It’s shoulder-to-shoulder in the small common area of Shea Stadium. Three Japanese girls clad with little to nothing but taped Xs over their breasts and feathered panties approach the stage. Three men back them dressed in white togas. They’re the rhythm section. The lot of them are sporting Australian Aboriginal dot paint. Elliot Hasiuk, the drummer, cues the pre-recorded hyper electro-pop on a device I imagine is an iPod. Yuka, Qrea, and Nabe Nippple begin to shout what seems to be English into their microphones over the groove and clatter of Hasiuk, Joseph Lamont (bass), and Jimmy Masheder (guitar). Whether people are moshing or jumping is indistinguishable, as are the lyrics. What’s happening is simply energy. People are moving, transferring sweat. The casual spectator does not thrive in this crowd. There is no room for modesty here.
This is Trippple Nippples, an outfit from Tokyo, and, with ease, they’re capitalizing on an opportunity to fuck your brain just because they know how. The emphasis is not necessarily on the music but on the spectacle. Forget Fashion Week when you have Trippple Nippples in town. Their style is not one you should be able to pinpoint, nor is their sound. It’s simply a product of the 21st century. And, if they can find a local prop like Roberta’s pizza to emphasize that, they’re going to certainly use it and spit it back in your face. If you weren’t soaking wet following their performance, simply, you weren’t there. And if you were bored, well, “Sucks to your ass-mar!”
Following the show, I open a door adjacent to the stage at Shea in an effort to locate a quiet space to conduct an interview with the sextet after the final performance of their first American tour. Two dudes with bleeding eyes look at me awkwardly through the thick smoke of a fresh bong hit.
“Is it cool if we do an interview in here?” I ask. They look reluctant to even answer.
“Who’s it for?”
You would think after a almost a month on the East Coast, Trippple Nippples would be a little tired – and after five performances in the area, a little over the whole New York thing. But no. Even after playing higher profile gigs with Devo at proper venues with capacities capping the 1K mark, they’re pretty jazzed about an interview in a makeshift loft that may very well kill them if it collapses – seven people in an indoor, plywood treehouse the size of a child’s closet is a pretty scary interview setting. They scamper up the stairs that look as sturdy as the rest of the constructions at Shea and dive into a single-size mattress as if it were a pool. Despite the lack of space, they look comfortable nestled together. It’s pretty fucking precious. Tokyo’s not known for living space, but I guess there are a decent amount of ramshackle loft spaces in Tokyo, or Trip Nips are all just full-grown kids.
Without having a full-length album, Tripple Nippples have managed to make quite a name for themselves since their beginnings back in 2006 with a handful of singles, videos and a live reputation Pharrell Williams is willing to bet on.
“We’re bullshit artists. We want to create a fantasy world.” said Masheder prior to their performance. With faint paint still dotting their faces and sweat fresh from the surprise, late-night performance by Anamanaguchi, the Trip Nips gang chatted with me about playing to members of the AARP, ancestor worship, a Mexican witchdoctor, and recording in the midst of the 3/11 disaster.
How was your first tour of america going from supporting Devo at bigger venues to finishing off at a DIY space?
Yuka: The first tour in America was fantastic Mr. Fox. The Devo show was kind of interesting because a lot of the audiences were over 60 years old, basically. The grandpas were really enjoying it, and some grandmas were really pissed because you don’t wan’t to see your husband going crazy with young Japanese chicks. One mother was shielding her daughters ears when we were swearing at the audience. It was a really great experience over all. The Devo guys were really nice. They’re really brilliant guys and we had a really good time with them. We miss them a lot.
How did you get up with Devo for your first American tour?
Jimmy: We found out that America really loves us, and, of course, we really love America. And Mark from Devo was interested in what we were doing so he asked us if we would support them for their east coast dates.
Do you prefer a more intimate reception like the one you received here at Shea Stadium?
Yuka: I think that audience should not matter so much. Our job is to entertain people and we just want people to have a good time at our show. It's our job and what we want. Just that.
Yuka, when did you meet Nabe and Qrea?
Yuka: We are basically all cousins. The three of us grew up together in the countryside of Japan, and our dream was to become Destiny’s Child. But it didn't turn out that way…
Where does the inspiration for your costumes and performances lie?
Jimmy: We’re just trying to pay respect to our ancestors.
Joseph: And the Pacific. Literally we are–we’re not kidding. That’s where it comes from. There’s a little bit of Africa and a little bit of China, but it’s mainly Oceania through a Japanese filtration system.
Jimmy/Joseph: Ancestor worship…(giggle)
Yuka: I think we didn’t worship our ancestors enough before, but we realized our ancestors made us be here. So we thought we should respect our ancestors – Jo's ancestors used to chop up enemies heads and make human Xmas trees–he is Scottish. We may not do that, but once upon a time we were all warriors! It's in the blood, cant you feel it every now and then?
I have to ask you about incorporating Roberta’s pizza into your performance. What was the thought behind it?
Yuka: We wanted to include THE American thing in our performance, cause we are in America. We tried hot dogs, hamburgers, chips and popcorns, whatever we can get around the corner of the venue. Time, place, occasion it is!
I read somewhere that you’re coming together had something to do with a witchdoctor?
Qrea: One day we were at the beach in Mexico and saw a witchdoctor. We followed him and found his house, which was filled with voodoo dolls. There was a guy sitting in the house with a broken leg getting voodoo magic done to it. He looked like he was in harsh pain. The very next day, we saw him running at the beach. I'm serious. We went back to the witchdoctor's house and started talking to him. He said we are fated to be together, and said something about music. And here we are now. We don’t exactly know who he was, but we will go back there again soon. We have to.
He assumed you were a musical group?
Yuka: He didn’t know we were a band, but he knew where the future was. It's a voodoo thing.
So how did you start creating music as Trippple Nippples?
Jimmy: We had two cassette boom boxes and we would just multi-track record onto one and record onto the other, and make instruments from wood and stones.
More organic instruments?
Jimmy: We’re trying to get rid of our electricity again, back to where it began.
I’m interested in the influences on your musical style because i don’t want to bastardize your sound. What’s the source of your sound?
Joseph: Go to the Oceania exhibit at the Met and have a walk around.
Tell me about how you got up with Pharrell Williams?
Jimmy: Our witchdoctors who are really looking after us always lead us to whatever is meant to happen. That's how we caught up with Pharrell and also Devo.
Kind of like destiny?
Jimmy: Yeah. From the future they tell us. They know what’s going to happen, and they just make it as they see fit. Pharrell is a really big fan of Japanese culture and he wanted to support it after the quake and make this film. And they wanted to see the cool stuff happening in Tokyo, and of course he came to see us because we’re like the funnest thing. Yeah, it just happened.
I heard you're planning on recording with him?
Yuka: We’ve been talking to him back and fourth. I guess it’s going to happen sometime this year, but we never know. That should be in our witchdoctor's list though.
Should we expect an LP in 2012 or 2013?
Yuka: Yes! In 2012.
Joseph: 2012 it’s going to happen, finally.
Yuka: Wait, we live in the future, so it's actually 4012, not 2012.
Will there be any association with the winter solstice of 2012?
Joseph: I hope so.
Did 3/11 affect the way you approach and perform music? In what ways?
Yuka: Yeah. I think since 3/11 happened our music got a lot faster and harder. I guess it’s because you always think tomorrow will be promised, but not really because shit happens and you never really know what’s going to happen. You really have to live life to make the most of it. You deserve it; it's the only life you get. I think we didn’t really think that way at that time, but I guess we got the vibe of the whole thing and naturally our music got a lot faster which is kind of killing me (giggles)!
What is the process of recording a song like “LSD” or “Masaka”?
Jimmy: Actually, LSD was recorded while [3/11] was happening.
Yuka: We are really a hardworking band, so we went to the rehearsal studio a couple of days after the quake –that was when the radiation news was everywhere . We were like “let's fucking do this!” as always, but nobody was at the studio practicing – even nobody was in the city! It was weird, all the water was gone from the store so I remember I was so thirsty while rehearsing.
Jimmy: ”LSD” was done literally that week–at the end of that week. I think it was a positive influence, actually. I think it made everybody in the scene realize what was going on and it got rid of all the fluff.
I have to ask: what do psychedelics have to do with your spirituality and your music? You do have a song called “LSD”.
Joseph: Nothing, that’s a separate thing. The only spiritual hippie we got is Nabe Nippple. She ran away to India and just returned to the group last year. We are so happy she is back.
Last thing. Yuka, during the last song you were chanting “usa, usa, usa.” then you held up your middle finger and said something. i was wondering what that was?
Yuka: I think I was saying something like “Don't be a fucking wuss.” You have this moment in your hand, right now, in your face. It's fine to go crazy ‘cause this moment is gonna go in both good ways and bad ways. You have to make most of the moments you have. So I wanted the audience to come on the stage – share the time we have together. That's the basic idea of our live show anyway. I don't remember holding up my middle finger. Hmmm, I wonder why?
Photos by Eric Luc.