Who is Budo Grape? Perhaps that’s the wrong question. A better question would be: “Do you remember Jabberjaw?” How about Josie & the Pussycats or any of the other mind-expanding Saturday morning cartoon shows that were saturated with cute characters and killer music? Well, grab your sugarcoated cereal, because Budo Grape is just like that! If you asked Hanna-Barbera to create a Japanese band, you would without a doubt get Nagoya’s very own Budo Grape.
Now, I don’t mean to be irreverent, or take anything away from the joy that is experiencing the avant-garde, high-energy pop music of this internationally loved group. But let’s consider the facts via the following rigorously constructed Scooby Doo Assessment Scale.
Do they have a “TV-friendly” guy to girl ratio? 3 guys – 2 girls, CHECK.
Do they wear outfits that defy the normal color spectrum? Purple shirts & day-glow yellow ties, CHECK.
Do they have a pretty girl? Lead singer Quminco Grape is more than just a pretty face, she’s also a radio personality and, well, a model… CHECK!!
Do they have a comic relief? Listen to the song FNT (Crap Piss Spit). Clearly bandleader & songwriter Nagai Grape is the funny one. CHECK.
Do they have an anthropomorphic animal or machine? There are rumors that their new keyboardist, the suspiciously named 74 Grape, is an android. So, CHECK.
Do they travel all over the world playing gigs & solving mysteries? Well, they did just return from a successful UK tour, but there’s no word yet on whether or not they foiled any criminal plots. Half-CHECK.
Do they travel around in a unique vehicle? No, but I’m hoping to kick start the construction of a purple VW bug affectionately titled The Grape Escape.
5.5 out of 7 on the Scooby Doo Scale! That’s pretty damning evidence for a band that claims to not be animated. But don’t dismiss Budo Grape as just another two-dimensional Japanese band. Unlike all of the AKBs and Mikus out there, Budo Grape’s music places them firmly in the fifth dimension, the rock dimension – hey, I’m an entertainment writer, not a physicist.
With obvious influences from bands such as the Buzzcocks, XTC, and Talking Heads, Budo Grape’s sound is more akin to post-rockers Polysics and the bubblegum punk of Shonen Knife. However, neither of those bands has ever reached the levels of saccharine psychedelic that Budo Grape has created with their latest release, Kare no Namae wo Omoidasenai, which debuted last year. The success of this album will surely further their rise to fame as they return to the UK this November to headline the Manchester Japanese Festival. I didn’t even know that was a thing!
Nagai Grape is no stranger to the acclaim. As a member of the seminal new wave band The Shockers, he has been in the center of Nagoya’s music for many years. When asked about the scene, he divulged that Nagoya’s size is vital to the success of the industry. Nagai explains, “In Tokyo and Osaka the music scenes are chaos. Nagoya is not so big, so there’s not so much chaos… just lots of cool bands.”
And while Budo Grape is busy putting Nagoya music in the international spotlight (and possibly solving mysteries), they always find the time to thank the ‘grape heads’, their fans, who have supported them for the past 12 years. “I am happiest when I am united with (the fans) at our gigs,” admits the ever-popular Quminco Grape. “Your excited faces will make me more powerful.”
“More powerful?” Perhaps I’m wrong about them… They’re not Josie & the Pussycats. They’re Jem & the Holograms!
– Daniel Ostrander
June 22nd at ell.SIZE Osu