If you haven't heard of them yet, we won't hold it against you...
Blending styles of classic rock of the 60s and 70s with funk, hip hop, and a bit of punk, Zoobombs have been an indie powerhouse in Tokyo, Japan since 1994. Rocking for 25 years, including overseas tours for most of them, we were seriously stoked to hear they'd be playing at Zandari Festa in Seoul this month. Still, whenever we ask anyone about them, we've gotten one of two very different responses:
"They're the best club band I've ever seen."
"Never heard of them."
Needless to say, we were intrigued!
Since then, we've listened to plenty of tracks, live and studio, and have been impressed enough with digital transcriptions to be beyond psyched to see them live in Korea. To get you all ready for their first performance in the RoK, we asked Don Matsuo, lead singer and guitarist of Zoobombs, a few questions about the band, the tour, and Tokyo's rock scene.
First up, one of our favorites, what's in a name?
For Zoobombs, it's pants 😜 (Evidently, that's the translation from Japanese) But in English it has an interesting sound, so Don just liked it!
Assuming you check out their music or ideally come see them live in Seoul, you'll quickly hear a healthy mix of English and Japanese in their songs, so we were curious what they write about. As is often true of the great bands of the world, there's a ton in there and a lot of it is rather deep. Most striking to us was how Don has most recently been writing about the lack of his soul and hope for him and all of us to have our own angel looking out for us. Beyond the lyrics, you'll also quickly discern their influences, which started with the Rolling Stones and the blues, R&B, and the like which inspired the Stones. From there, they got into alternative rock, like the Happy Monday's, the Beastie Boys, and one of our all-time favorites, Sonic Youth.
That gives us a glimpse into their sound, but what about the indie scene in Japan in general? These guys have been at it for over 2 decades and certainly have plenty of stories to tell, about which we'll be sure to ask if we can meet up in Seoul. But I was most curious about the development of the scene over all this time, which Don characterized as only being seen "inside". Japanese indie rock is all about Japanese clubs and audiences, with not enough bands heading overseas. One big reason he noted is how the problem is that the foreign audiences are looking for style these days, without any soul.
They first came on to the international scene in 1998 and have played the likes of Big Day Out in Australia, along with festivals in Canada, opening tours with the Flaming Lips and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and plenty more. In all cases, Zoobombs have made huge impressions with international audiences. So what do they prefer?
DM: Both. It depends on how the show was.
But even so, playing overseas is always exciting, as they can discover "lots of things that [they] didn't know." And the challenge of playing to new audiences in new places is always great as far as he's concerned
Stemming from our curiosity about how so many people quickly refer to them as "the best club band they've ever seen," we had to find out what makes their live shows so mind-blowing for people. For Matsuo, it all boils down to one word:
Here at RoK Gi Yeon, we've always loved a hard-rocking, energy-filled set, so that works for us! 🎸
As you can read in our previous articles, Zandari is one of our favorite festivals, as it brings incredible talent from all over Korea and the world to intimate clubs and dirgy basements around Hongdae for an incredible weekend of music. So we had to find out what Zoobombs think and expect from the fest:
RGY: Who are you most excited to see at Zandari this year?
DM: Each and every group is important for us. I hope we can see lots of good Korean groups.
RGY: This is your first time playing Korea; what are you expecting at Zandari 2019?
DM: The festival is really good for people who didn't know about it or the bands before. The door is wide open for them and us as well. I hope we can be a bridge to Korea for the young bands in Japan. So, we really want lots of people to come to see us. We'll do our best!
We are beyond stoked to see this band rocking the clubs of Hongdae, and if you are planning on coming out, don't miss their special stage on Friday, September 27th. We'll see you there!
Let the Zandari festivities begin! 🤘
~Keep RoKing my friends!~ 💚