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Shonen Knife

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Punk Interview: Naoka Yamano of Shonen Knife

This past June Shonen Knife, known for their influence of punk bands such as Nirvana and Sonic Youth, released their 19th studio album Sweet Candy Power. The band played a show last night at the Empire Control Room & Garage, and we were able to get in touch with frontwomen Naoka Yamano for a quick interview. Naoka talks about why she writes about food, what eras Sweet Candy Power plays homage to, and how Shonen Knife doesn’t really identify as a punk band. 

The Deli Austin: You started touring in the U.S. in the late 80s, and since then you’ve had a lot of gigs all across the country. Is there anything you particularly enjoy about playing shows here?

Naoko: The audience here in the US is very friendly and cheerful. I like that. I like fish tacos. I can eat various fish tacos here during the tour.

How has the punk scene in Japan changed since you started playing?

I don’t know how to define the “punk scene” but if it means underground scene, the border between major scene and underground became vague. Even if a band is very independent, they can spread their music using the internet. If “punk” is defined musically, when I started the band, punk, hardcore punk were popular but there are various kinds of music. I don’t think Shonen Knife is a punk music band. 

So what does punk rock mean to you today?

It means nothing. Actually, we are not a punk band. I write various type of songs not only punk-pop but Hard Rock, Pop, sometimes Disco. In these 20 years, I don’t listen to punk music so much.

I think the two main takeaways people get from your music is a sense of fun, and a craving for all of the food you write about, especially on Sweet Candy Power. What connections do you make between food, fun, and music?

I write songs not only about food but other topics like my experiences. The lyrics are rather positive. I put some essence of fun on it. The topics of some songs are food. Food is a universal thing and everybody can understand easily. But sometimes it is difficult to explain or people misunderstand because if I say “Candy”, I can’t find Japanese style candy here in the US. We have various kinds of candies in Japan. In the US, there are many gummies but we don’t say it’s candy. Candies are like HALLS or Licora which made by sugar, malt syrup and flavors. 

Anyway, I write songs about food and fun to make people entertained.

How did you approach compiling material for this latest release? Were there any particular influences for this album’s style?

I usually don’t have any concept for albums. I just make songs which I like and people will enjoy. I like 1970’s and 1960’s classic rock music. This album is a kind of homage to such music.

What is your favorite song on Sweet Candy Power?

“My Independent Country”.

Interviewed by Avril Carrillo

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