing at huge festivals, such as Fuji Rock, while supporting major artists and continually seeking to find new and unusual ways to promote their music.
Making them stand out in particular is lead vocalist Masaki, who also takes on drumming duties. It’s a rare thing to see up front of stage and sure enough it doesn’t take long for one to become enamoured by the afro-ed giant, who sets the bar high with a passionate performance that’s backed by some absolutely terrific guitarists - Tora being the most engaging member, who would drum up his own kind of showmanship and rally together a nice turn out of a crowd. Masaki would additionally take to the floor, where I would wage battle with a mic chord I wasn’t prepared to face. I think I won. It’s only surprising really that these guys weren’t headlining as they know how to wear you out.
That certainly didn’t discourage Miila and the Geeks any. Lead vocalist Moe, drummer Kaoru and saxophonist Ryota have crafted an interesting sound which merges a new age jazz style with a form of light industrial rock, peppered with the odd pop flourish. It was something of a moody set list, governed by a red mist that rarely let up. Yet there was a playfulness here as well, mainly seen through Kaoru who might just be the most laid back drummer on the planet.
Wearing a pair of red hotpants and a t-shirt that was probably designed for a child’s size, he has a way of catching your attention, with a playing style that’s even more questionable; he’d seem to either never move at all or just lash out from whatever angle he can be bothered to position himself in. Honestly, I don’t know how he gets the sound out of the drums the way he does. Frankly you had to be there. Moe made little effort to project herself beneath her lengthy bob cut, her distinctive growls and grunge guitar would carry across her personality, whilst Ryota was largely all smiles as he freestyle’d the night away.
Unfortunately, as I became faced with the notion that I might miss the last train home, I couldn’t stick around for more than two songs from the final act NOKIES!. The indie team of Yusuke, Kotaro, Yu and Atsuya have been likened to The Strokes, Artic Monkeys and The Stone Roses and I only wish I could have stayed longer to appreciate those comparisons. What I did hear was nice but sorry all the same, fellas. Maybe next time!