Japanese noise-rockers Melt-Banana are a lot of things. Some people say they're crazy, others describe what they do as being in the realm of math-rock and metal. Some think they're closer to Yoko Ono, while others think they skew more towards the lineage of their more mainstream descendents like Anamanaguchi.
MxBx, as the shorthand goes, were also once a particularly prolific band, at least until the long break from the studio following 2007's Bambi's Dilemma. But earlier this year, out of nowhere they announced this year that they'd be following up that record with a new album, "fetch", and that they would be launching their first major U.S. tour in some time.
That tour will also mark their return to Texas when they first hit Dallas' Club Dada and then Austin's Fun Fun Fun Fest. In advance of their return to the Lone Star State, Rocks Off corresponded with vocalist Yasuko "Yako" Onuki and guitarist Ichirou Agata.
It may feel like a long time since Melt-Banana has been particularly active, and a surprise that they're back, but the band is quick to point out that they haven't slowed down too much. Yako mentions that they've been on tour as MxBx Lite for some time, a lineup of just herself and Agata on vocals and synths.
That yielded a live album in 2009, but that was the last recorded peep from the band until now. Though Yako waves it off with "time flies like an arrow," Agata admits that they used to have a set schedule until tragedy struck.
"Usually we put out albums every three years, and we were to put out new one as [the] usual cycle," he says. "But as you know there was a big earthquake happened in Japan, and it was kind of hard for us to concentrate on music."
With all that behind them and MxBx's focus firmly back on their main project, "fetch" is shaping up to be another landmark record in a highly esteemed career. After a particularly lengthy gestation period, they crafted it just right -- Agata explains that MxBx had already recorded demos and played them live before deciding to redo the arrangements on the album.
"After that I programmed all the drums and bass again and recorded guitars," he explains. "Some guitars were used from the demo because they were better."
After going over them all over again a second time, with himself and Yako making many changes, they ended up with an entire stockpile to choose from. "At the end we made several versions of arrangements of each songs and picked up our favorite ones."
Now that "fetch", due out next week, is finally seeing the light of day, MxBx fans can of course look forward to hearing the new tracks make their debut on tour. Especially exciting is the fact that they are making their sophomore appearance at Austin's Fun Fun Fun Fest.
"Texas is one of the best places to play shows, I think," Yako comments, before remembering their first time at the fest. "It was 2009 and we enjoyed it a lot. Austin is a great town! We remember that we were very surprised when we arrived at the festival site because it was held in a park outside and the sound was so loud and no one complained about it. Very musical town.
"We hope to have a town like Austin in Japan too," she adds.
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Maybe it's the old jealous rivalry building up in me, but at that point I had to ask them about Houston. Unfortunately, the band is only hitting Austin and Dallas this time around, but they promised they'll be coming back around again next time. They're big fans of the city, though, having played here in 2009 and 2011.
"I forgot my computer at the post office in Houston, but they kept it so I could get it back the next day!" Agata says, adding "people in Texas are nice."
Not just a fan of famous Southern hospitality, though, Agata also gives a shout-out to Houston's music scene.
"We know some Houston based bands such as Giant Battle Monster or PLXTX, so hopefully we can play with them next time when we come around Texas!" he says.
In the meantime, your only chance to catch them and hear the new "fetch" tracks make their debut is in Dallas or at Fun Fun Fun Fest, but it promises to be a set not to be missed. The album's first single, "The Hive," has made its debut on Tiny Mix Tapes and it sounds as bonkers and awesome as anything else MxBx has done in the duo's feverishly insane career.
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