Like many artists creating music over the past two years, Buffalo Daughter’s initial plan to release a new album has been derailed by the pandemic. Instead, the trio took a proactive approach to unexpected overtime.
âWe had an extra six months to work on our album,â Sugar Yoshinaga told the Japan Times from his home office, with several guitars visible in the background of the video chat and a pet bird chirping every now and then. âBesides having the chance to put the finishing touches on what we did, we recorded about two or three new songs. The songs we worked on before (The Pandemic) focused on our frustrations with the world, so with that extra recording time, we underscored our appreciation for music. “
The band’s gratitude for their artistry and the optimism that accompanies it gives an emotional boost to “We Are the Times”, Buffalo Daughter’s first new album in seven years. These late positive vibes, apparent on tracks like the opener “Music”, which refers to his forties, serve as an exception to the rest of the album, which Yoshinaga and his bandmates, Yumiko Ohno and Moog Yamamoto, use to address serious issues such as isolation (“Loop”, “AND [Densha]”) and climate change (” Global warming is killing us all “). Ohno and Yoshinaga say the frustration with these problems was present before the pandemic.
â(Climate change) is something that affects everyone in the world, and we’ve decided to be blunt about it. It could end up preventing our children from even living on the planet, âOhno says ofâ Global Warming Kills Us All, âa choppy and disorienting electronic number serving as an advanced single.
Ohno adds that Buffalo Daughter has avoided writing about personal experiences in favor of larger subjects since the group’s formation in 1993. The world. “
The group, however, is more often celebrated by their fans at home and abroad for their portrayal of rock, rather than for their specific political positions. Their style helped them land a contract with the Beastie Boys’ Grand Royal label in the early 1990s. It was then that Buffalo Daughter became the global ambassador for Japanese cool rock, floating in the same orbit as the Shibuya genre. -kei, a space in which the band has many connections – Ohno played bass and Yamamoto synthesizer on one of Cornelius’ last tours. (Yoshinaga once said that Buffalo Daughter’s sound doesn’t quite match that of Shibuya-kei.)
Either way, the group achieved a degree of overseas success which is rare for Japanese artists thanks to the Grand Royal deal and extensive overseas tours. At home, other successes have come in the form of collaborations with J-pop groups such as Ami Suzuki and contributing songs to video game soundtracks.
Buffalo Daughter took a three-year hiatus from âKonjac-tionâ in 2014 and started working on what would become âWe Are the Timesâ in 2017. It was a year later that the band found the inspiration to write the album’s centerpiece, “Global Warming is Killing Us All.”
âWe felt the heat in the summer of 2018 and we were like, ‘Oh wow, we’re in danger,’â says Yoshinaga. “It’s not something you think about in your head, it’s something you experience.”
While it is common for Western musicians to talk about environmental and social concerns, this is not the case here as artists largely avoid anything that could cause controversy. This is something that Ohno and Yoshinaga picked up on, and it makes âGlobal Warming Kills Us Allâ a particularly striking statement from a Japanese act.
While they believe that each artist should decide for themselves whether to speak out on such matters, Buffalo Daughter sees the value in shedding light on uncomfortable topics.
âI think it’s good to get people to talk about important topics, whether they agree or disagree,â says Yoshinaga. âIf I was a fan of an artist and there was a big problem that everyone was talking about (while my artist) was silent, I would notice it. But if the artist was really talking about it, I’d be happy to know if they cared. Maybe I’ll learn more about it on my own.
âWe don’t want to be activists per se, but we wanted to do something that could reach people through a daily activity like listening to music. Especially since it doesn’t feel like Japan is working to solve the problem, we wanted to do something.
Aside from âGlobal warming is killing us all,â however, most of âWe Are the Timesâ eschews specificity in favor of capturing the emotional boost of 21st century living. To this end, Buffalo Daughter remains as responsible for music as it is for politics. There are a lot of different styles on the album, with the band taking sounds associated with acid house and wrapping them around their signature rock sound.
Ohno says Yamamoto couldn’t really participate in the creation of this album due to illness, which prompted Buffalo Daughter to enlist the help of Takeru Okumura, a young electronic musician, to complete the recording. (He is credited as “computer” on the album notes.)
âSince they’re always the same members, it’s usually difficult to create something totally new,â Ohno explains. âTakeru helped us speed up the creative process on this album. We had great chemistry and it brought new meaning that we didn’t have.
Specifically, Okumura showed the band – built around guitars, drums, bass and synths – the power of computer production, which added a new dimension to songs such as “Times” and “Global Warming Kills Us All”.
âI kept thinking, ‘How does he do that !?’ Yoshinaga says of Okumura’s approach to music creation.
For a band that has been around for nearly three decades, whose fuzzy approach to rock can be seen popping up in a young generation of artists Like the Lausbub high school duo, Buffalo Daughter remains curious to explore new grounds. This also applies to the distribution process. Earlier this year, the group launched a Bandcamp page (although they admit they recorded it years ago, but had no idea what to use) where they released a rare EP only in Japan and one trio of new songs ahead of a live broadcast on July 8 – their first since the start of the pandemic.
Environmental activism and new distribution platforms aren’t the only things the group has learned, according to Yoshinaga. âBeing independent is the most important thing,â she says, adding that it’s the key to artistic freedom.
The other lesson for them?
âThe group is like family, and we have to appreciate and respect each other to keep things going,â Ohno said.
Buffalo Daughter’s new album “We Are the Times” is out now. For more information visit buffalodaughter.com.
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