You recently released your latest album Sweet Candy Power. You’ve said that you wrote the album as an homage to your favorite rock music from the ’60s and ’70s. Your previous two albums, Adventure and Overdrive, had more of a hard rock sound, but the new album also includes Punk, Pop, Mersey Beat, Garage and Southern Rocks sounds. Do you tend to go into each album with a specific sound in mind or are they based on what’s inspiring you at that moment?
Naoko: I usually don’t have any specific plan when I write songs. They’re based on what’s inspiring me at that moment. But I wanted to write some punk-pop songs for this album because many of our fans love our punk-pop songs. Then I wrote “Part” and “Match 3”.
What can you tell me about the idea behind and making of your music video for “Sweet Candy Power”? It’s such a fun video!
Naoko: Thank you so much! Our video director suggested that we take selfie videos by ourselves and he’d edit them. I went to many landmarks in Osaka for taking my scenes. I also prepared many Rock ‘n’ Roll T-shirts to wear.
Your former bandmates Ritsuko and Naru were featured on the album, as well. How did their involvement on the album come about and what was it like to play with them again?
Naoko: Actually, Ritsuko and Naru are still members of Shonen Knife. Naru often plays the bass for us in Japan when Atsuko can’t come to Osaka since she lives in Los Angeles. Ritsuko has had no chance to play the bass these last few years because she has two little kids but she is ready to play bass now.
To promote your previous album Adventure, you embarked on what you called The Ramen Adventure Tour of The US! Where have you had the best Ramen? Do you have any food adventures planned for this tour?
Naoko: I can’t pick the best Ramen because all Ramen tastes so good. I talked with people at Ramen restaurants during the tour. They are very enthusiastic to make delicious soup stock of Ramen. Using microwave ovens in hotel rooms, I want to try to make food by myself during this tour, so we will see!
You have been a band through the many ups and downs of the industry and have maintained a fun and cheerful attitude and message in your music. How have you maintained a fun and joyful message throughout the years?
Naoko: When I get a good reaction from our fans, I get cheerful and happy. As long as our fans exist and they get happy through our music, I can make joyful messages for them.
Having been a touring band for close to 40 years now, how has touring changed for you? Have you started to approach it differently as you’ve gotten older?
Naoko: Touring is getting easy with the progress of technology. I can connect to the internet anytime and anywhere. I can get information about traffic jams or good restaurants in neighborhoods easily. Physically, I’m fine because I play tennis 2 or 3 times per week when I’m not on tour. I have a lot of experience. It helps me a lot.
What inspired you to make a limited edition 7″ vinyl single, which will only be sold at the march stand at shows on your European tour this year?
Naoko: It was sold at our European tour merch stand. It will be on sale at our Japanese shows and at the UK tour in July too. It’s limited to 500 and it seems that it will be sold out by the end of the UK tour.
The three of you made hand drawn Sweet Candy Power T-shirt/CD bundles that are available for ordering. Do you design all of your merch? What inspired the designs and did you design the album cover, as well?
Naoko: I design almost all of the march myself. Atsuko designs her bass guitar pics and sometimes the T-shirts. I’m inspired by our music when I draw pictures for our merch. For the first 4 albums, we designed it by ourselves, but since the album Let’s Knife in 1992, we’ve asked other people to draw the album cover. For Sweet Candy Power, my daughter Ema drew the artwork!!
I read a while ago that Spain is the country that has your favorite food. Are they still your favorite?
Naoko: I didn’t have enough time to eat at restaurants in Spain this time I can’t make a good judgement this time. The only thing I can say is that breakfast at European hotels is fantastic. I always upload the pictures of breakfast on my tour blog:
Risa- As the newest member of the band, what has it been like for you to be a part of a band that you grew up listening to? The British tour following the release of Adventure was your first trip overseas. What has your tour experience been like since then?
Risa: Since my parents liked British and American rock, I listened to major overseas bands like The Beatles, The Who, Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith since I was a child. I liked Shonen Knife the best of all the Japanese bands. After I started to play the drums, I listened to System Of A Down, Foo Fighters and The Red Hot Chili Peppers and learned drumming. It was the first time for me to go out of Japan when I got to do the British Tour for the Adventure album. I suffered a lot of culture shock and language barriers communicating in English but I got better from the tours.
What’s next for Shonen Knife?
Naoko: After the ‘712 Day Party’ Japan tour, we will play in the UK. From the end of August to early October, we will go on our North American tour. More shows and tour will come! Rock ‘n’ roll!