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Fuji Rock’s Must Hear Acts / Q&A with HOLYCHILD

By 9 min read

Fuji Rock is the mega-concert of the summer, but with so many bands it’s difficult to sort out what acts to watch. There are tons of big name international headliners like The Foo Fighters and Muse, but also lots of up-and-coming bands like Royal Blood and lots of homegrown talent like One OK Rock and [Alexandros]. Where do you start?

This should help. Here’s a small list of some of the best acts from the festival. Can’t attend this year? You can hold your own virtual Fuji Rock by watching the videos below.

Whether you’re able to attend Fuji Rock, or will live vicariously via YouTube clips, here are some of Fuji Rock’s must hear artists.

Friday, 15:50 – Red Marquee

If you miss the raw rock of ages past, give Drenge a listen. This UK duo the UK will bash your head in with brutal sludge rock. They may even do it while wearing baby doll dresses as they did in this clip from the 2014 Reading Festival.

Joey Bada$$
Friday, 16:20 – White Stage

There’s more than just rock at Fuji this year. Brooklyn MC Joey Bada$$ is the festival’s top’s is the festival’s top Hip Hop artist, and it’s easy to see why. His commanding stage presence and fiery performances make him stand out from the pack of young rappers.

DJ Tasaka
Friday, 23:00 and 3:30 – Red Marquee

This year’s Fuji Rock is an all-day and all-night affair with Jazz and EDM playing to the wee hours of the morning. DJ Tasaka is a veteran of Tokyo’s old school dance music scene. Here’s a set he played back in 2002 at Saitama Super Arena for the Wire Festival.

Hiromi The Trio Project feat. Anthony Jackson & Simon Philips
Saturday, 13:20 – Green Stage

Hiromi Uehara is an astonishingly talented jazz pianist. She has formed a trio with a rhythm section of the world renowned Anthony Jackson and Simon Phillips. Watch Hiromi’s ferocious playing in the below clip. Pay special attention at 8:10 when a curious moth lands on the keys but doesn’t slow down Hiromi one bit.

Bloodest Saxophone featuring Jewel Brown
Saturday, 23:45 – Crystal Palace Tent

When Bloodest Saxophone and jazz legend Jewel Brown met, it was a match made in heaven. Jewel was once a part of Louis Armstrong’s ensemble and made a natural fit for the long-standing Japanese jazz group. Hear her magical voice fill the room of live house 440 in the clip below.

Benjamin Booker
Sunday, 19:20 – Field of Heaven

Benjamin Booker was born and raised in Virginia, but his sound is pure New Orleans. Booker currently resides in the Big Easy, and his combo of blues, soul, and rock makes him one of America’s most promising young artists. Enjoy his raspy vocals and savage guitar playing in this clip from the Conan show.

Johnny Marr
Sunday, 15:20 – Green Stage

You may not know Johnny Marr’s name, but you definitely know his guitar. Marr propelled The Smiths to legendary status with his complex play style and haunting riffs. After stints playing with Electronic, Modest Mouse, and The Cribs, Marr has finally dived headfirst into a solo career. He plays, and even sings, his old Smiths hits while still producing exciting new tracks. Here is an admirable rendition of, “How Soon is Now,” sans Morrissey.

Sunday, 19:20 – Green Stage

During their heyday in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Ride were one of the most influential bands in the shoegaze movement. The band split in 1996, but recently reunited for several festival performances. If hearing My Bloody Valentine’s “Loveless” during taxi scene in Lost in Translation inspired your move to Japan, you must check out Ride. Here’s a clip of post-reunion Ride that shows they haven’t lost a step.

Sunday, 17:50 – White Stage

Japanese math-rock gurus toe will be playing on Sunday. Their shows are precise but energetic; each song starts subdued but crescendos into an epic finish. Here’s a live performance of one of their most popular tracks.

the telephones
Sunday, 13:20 – Green Stage

Illness forced Welsh act Catfish and the Bottlemen to cancel their current tour and the telephones have stepped in as a last minute replacement. This is the band’s second time at Fuji Rock; you can expect an insane, high energy, neo-wave show. In the below clip the telephones brought out their own cheerleaders, so who knows what will happen this Sunday.

Saturday, 13:10 – Red Marquee

HOLYCHILD are the originators of a new form of music, known as “brat pop.” Their debut album The Shape of Brat Pop to Come simultaneously mocks and embraces pop culture’s tropes and obsessions. The upbeat melodies are laced with creepy lyrics, and the band’s visual output is just as thought-provoking.

You’ve probably heard HOLYCHILD’s track “Running Behind” when it was in the Apple Watch commercial. We met up with Liz and Louie of HOLYCHILD for a Q&A about Fuji Rock, Murakami, and karaoke!

How did you come up with the name brat pop?

Liz: One person wrote about us on an obscure blog and called us “brat pop” and when we heard that, we were like, “Finally!” Because it’s hard to define yourself and find your genre, especially with what we were doing.

What is brat pop?

Liz: Brat pop is essentially social commentary. It deals with the role of gender expectations and our culture’s obsession with money, fame, beauty, celebrity, and age. It’s trying to blur the line between experimental and accessible.

How did the Apple Watch commercial come about?

Liz: Apple came to us and said they wanted to use their song but before they Okayed it, we had a meeting with them. In the meeting they asked us, “Why do you use provocative images? Why are you talking about these things? What are you trying to say with your music?” This is what we find interesting. We think consumerism is fascinating. And they were like, “Cool, that’s great. We want to use your song.” When we had that conversation and realized we were on the same page about art, I was really inspired and honored that they chose our song.

How did the Apple Watch commercial affect your career?

Louie: Obviously it was an amazing boost to our momentum and really nice to have in our portfolio. It’s a really nice step closer to where we want to be. It was pretty pivotal.

Liz: It was really nice to have a step forward to a larger platform to say the things that we want to talk about.

What do you think about playing Fuji Rock?

Louie: It seems too good to be true. The music industry is so up and down, I kind of don’t believe we’re going to be playing yet. I’ll believe I’m playing Fuji Rock when I’m on stage.

Liz: It’s crazy that we’re in Japan! I feel so lucky that we’re here right now. It’s such a crazy, surreal experience. A year ago we were just playing our very first music festival.

What aspects of Japanese culture are you interested in?

Liz: When I was a kid, I loved Sailor Moon. I watched it every Saturday morning. It’s so good. Now, I love all the Harajuku fashion and imagery. I love Takashi Murakami. He’s such a strong artist; I’m really inspired by him. The pop art of Japan is really pushing boundaries. It’s absurd and weird, but at the same time it’s in really pretty colors.

Louie: We majored in international affairs in college and I studied Japanese history and culture. It’s just so nice to be here and experience it in real life.

Liz: I’m so inspired; I think I want to move here. I love the minimal 90’s architecture. It’s so beautiful.
Do you listen to any Japanese bands?

Liz: I really want to start listening to Babymetal more. They seem really interesting.

Who are you looking forward to seeing at Fuji Rock?

Liz: I’m really looking forward to discovering Japanese bands and Aqualung. I used to be obsessed with them and they’re playing on the same stage as us. When I saw them on the lineup I was like, “What, this is amazing!”

Louie: I’m down to see Muse. I haven’t seen them in a while and I was a big Muse fan back in the day. The Foo Fighters would also be really fun. I loved their first album.

What artists inspire you?

Liz: Buke and Gase, Lost in the Trees, Fiona Apple, TV on the Radio, Radiohead.

Louie: David Longstreth, Thelonious Monk, and Picasso. The director of Birdman Alejandro González Iñárritu is amazing.

Liz: Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Sylvia Plath. I love authors; I do a lot of reading.

What’s next for the band? Will it stay “brat pop?”

Liz: We’re going to do what we want. I’m not scared of being trapped in what we did before. I like the idea of having a one album cycle, like Bowie-style, where everything you have in that cycle is a very concise, thing. But then going away, writing, recording, coming out like, “New album cycle, new world!”

Louie: I feel as long as we’re as we’re making art together it will continue being accessible, but with experimental, left-of-center strains. So even if it’s not what “brat pop” it will be some variation or iteration of that.

Liz: Maybe it will be brat pop. I really love just being open to whatever happens.

What’s your go to Karaoke song?

Liz: Mine is “All the Things She Said,” by Tatu, but it’s really hard to sing!

Louie: Mine had been, “No Diggity,” but I feel it’s overplayed now. I need to be mix it up. Maybe I’ll do “Too Close,” by Next.

What should fans expect from your show?

Liz: A party!

Louie: A high energy party. It’s a little more punk rock than the recordings, but that’s the vibe of our new three-piece lineup.

Liz: It’s really nice to do shows now that people know the album and are singing along with us. It feels like a really honest connection.

Fuji Rock takes place Friday, July 24th to Sunday, July 26th at Naeba Ski Resort, Yuzawa-cho, Niigata Prefecture. For more information visit http://fujirock-eng.com

Learn more about HOLYCHILD at http://holychildmusic.com. Interview conducted via Hostess Entertainment.


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