- Mon, 2010-11-29 12:01
London based Japanese Voyeurs have just finished the recording of their debut album Yolk with famed producer GGGarth Richardson (Rage Against The Machine, The Melvins, Jesus Lizard and a lot more...) Following the success of their EP releases, Yolk looks set to raise the standard as Romily Alice and co. smash their way into our conscious.
I Like Music caught up with Romily to chat about making her own pedals (the first of which is affectionately titled Screaming Meat), fashion in music, playing Sonisphere and why she still can't listen to their finished debut Yolk.
"I Like Music because… it keeps the demons away.” Romily Alice, Japanese Voyeurs
ILM: Hello there! How are you?
Romily Alice: Good thank you!
ILM: It sounds like you guys have been busy lately…
Romily Alice: So busy! It’s nice to be busy though, so long as we can sleep and eat!
ILM: We’re really excited about your take-over of our Rock section next week…
Romily Alice: I sort of underestimated how much work there would be! I was really excited about doing it but I thought it would be quicker than it was…
ILM: Yup. It’s hard to write about music that you really like…
Romily Alice: Yeah, and I kept coming up with really horrible clichés! Made me realise that I probably only use about five adjectives in everyday life.
ILM: Milk Teeth is your latest single release. The video is fantastic. What was it like putting it together?
Romily Alice: It was a cool process. When we make videos I’ll normally write a kind of preliminary treatment, then we’ll send that out to directors to see if anyone likes the idea and has stuff they want to add to it. This time we did that and got a response from Stephen Agnew who ended up making the video. He was exactly 100% spot on – he had all the same references, all the same music and directors we liked in there too. Then it turned out he hadn’t even got my initial idea, he’s just completely, coincidentally had exactly the same ideas as we did!
ILM: How long did it take to put together?
Romily Alice: A couple of weeks. Not that long, we were kind of in a rush. Once we’d actually filmed everything, the editing part was really quick. It’s the first one we’ve done that I feel we’re all fully happy with.
ILM: Why did you chose Milk Teeth as your next single?
Romily Alice: To be honest, we don’t really take part in that. We just made the record that we wanted to make. However the label thinks wants to put it out is fine with us. We do have 100% control of anything creative, but I think once you start getting bogged down with thinking “this is suitable for this” or whatever, it makes you feel a bit grubby. We just say, “we like all the tracks, do what you want.”
ILM: What’s your outlook on mainstream success? Is it something you seek?
Romily Alice: It’s quite a difficult one. As long as we don’t compromise what we want to do musically and artistically, then whatever happens we’ll take as it comes. The more people that get to hear it, the better it is for us, especially as it is quite a specific music. From that perspective, we just want to get it out to as many people as possible.
ILM: What’s your approach to playing live?
Romily Alice: We don’t have any theatrics or anything crazy. We just rehearse a lot. That’s where we put all our energy in – making sure we play as well as we possibly can. Now the songs are recorded, we’ve been playing with them a lot, adding new little bits and doing stuff to make it fun for us to play. I guess we just try and go out and get absorbed in it. I’m not very good at talking to a crowd! I don’t have that front-person, pantomime kind of power thing. So we tend to just play the music and keep it really loud.
ILM: Out of all the shows you’ve played so far, which have been some of the best for you?
Romily Alice: Probably the best one so far was Sonisphere. We were quite terrified about it to be honest! We knew there were going to be lots of people there. We kind of straddle that alt-rock and metal line, so we never know how it’s gonna go down; a lot of the time we’re either too light or too heavy. We had no idea how Sonisphere was gonna go. We worked really hard for that one and it went really well. People seemed to really get into it, so that was really good!
ILM: How did you get into music? When did you realise it was what you wanted to do?
Romily Alice: I’ve got very musical parents. My mum is an insane Bruce Springsteen fan and my dad is a classical musician and also really likes Bob Dylan. I grew up with a lot of real songwriting, I guess that sort of creeps in. I feel quite lucky to have had that around. I think whatever genre you play it does boil down to basic songwriting. I think I started writing around 16 but we got together as a band a couple years after that. I’ve always been into the heavier stuff so we started doing that.
ILM: What is it about the heavier side of things that keeps you coming back for more?
Romily Alice: I guess I feel like it connects with me on a deeper level. The brutality, the force of it feels so powerful. I think what interests me is the kind of duality between the sense that it’s a state – it’s so loud that you can get lost in it – but at the same time it’s also challenging in that it’s so personal. You get both in one thing.
ILM: How do you approach writing songs? Developing that balance?
Romily Alice: I usually write the initial idea for the song - the core starting point - on an electric with pedals. What’s so exciting about working with the rest of the guys in the band is that when we bring it together, all add input and all the different instruments, that’s when it really transforms and becomes something. I guess I get the lyrics and pure emotion sorted before so that’s done, then we can add as much as we want in terms of sound.
ILM: You have a couple of side projects on the site Heavy Child, one of which is your own pedals. How did you get into making those?
Romily Alice: I’ve always loved pedals! I just think it’s so magic that you can completely transform the sound of the guitar with this little box. When we went to Canada we did all the recording and the tracking of the instruments and then the boys had to go home because we couldn’t afford to keep everyone out there whilst I was doing our vocals. After this series of fuck ups I ended up staying out there for six weeks instead of ten days. We were out in the middle of nowhere at Alex the producer’s house, this farm. The only people who were there were me, Alex and Nigel his assistant. Nigel had done some work making pedals before. I told him I was interested in it, we ordered some bits to build and then expanded by looking at circuit boards. Really, we had eight or ten hours every day with nothing to do in the middle of nowhere...we just started because we needed something to do!
ILM: Do you use your own pedals on stage?
Romily Alice: Yeah, at the moment it’s just the one, the Screaming Meat one. I’m working on some new stuff. There’s loads more I want to do with it, it’s just a question of having time and sourcing all the parts. I would definitely like to get to the point where I have a whole range going on, that would be pretty fun.
ILM: Heavy Child has a fashion strand too. What’s the goal with that?
Romily Alice: Heavy Child is just a sort of general umbrella term for anything I’m doing outside the band, I guess. Fashion has always been something that I love, just because I think it’s a different way of expressing yourself. Not that I wear anything crazy, but I’ve always just loved that world. Hopefully at some point I’ll be able to start making my own stuff...
ILM: Does fashion play a significant part in your role as front-woman of a rock band?
Romily Alice: I think there is this kind of weird fashion pressure for women in music – well, not just in music, but I see the music side of it. I remember the best comment I ever had in terms of that was from some industry guy. He said “what are you going to wear for the video shoot tomorrow?” I said, “I dunno, probably jeans and a t-shirt,” and he said “well you can’t wear that!” Implying that as a girl I had to wear a miniskirt and high heels or something....
ILM: How did Japanese Voyeurs come to be?
Romily Alice: Me and Rikki went to school together. Johnny and Tom also went to school together. The four of us met through mutual friends and Steve joined the band because we’d played with him with our old drummer and his old band. Our old drummer had to leave and Steve wanted to join...
ILM: Has London had a big affect on you musically?
Romily Alice: I guess there’s always that sense of possibility when you grow up in a big city. It feels like there’s so much going on around you, and so much is accessible which I guess is a good thing. But I don’t know if it has had a huge affect on me, I’ve never known anything else!
ILM: What are your future plans as a band?
Romily Alice: I guess if everything goes well with the album then soon we’ll be in the studio making the next one. I guess the plan is just to tour heavily and keep making albums. Then maybe we’ll be able to afford a van! We had a van and then we forgot to put oil in it for a year. Now it’s not a van anymore, it’s a piece of scrap metal.
ILM: Your debut album Yolk is out in 2011. Are you pleased with it?
Romily Alice: Yeah, definitely. I sort of can’t believe it – not because I think it’s the best thing ever – but for us personally...we achieved what we wanted to. Saying that, I still can’t listen to it! I think it’ll be about a year before I can!
ILM: You can’t listen to it? How come?
Romily Alice: I think I’m just too close to it. We spent so many months doing it, I guess it’s just a bit scary...
Guest Edit #23: Japanese Voyeurs Take a look here