London based rock quintet, Japanese Voyeurs are currently on tour and about to release their debut album ‘Yolk’, I caught up with lead singer Romily Alice and chatted about touring, recording and guitar pedals.
You rescheduled your Dublin date because of recording commitments but you were recording with GGGarth Richardson (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against The Machine), who is a bit of a legend, what was it like working with Garth?
‘Yeah, he’s amazing, we didn’t think that we would get to work with someone like that, then when he heard the demos, he like it so he came over, saw a show, met us and we were all really nervous about it until we met him. Once we met him, he’s such a good man, funny and warm, you completely forget that he’s done all this amazing stuff and you just become really friendly….’
This is your first album so it’s amazing to have the opportunity to work with him..
‘For sure, it’s like the stuff of dreams’.
There are a lot of people who are putting you into the grunge category even though you have quite a unique sound yourselves. You’ve also been getting a lot of praise for your Nine Inch Nails cover of ‘Closer’. How do you differentiate your sound from what everyone considers grunge to have sounded like twenty years ago ?
‘To be honest, we don’t really think about it, we just make the music we want to make and let other people classify it. We’re not really interested in trying to put ourselves in a box, we just, sort of. get on with it and it’s only really doing interviews and press that we ever think about it. We don;’t sit around think about what genre of music we want to make. We just trust people on making their own minds up on whether they like it or not I guess’.
You guys have been together since 2007, you’ve given yourselves time to develop before your album, ‘Yolk’. How did it come about?
‘We spent a lot of time, we rented a rehearsal room by the month so we had a whole summer in this room, day and night, just writing. That was when we first got together and we just wanted to spend time playing together, not necessarily with an objective of writing songs just getting used to each others musical style and getting tight and stuff.
With Yolk, we obviously hoped that one day we would make and album but it was kind of an accumulation of all the songs that we’d written over the time that we’d been together, so some are really quite recent and some are some of the first song that we wrote together, just reworked in a different way.’
As a rock band, do all the band have similar influences or you do listen to completely different stuff?
‘We all listen to other stuff, we all have different tastes when it comes to things that actually influence us, I think though it mostly rock stuff. In saying that though, growing up my Mum was a massive Bruce Springsteen fan, my Dad loved Dylan and even though that’s not really what I’m into now, that gave me a really strong idea of what a song was, irrespective of the genre. They’re an amazing grounding in terms of songwriting I think.’
People are always going to look at your vocals straight away and you’re always going to be compared to other female bands, just because your female. Do the constant comparisons piss you off?
(laughs) ‘I get it, it’s just the way it works. If it was a perfect world maybe I’d prefer if people didn’t do that all the time but it’s not hurting anyone. It’s a little bit frustrating sometimes. I don’t really get frustrated with it on a personal level but I think as a band it get frustrating when it’s the only thing people talk about. When there’s five people working and contributing equally and people dismiss it with one stroke talking about the vocals and not giving the other guys enough credit. That’s the thing that winds me up about it.‘
Your website currently has an image of a baby scan to promote ‘Yolk’. Who’s idea was that? It’s bloody brilliant!
‘Oh thank you! The whole concept of the album is, it’s called Yolk and it’s about birth and growth and the forming of something new so we just wanted to go with that from the artwork through to the title.’
You’re giving fans a free download of ‘Smother Me’ on your website. Do you think that’s something bands have to do now?
‘We all really love that track and when it comes to singles and stuff we don’t really make the decisions we let the label get on with it. We’re happy with all the songs so we let them get on and do their job. A song like ‘Smother Me’ is never really going to be a single so we wanted to give people the opportunity to see the other side of what we do.’
That leads nicely into my question about social media, you have to do it but how do you make sure that your band life and your own private ‘off duty’ life remain separate?
‘I think it’s really important, I’ve always thought it’s bullshit when people pretend they’re no multi faceted. Everyone has so many different aspects of their personality and that is an important thing, to keep your life and not be some kind of stereotype. I do think that social media can get a bit crazy and our attitude to it as a band is we want people to be as involved as possible, at gigs and shows, when we’re doing videos and people can come along. Other than that we keep to ourselves. I’m not into the whole Twitter thing and what you had for breakfast, all that kind of jazz.’
As a band what do you strive for? Are you happy being the band you are and playing or is there a certain level you would love to get to?
‘What we’ve always said is that we want to carry on making the music we want to make and not having to compromise and also be able to keep doing it. The challenge comes when you need to live, you need to eat, you need to pay rent, all that kind of stuff. If we could get to a stage where we could do both of those things then we’d be really really happy, just to have enough money to be able to keep making albums would be really fun.’
The last tour you did was The Rock Sound Exposure Tour with Dinosaur Pile Up and The Xcerts. This is your own headline tour now, do you get nervous about your own tour or do you love the buzz?
‘I think it can go either way. Obviously, it’s really amazing when you turn up and a bunch of people are there and they all know the words and you know that they’re all really excited. The thing is, its also always really fun when you’re playing to someone else’s crowd cos it’s a massive challenge, you feel nobody wants to see you and it’s quite fun trying to win people over. But also when we’ve done our own tours before, we’ve turned up and there’s like 20 people there and it’s really empty, if those 20 people love it and are really happy that you are there, then it doesn’t matter.’
You have you’re own brand of guitar pedal, Screaming Meat, how the hell did that happen?
(laughing) ‘I think a brand is quite overstating it a bit. It’s just me in my room trying to make guitar pedals. It started when we were in Canada, Garth assistant, Nigel and me were hanging out all the time cos we were up in the middle of nowhere. The boys had to go home, I was there for six weeks doing vocals and I’d always wanted to learn how to make pedals and he could do it so he taught me over the six weeks. I really enjoyed it so I thought I’d carry on.’
Now the Smash Hits question: What was the first poster you ever put on your wall?
‘Wow, it was probably… something like truly awful like the Spice Girls or something back in the day.’
What can we expect to see on May 22nd in Dublin ?
‘We get up on stage and try to play the best we can and make it so everyone has a good time I guess.’
Japanese Voyeurs play the Academy 2 on Sunday May 22, tickets are 13.50 from Ticketmaster.ie