Active since 1981, punk legends Shonen Knife show no signs of slowing down with a new album, Sweet Candy Power, their first one in three years, coming out on June 5. The band are currently on tour in Europe and will play a few July shows in Japan before jetting back to the U.K. for a string of summer dates. Head Knife Naoko was kind enough to answer some of our questions about the upcoming release, songwriting inspiration, and tennis!
It’s been three years since your last studio album, Adventure. The last three albums have mixed softer tunes with more aggressive ones like “Robots from Hell” on Overdrive. What was your vision for the new album? It seems to have something of a definite food theme, always a Shonen Knife favorite!
Naoko: The new album has various kinds of songs. My vision for every album is the same. It is to make people happy and entertain people by our albums. I don’t write about negative things but only positive ones. There are three songs about food this time. Songs about candy, ice cream cookie sandwiches, and lemons. Not only food songs but other songs that are written about fun items.
Why did you pick “Sweet Candy Power” as the title song?
Naoko: I love all the songs but people around me recommended that song as the title song
It seems like all the current members got to participate with Naru playing bass on “My Independent Country” and Ritsuko on “Never-Never Land,” is that so?
Naoko: Yes, it is. Atsuko is living in Los Angeles and Naru often plays the bass for our Japanese shows when Atsuko can’t attend. It’s interesting, and the listeners can enjoy the difference of each bassists’ characters.
It’s been great fun listening to your guitar playing grow over the years. You’re a punk band but you mix in more delicate guitar work going all the way back to “Insect Collector” on Yama No Attchan. Tell us about your approach to writing songs these days, do you normally start with a riff or a chord pattern?
Naoko: I normally start from lyrics and make melody lines of the main vocal. Riffs and chords come to me naturally after I write the melody line. I like to listen to 1970’s British hard rock. I’m inspired by guitar legends like Tony Iommi or Richie Blackmore.
Fans enjoy seeing you play your signature pink Fujigen guitar. Will you be bringing it on the European tour this spring and summer?
Naoko: I’ll use my silver Charvel guitar this time. It can make hard rock sounds with strong pickups. The color is a good match with our stage costumes.
I know you are sometimes called the Osaka Ramones, but you might also be billed as the Osaka Rolling Stones, as your songs really shine in a live setting. When you tour the U.S. you drive impressively long distances, how does the band stay engaged and energized on the road?
Naoko: I play tablet or smartphone games in our van. I wrote a song called “Match 3” for the new album. It is about a smartphone game.
You will be touring the U.K. in the second half of July. I know you are a tennis fan; will you be in England in time to catch any of Wimbledon?
Naoko: I won’t have any chance to go to Wimbledon this year, but I went to the tennis museum in Wimbledon six or seven years ago. I bought souvenirs there. I want to catch Wimbledon someday.
Your shows only seem to get better every year, and I believe I’ve read the band has no intention of retiring, is that the case?
Naoko: Even I don’t know how long I can continue the band. I just keep on rocking.
Shonen Knife is sure to be playing somewhere near you in the near future. Check them out for a guaranteed fun time.
Sweet Candy Power
Buy at Good Charamel Records