Music » Music Stories & Interviews

Melt Banana warps found sound for more than two decades of apocalyptic pop



Listen to Japan's Melt Banana. That's probably how the world will sound when it ends. The crash and chaos, the alarmed, screeching vocals, the mysterious sounds of unidentifiable origins – it's a rush for sonic thrillseekers willing to leap off a cliff and ricochet off jagged edges of hardcore, punk, pop, metal and noise, only to land on their feet running at a full clip toward the horizon. Those eerie recordings that crowd Melt Banana's canon (which spans 21 years since their 1994 debut, Speak Squeak Creak) curiously retrace the band's long history of warping the world around them.

"I often record sounds during tours," says guitarist Ichirou Agata. "When we toured with Mr. Bungle, my recorder broke and I borrowed a recorder from Mike Patton. He was very nice and I asked him and all other Bungle members to say 'Melt Banana' to record their voices. We put those great voice performances in a song called 'Area 877' on our album called Charlie [1998]. It was very a fun moment. And Bangkok sounded crazy and exciting."

These recordings pleasantly confuse and indulgently amplify the onslaught of Yako Onuki's righteous punk vocals, especially live, where her wild stage presence makes the songs most affecting. Although it's not her native tongue, Onuki writes lyrics in English because she feels it rhythmically pairs best with the music. She treats dictionaries the way Agata treats environments, paging through definitions for found sounds to discover words with intriguing meanings and pronunciations to use as lyrics.

If you take the time to peel back the noisy elements of Melt Banana, you'll find the lyrics are rich in imagery and just as manic and moody as the clattering atmosphere Agata creates for them. On Fetch's "Zero+," Onuki defies obstacles like a "lazy shadow" and "hazy channels" and ends the song powerfully in charge: "Every piece of small lies I pick up/Every piece of cracked facts I throw out/Every piece of land/It's in twilight/It is my land/It is my real."

In 2013, Melt Banana released Fetch, the band's first album as a two-piece (and first release in six years). It didn't change the duo's sound or songwriting process, the band says, so much as it challenged them to restage their live act. They've been touring as a duo since 2012, relying on synthesizers to back them up instead of a full band. Most recently, they released Return of 13 Hedgehogs (MxBx Singles 2000-2009), a compilation drawn from the back half of their catalog that also includes covers like the Damned's "Love Song" and Devo's "Uncontrollable Urge." "We often listen to Devo, especially during the tour," Onuki says. "Good for driving."

There's also new music in the works, but it's too soon to set a date for a release. "It is still really an early stage and actually it is the most fun part for me when I write music," Agata says. "We already have many ideas, but I think we still need more time to build ideas into songs."

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