Like most Internet denizens, we here at Fecking Bahamas have a soft-spot for math-rock hailing from Japan. Despite the language barrier, the quality and quantity of their math-rock output has earned the country quite the reputation. PENs+ is a fresh young band who recently dropped their new album Our Days and it’s pretty great. Their music is packed full of intricate, interweaving guitar lines and the powerful emo vocals of dual-frontmen Ryo and Ariga. In addition to their take on math being more in line with Western bands like Algernon Cadwallader, Snowing and TTNG, PENs+ also do their best to reach beyond the typical insularity of the Japanese scene. I was fortunate enough for the opportunity to pick the brain of someone fully engaged in the Japanese math rock community (who has also been studying English like a beast) so read on for a glimpse into Nippon…
Eric: How was PENs+ originally formed and where did the name come from?
Ryo: “First of all, Ryo (gt. vo) and Ariga (gt) were in the same high school. Hara (ba) and Furuya (dr) were in the same high school too. There was a place where young people can practice playing instruments free of charge between these two high schools. I was shocked when I saw their skill for the first time and I invited them soon. We were 17 years old then.
The name PENs+ came from my pen case illustration. We copied PENs+ straight without spending too much time on it! Although I was not particular about the band name, I like it.”
E: Japanese math rock is often hard for foreign fans to purchase on the Internet. Recently, PENs+ made their albums available on Bandcamp, making it more accessible to a global audience. What made you decide to do this?
R: First, I often use Bandcamp to get foreign emo & math rock band’s songs. Actually, I have experienced finding some awesome bands which I never heard until then. I had been thinking that I should also have to start it soon to spread our music to bigger audiences.
Then just we were invited to go to Canada to have shows as part of Next Music From Tokyo. I thought that it’s the perfect chance to start a Bandcamp. And so we started it finally, and now a lot of foreigners get our songs from Bandcamp. I’m really glad!
I think that more Japanese indies bands that like foreign emo bands should use bandcamp. Advantages of it: expanding their audience all over the world is necessary for Japanese bands. Althought I know we aren’t good at English, it’s relatively easy to start, even for such people.
We don’t have a custom to discount something very much. In other words, buying something for the offered price is normal in my country. Personally I like the trend of name your price. It rules!
E: So you mentioned Next Music From Tokyo; I understand you guys played 4 shows across Canada as part of this tour. What did Canadian crowds think about PENs+, or Japanese music in general?
R: Personally I think the fact toe and tricot are popular in Canada shows Canadian people likes Japanese mathrock and postrock band. PENs+ is also a band that foreign people are able to enjoy the live performance of even if they cannot understand the meaning of Japanese lyrics exactly. That’s why many Canadian audiences came to like us very much! Thanks!
E: PENs+ were my favorite set that I saw at this years Bahamas Fest, but I was surprised when you said during your stage banter that Fecking Bahamas were the first people to label your band as “math rock”. What do you personally think the term “math rock” means? What bands (foreign and Japanese) do you most strongly associate with “math rock”?
R: The reason is almost all Japanese people think that “math rock” is kind of difficult to understand! And our Japanese fans tend to listen to our music while paying attention to our catchy melodies. Duck. Little Brother, Duck! from Portland is the best math rock band in the whole world, I think! We have played a show together 2013 summer in Japan. In the case of Japanese bands, NENGU is so cool! Although they are still young, the skill is tremendous!
And there you have it. PENs+ new album Our Days is available on Bandcamp and iTunes, and their new music videos are totally worth checking out.