Very Rock'n'Roll

15 August 2012 | 6:30 am | Samson McDougall

"It’s like small music spirits; kind of like a really small child playing on stage and I just follow the child, because the child, he knows where he wants to go and what he wants to do… It’s very strange."

Mesa Cosa (bless 'em) have gone done a good thing. The Mex-inspired party jammers decided they wanted to play shows with Japanese psych-funk-rockers Zoobombs so bad that they're bringing them out. It's so fuckin' punk.

The Zoobombs' story started in Tokyo in 1994. Their levels of output verge on the extreme (insert gag about hard-working Japanese here) with ten albums and countless minor releases. The general crux of their sound is a fusion of punk, funk and psychedelia, forged together with what can best be described as African rhythms. The sum total of their work draws from far broader influences, however, bringing together elements of blues, pop and soul, with the convergent sounds further solidified via sharp songwriting and depth of emotion. In short: they are a fucking important band. More importantly, they are a stupidly fun band and this week they hit Australian towns for the first time in five years.

Japanese rock music goes down well in Australia. The nation is synonymous with quality, and the rule definitely applies to their musicians – the punks are punk-er, the psych is insane-er and the rock is boulders. “We have to make our music style from the basics, I think,” says Zoobombs' Don Matsuo. “We Japanese have been doing it since the 1960s, so we did make some kind of strange style, very different from the American or English styles of rock'n'roll music.”

We've been lucky to have had regular exposure to amazing Japanese music in recent years. Bands like Facefull, The King Brothers, Boredrums and have blown honky minds out here of late, and there's no doubt Zoobombs will be equally melting honky faces. For Matsuo, the attraction of shows down under runs deeper than just cutting loose – playing music is his crutch, his therapy. “Japanese people [find it] pretty hard to have fun by themselves,” he says. “Seeing Australians, as you know, they [find it] easy to have fun and enjoy their lives. In Japan I think so many Japanese feel some kind of hard feeling for life, or working, or something.” It's an existence he won't adhere to, and the entity Zoobombs has become a channel for his rebellion.

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Matsuo laments that the aftermath of last year's earthquake and tsunamis has become “a symbol of [the Japanese] situation. In Japan, we have 30,000 suicides each year. There is a real kind of unseen big story and pressure in society. Sometimes we have to ignore those kinds of things. Feelings of the heart is the same for everyone. Playing and making music really helps our lives, I guess. Doing music activity, I can get a really big eye and a really big mind. I can see a whole another direction or another dimension. It's not just an outfit. If we can see another direction or another dimension then we can see another face and other things. It's very complicated.”

This philosophy (of sorts) extends to their approaching each gig (the band play without any pre-planned methodology or set list, leaving open the doors of creativity and abandon). “Nobody knows what song is the first or last,” he says. “Our arrangement is always changing. Sometimes it goes really fast and sometimes it goes really slow but it's always changing – we'll change the rhythm or change the tempo or the key or something… [It's like] the music takes us to the next song like this or we have to change the key like this. I think it's not really normal, I just follow the music that's happening on stage and the music is not on my mind, it's just coming through me somehow. It's like small music spirits; kind of like a really small child playing on stage and I just follow the child, because the child, he knows where he wants to go and what he wants to do… It's very strange.” When suggested it sounds very spiritual, Matsuo just laughs. “No,” he says, “it's very rock'n'roll.”