Shiko Shiko: an English interview of a Japanese-influenced French band touring Japan

So France’s Shiko Shiko are set to hit Japan this week with their lusciously cerebral and undeniably noisy electronica. Having lost a few love ones of this ilk, in the form of Adebisi Shank and Gallops (although there’s word going around that we may have a reunion on our hands), we have always had a soft spot for bands that are not necessarily math rock per se but tend to experiment with electronic quirks. Shiko Shiko are certainly within this realm, constantly conjuring up weird but catchy soundscapes. We managed to hunt them down ahead of their major Japanese tour, in order to come to terms with their evident Japanese influence and other sundries.

FB: Firstly, the new album is really great! Was it hard to produce?

Arekushi (drums): Oh, thank you so much. The first album was more like a compilation of old and new songs. For this second album, we have composed almost all the tunes the same year, that’s why it sounds more uniform. We really wanted to create an album that tells a story and people have to listen to it in its entirety.

Gilles (vocals/synth): It was a hard task, I have to admit. We went as far as we could to give birth to this album.

JC (bass): Well, I joined the band only some months ago so I can’t really speak for the others although I do backing vocals on ‘gloom part 1’. They were hard to make!

Yamaneko (guitar): Indeed. I asked JC to sing on that song via phone.

FB: What does “Maké Maké” mean and what are the themes of the album?

Arekushi: Maké Maké is the chief god of the Easter Island, he has a human body and the head of a bird. The album tells the story of a war between humans and bird-men from outer space.

Yamaneko: But it also tells a lot of different stories, such as the love between guys during war and war between guys during love. Ok, basically, it’s an album about war.

FB: You are expanding the electro sensibility compared to previous work. What were your influences when it came to making this album?

Arekushi: For several years, I listened to a lot of drone music and experimental electronic music, like Oneothrix point never, Mountains, Fennesz, Emeralds. So I guess it had some influence on me during the composition of this album. We are also huge fans of Jean Michel Jarre, which explains the synth side of our new record. And last year I saw some new kraut bands that have totally melted my brain, I advise you to listen to DALIDA and VI!VI!VI!.

Yamaneko: I used to listen a lot of Matmos’s album during mixing. I think it influenced me, maybe in the way of modifiying the sound textures of the instruments and adding some eletronic stuff. But I had always been fond of electronic and experimental music so I think it’s natural to put some of this aspect in our work.

Gilles: We listen to so many differents kind of music. I think it’s a question of subconscious, we don’t really know why we love more a song in particular than an other.

Yamaneko: There is a part in ‘Weimar 1900’ which is an homage to Jean-Michel Jarre. We wanted to make it sound like his Oxygen album. It is a great influence for us.

FB: Which song is your favorite in this album?

JC: I’ve got two actually which are ‘Fiduciary Finale’ and ‘Maké Maké’.

Arekushi: I think it’s ‘Maké Maké’, we finally composed a 10 min long track. It was a challenge.

Gilles: My favorite song is ‘Fiduciary Finale’ because it’s the quietest song of the album and for the lyrics.

Yamaneko: ‘Fiduciary Finale’ cause I think it’s the better song we ever wrote. And of course ‘Maké Maké’ and ‘Weimar 1900’ cause we had a lot of fun adding all the arrangement.

FB: I was surprised to hear about your Japan tour! When did you decide on this tour?

Arekushi: It was the purpose of the band creation, it was a dream to tour in Japan. And we finally decided to plan it one year ago and start to contact the venues 6 months ago.

Gilles: It is a loud and happy howl which means ‘we love japan’.

FB: What’s the origin of the name Shiko Shiko?

Arekushi: It sounds funny and is easy to remember. I guess all the Japaneses know what this word means : ‘let’s have good time’!

FB: What genres do you guys associate with? We spend most of our time in math rock, what do guys think about math rock?

Arekushi: I used to be a math rock addict. I discovered this genre with Battles first EP and I didn’t believe what happened to my ears. It was experimental and dance inducive at the same time. After that I started to listen to a lot of Math Rock (Don Caballero, Piglet, Giraffes? Giraffes!, Faraquet, Hey! Tonal) Even if nowadays I don’t listen to math rock that much, it still has a particular place in my head.

Yamaneko: I prefer to say that we are a normal pop-rock band with lots of noisy, tribal and electronic influence, which is a lot.

JC: I’m definitely more of a pop guy than anything else, bands like blur, pixies or elliott smith. my knowledge of math rock begins and ends with battles and a few other bands I can’t really name at the top of my head

Gilles: I listen to all style of music except gangsta hip hop music. I just hate the ideology of it.

Yamaneko: I would like to write a hip hop song. It could be fun. Seriously, I don’t think we are a math rock band. We use to listen some math rock bands and it inspires us a lot sometimes but we don’t sound like Don Caballero or American Football.

FB: Thanks for joining our Fecking Bahamas compilation! I think France is a nice country for underground music, what do you think?

Yamaneko: The track-list is super. We’ve already performed with a lot of bands who are on this compilation such as Jean Jean, Seal of Quality or Quadrupede. We have a lot of great indie bands in France, not only math-rock.

Arekushi: Electric Electric is one of the best live acts I have ever seen. We have a lot of amazing indie bands in France but venues are afraid to book them, for example most of the mainstream live houses just discovered math rock 4 years ago with Discipline, the most recent album of Electric Electric.

FB: Do you have any favourite Japanese bands?

Arekushi: Japanese math rock is the best : NUITOUnutella (one of the best albums I have ever heard), Ruins, LITE, Toe… But in general we love Japanese music, not only math rock, for example Boredoms (best band ever), OOIOO, nisennenmondai, Polysics, Joe Hisaishi, Taiko music, Koji Kondo. There is something special in Japanese music, when you listen to it you directly understand that it’s from Japan.

Gilles: I know only one Japanese math rock bands : LITE.

Yamaneko: I’m fond of Toe! And I discovered Yoso-wa-yoso thanks to Fecking Bahamas! I would love to see them live! And like Arekushi I love a lot of Japanese bands and composers such as Melt Banana (my favorite!), Guitar Vader, Dir en gray, Mad Capsule Market, Nobuo Uematsu, and Motoi Sakuraba.

FB: Have you ever been to Japan? Where do you want to go in this tour?

Arekushi: Yes, I went to Japan two years ago with a friend for vacation, I met some crazy people and drank a lot of Sake with them. We start the tour the 31st of March at Namba Mele in Osaka.

JC: No, I’ve never been to japan and I’m really excited about it. I’m especially looking forward to visiting Kyoto, I heard it’s very beautiful in this time of year.

Gilles: My first trip in Japan; I want to see everything.

Yamaneko: I’ve never been in Japan. It’s a childhood dream! We will stay around Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto but it’s already very exciting for us!

FB: Any messages for Japanese fans, and people who don’t know you yet?

Arekushi: Could you please give me the address of a restaurant where I can eat the best Okonomiyaki of Japan ? Thanks !

JC: Every person I met who has been to japan told me that the japanese audience is one of the best. uphold your heritage!

Gilles: We can become friend forever, it’s easy : we already love you !

Yamaneko: Yes, we already love you !

You can check out Shiko Shiko Japan tour dates on their blog here You can also keep in touch with the band via their Facebook page.