Spaced Out

By Andrew Gilhooley / 411

When you think of Japanese music, you might think of the haunting tones of the shakuhachi  flute, or the sound of stringed instruments like the shamisen and koto that traditionally accompany Kabuki theatre performances.  You probably won’t think of electronic rock in the style of late 70s/early 80s band Devo, but that is exactly what Japanese band Polysics will be bringing to CSUMB’s Black Box Cabaret on Saturday evening.

Polysics has an ever-growing reputation in Japan and Europe for the band’s energetic live performances as much as the four members’ bright, neon-colored costumes.  The band describes its music as “Technicolor pogo punk”, and the lyrics are sung in English and Japanese, as well as the band’s very own “Space Language.”  At a Polysics show, you can definitely expect to hear and see something different!

Polysics was formed in Tokyo in 1997 by guitarist and lead vocalist Hiroyuki Hayashi.  When he was growing up, he would listen to his sister’s rock albums.  He was less than impressed by the bands’ long hair, beards, leather jackets and macho posturing.  However, when he saw Devo, he found music and an image that was radically different.  “When I saw Devo for the first time with the glasses and the outfits, they look like if they got into a fight, they would be too weak,” he said, “and when I met them, that’s the first time I wanted to be a band man.”

Inspired by his new favorite band, Hayashi began writing music with his guitar and his Korg Poly 6 keyboard (which was the inspiration for his band’s name).  He began playing as a solo performer backed by programmed rhythms at Tokyo’s underground music clubs, and gradually recruited other musicians to his cause.  Identifying themselves only as Poly-1, Poly-2, Poly-3 and Poly-4, the members of Polysics began to build a band identity, and soon were selling out venues around Tokyo and becoming a cult phenomenon.

In 1999, the band signed to the UK PROJECT record label and released its debut album, “1st P.”  This was so popular with the band’s fans that it was quickly followed by “A.D.R.R.M!” the same year.  With two strongly selling CDs, and the band’s logo plastered on billboards and lamp posts all over Tokyo, it wasn’t long before major labels began to show interest.  In 2000, the band signed to Sony music and released “Neu.”  The label supported the band to tour internationally, where a solid fan base was quickly established.

Tofu Records signed Polysics for US distribution, and is releasing the band’s latest CD, “Polysics or Die!”  This is the band’s fourth visit to the United States, and Hayashi is very enthusiastic about their American audience. He feels that the crowd’s response is a good gauge of the band’s performance. “In the US, everyone individually wants to show their joy, so if I do a good live performance, they come with me.  But if I do bad, they don’t.”  And his overall impression of touring in the US: “It’s a lot of food.  That’s what stands out.”

First published in "411", The Salinas Californian, February 24, 2005

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