July 18 2014 12:00 AM

Tokyo trio discuss their changing sound and new album


This week's CityBeat features an overview of the experimental, shape-shifting Tokyo trio Boris, whose new album Noise was released last month via Sargent House. The group's sound is a bit difficult to pinpoint, since all of their albums sound pretty radically different from one another. But the one (almost) constant in their sound is heavy rock ‘n' roll-in various shapes and forms.

I conducted an email interview with the band's guitarist Takeshi and drummer Atsuo through a translator, in which the group discussed their changing sound, different versions of their albums, and the departure of fourth member Michio Kurihara. ---

When you began working on Noise, did you have a particular direction you wanted to pursue musically?

Takeshi: We didn't have a particular intention to make an album like this or like that. As a trio, we just did what we did, simply and naturally, without gimmicks, and this album was born.

New Album and Attention Please were pretty radically different from your past work. What motivated you to go back to a louder rock sound?

Atsuo: Actually we have never ceased to play loud rock. Even when we released the two albums you mentioned, we were as loud as before. If you come to our shows, you can see that we are basically the same Boris all the time that our ways of things basically stay the same. I think we now have a simpler structure, as a trio rather than a quartet, though.

Takeshi: With our previous album, New Album, we tried to deconstruct the "frame," or restriction, that we felt we had around our music by being a band. Right after its release in 2011, Japan had the Triple Disaster of March 11th; the great earthquake, the massive tsunami and the multiple nuclear reactor meltdowns. It shook me to the core; what values I had, and how I viewed life and death. There is something huge and powerful you just have to give in. Now you must decide by yourself, independently and individually, by your own values, and survive. When Michio Kurihara, who was part of us for ages, who shares the joys and sorrows of being in this band, unfortunately had to leave because of his family matters, we again found the three of us, as it were a long time ago. And we thought we would go simple and natural this time, like a rock 'n' roll band.

What's the significance of the title Noise

Takeshi: We saw the album was to be full of noisy texture while working on it. We had decided it would be called Noise. When it got finished we found it a lot less noisy but anyway we left the title as it was. So we have this quite musical oriented album called Noise.

Atsuo: Noise for somebody might be our music. Our music could be noise for somebody else.

In the past, you've released more than one version of albums like Pink or Smile. What's the motivation behind this?

Takeshi: We just want every listener to have fun, but we have done a lot, like making slightly different two albums under the same title respectively for Japan and overseas, or putting a different artwork for each. Maybe we are too willing to satisfy others' wishes. 

Atsuo: A different format, CD or vinyl, means a different vision you have in your mind. We are just pursuing those different visions.

How democratic is your songwriting process? Does everyone have a part in it?

Atsuo: The "democratic process", in my opinion, can limit our creativity. Actually until we made the previous album, New Album, we tried to cope with the limitation as a group of people. If everyone has a part in songwriting process-well, it depends. In some cases we have to actively remove each other's ego. Or we'd just let it go and find a song completed.

Takeshi: Well, sometimes the drums get the jamming going, sometimes the guitar. Each of us just agree on several fundamental points, such as the mood of the song, how fast or slow, etc, but we never know how it would turn out when we start. The song itself decides.

You've released a lot of albums in the last 16 years. Do you release everything you record?

Takeshi: Except when we are on tour, we are usually jamming in the studio with a recorder switched on. So there are tons of unreleased stuff. Some are almost completed, others just small bits of ideas.

Boris plays at The Casbah on Thursday, July 24.

Email jefft@sdcitybeat.com or follow him at @1000TimesJeff


See all events on Friday, Oct 21