JAPANESE VOYEURS BIOGRAPHY
Romily Alice (vocals)
Johnny Seymour (bass)
Tom Lamb (guitar)
Rikki Waldron (guitar)
Steve Wilson (drums)
In this world there are two kinds of bands: there are those who aim to be the biggest group in the world, who aim to make money and be famous, and who will do anything to achieve their aim. And then there are those whose mission statement is to explore the possibilities of modern music, of heavy music, and whose instinct is to create something that they themselves yearn to hear. Since forming in 2007 the London-based quintet Japanese Voyeurs have shown themselves to be the second of these kinds of bands.
“When we started out there weren’t that many new groups making heavy music, the kind of music we liked to listen to when we were growing up,” says Romily, the band’s frontperson. To date her group have put their name to two releases 2009’s Sicking & Creaming EP, as well as 2010’s double-a side of That Love Sound and Blush. “We wanted to recapture that spirit and that brutality,” she says.
This they have done, and with some aplomb. Enlisting the services of legendary Canadian producer Gggarth Richardson – who has lent his shoulder to albums as acclaimed as Rage Against The Machine’s debut, as well as albums with The Melvins and Jesus Lizard – this year Japanese Voyeurs travelled to Vancouver to record their debut album, titled Yolk. Yolk’s first single, the searing yet unsettlingly beautiful Milk Teeth, is released this month.
“We make music that is heavy, but it’s not heavy for its own sake,” explains Romily. “We have a sense of melody as well. It’s how we bring these things together that I hope makes us interesting and worth listening to.”
From the very first time he heard the band, Gggarth knew he would be the man to produce Japanese Voyeurs’ first album. The producer first travelled eight time zones east to London in order to get to know the group’s personnel, going so far as to step off an aeroplane and straight to a party at bassist Johnny’s flat. “He outlasted everyone there,” laughs the host. “He was calling everyone pussies for wanting to go to bed.”
“We talked to a lot of producers who wanted to work on the album,” says Romily. “But Gggarth was the only one who seemed to really care about us as a band. He was the one who really seemed to get it.”
In March of this year the group returned the Canadian producer’s favour and flew to British Columbia. After a period of pre-production at the producer’s country retreat, the quintet decamped to the Warehouse Studios in Vancouver and in two weeks recorded Yolk.
“The concept of the album is about birth and growth,” explains Romily, who also writes the group’s lyrics. “And it’s about the darker connotations that go with those ideas. I write about the more primal and animalistic side of being a human, the shadow side of the pysche, and how you have to control that while living in a society where you have to go to work and form relationships and try to be a good person. I suppose I’m quite interested in that idea because it’s something I myself find quite difficult to do.
“I hope that the lyrics help people connect to the music on a more visceral level,” she continues. “I hope that people connect to what we’re doing in a way that is deeper than if they were just listening to a load of generic pop lyrics.”
If such a statement suggests a band that have more about them than a bevy of borrowed riffs and a hatful of half-baked ideas, you would be right. Japanese Voyeurs take their cues from a cultural landscape that stretches both high and wide. Musically the quartet are inspired by such left-field acts as Kyuss, Fudge Tunnel, Jesus Lizard and Acid King, bands who were happy to exist outside of the mainstream and whose supporters loved them all the more for them taking that stance. Elsewhere, the band take nourishment from the films of Harmony Korine – the man who directed pictures Kids and Gummo, among others – as well as the work of the writers Alan Moore (who penned V For Vendetta and Swamp Thing) and Mervyn Peake, creator of the Gormanghast trilogy.
But such a diverse harvest of cultural influences doesn’t mean that Japanese Voyeurs are a band who are too busy with the arts to get their hands dirty in the name of making some noise. With their debut album ready for release, the quartet intend to spend as much of 2011 as they can touring the world. This will include extensive travels throughout the United Kingdom and mainland Europe, as well as appearances at the summer festivals both in Britain and Japan. In March the quartet will make their American bow with an appearance at the prestigious South By Southwest musical jamboree in Austin, Texas.
Over the next 12 months Japanese Voyeurs will be busy taking their music to the more discerning music fans of the world. And how will the band recognise success if and when it comes? Well, they already know what it is because they’ve already found it.
“Success to us is being able to make the music we want to make, the way we want to make it,” says Johnny. “Anything that happens after that we’ll take as it comes. But the most important thing to us is the music. If we lose sight of that then we’re doing something wrong.”
In an increasingly compromised age, such purity of purpose is rare indeed. But the bands who people love rather than merely like, the bands that people really listen to rather than simply hear, adhere to these principles. These aims, combined with their inventive, challenging and appealing music will set Japanese Voyeurs in good stead. It makes theirs one of the names in which to invest one’s energies in 2011.