If you’ve never heard of the Japanese space alien comic-punk band Peelander-Z, a quick research would show that they hail from the Planet Peelander and have landed on Earth to rock our planet with their crazy music and fun party of a live show. They landed in Chicago on May 1st, 2014 to put on a hell of a memorable stage show and spread their message of fun, dancing, and food to Midwest America.
Though Peelander-Z was formed in New York by it’s members, the group are all Japanese and bring a lot of Japanese style theatrics with their show, including tons of crowd interaction, over-the-top style, comedy, and abounding energy, making for an experience most concert-goers won’t forget. For fans of Japanese pop culture, you’ll find a lot of familiar elements in Peelander-Z and what they do.
To find out a little bit more in-depth about Peelander-Z and what they do, I got to catch up with their leader and frontman Peelander-Yellow for an interview before the show, which unexpectedly turned into multiple hours of conversation about lots of things ranging from their touring experiences to the philosophy behind Japanese idols.
Here’s the interview.
Paraphrased, mostly, from Yellow’s English/Alien/Japanese.
SH: How has this current tour been for you guys? Are you having some fun shows this time around?
PY: Yeah! We’re having lots of fun this tour, we’ve had good crowds this time! This tour is pretty short, since it’s only March 7th til May 17th, but we’re happy with it. Unfortunately our bassist Peelander Purple is in Japan right now and couldn’t join us, so we’re just performing as a 3-piece band right now and we have a replacement drummer filling in, but it works well.
SH: So how long have you lived in the US now?
PY: I can’t say for sure, but we formed Peelander Z in 1998, and I had been here for a while before that going to school and training.
SH: What made you move here from Japan?
PY: I moved here to go to art school and become an artist, I felt the US would be a better place for it, so I moved here and my family stayed in Japan.
SH: What are some of your main influences for what you do?
PY: In Japan I really grew up with lots of idol music, anime and sentai, pro wrestling, comic books and super heroes, those kinds of things, they all inspire me. So much of what we do in Peelander-Z is based on performance, I’d say probably 90% performance and 10% actual music, that’s why the wrestling, sentai, and anime is a big part of my influence. I want to be an idol myself but I’m too ugly, so I can’t be! I’d really like to be a music producer for idols someday.
SH: Me too! I’d love to work in music production for the industry. From talking with you on Twitter, I know you still closely follow some Japanese idol groups while living here, including my personal favorite, Idoling!!! but are there other idols you follow or really enjoy?
PY: Oh yeah! I’ve always followed idols since the 70s and I still love them just as much now. Some of my favorites are Idoling!!! (#1) and I love Moritaka Chisato, Sakura Gakuin, Vanilla Beans, The Possible, Kikkawa Yuu, Morning Musume, and many others.
SH: Wow, we love all the same idol artists, this is crazy! (This question literally became a 3 hour conversation about idols throughout history, even down to the philosophies and business behind idols…I’ll spare you all that conversation)
SH: Back to the questions about Peelander, what are some of your favorite bands that you’ve played shows with?
PY: Touring is kind of a weird thing, since our music is largely inspired by simple punk music, yet we usually don’t resonate much with the punk audience, especially since we’re more about the show and theatrics more than the music. I just love the bands that have a similar theatrical quality and really gets the crowd involved and has fun shows, like Anamanaguchi, Electric Eel Shock, The Octopus Project, Koo Koo Kanga Roo, etc.
SH: What other artists would you really like to play shows with in the future?
PY: More than anything, Idoling!!! and Moritaka Chisato. My dream is to be on stage with Moritaka-san drumming and singing while I’m playing guitar!
SH: I know you’ve played in Japan a few times before. Would you say you like playing for Japanese audiences or American audiences more?
PY: We’re really not very famous in Japan, but we’d like to play more shows there. The audiences there are different from the US and aren’t as open to participate and have fun at shows like they do here. I’d actually like to maybe even try something like a show for kids in Japan, whether its live shows or on TV. Something like Yo Gabba Gabba where it’s really fun and crazy but you can also learn something.
SH: What do you like to do when you’re not touring or busy?
PY: I spend most of my off time bass fishing or keeping up with idols!
SH: Me too! I’m excited to see you guys again tonight, thanks for talking with us and good luck with the rest of the tour.
After the interview, Peelander-Z got ready to take the stage about 20 minutes later, and here’s some fun highlights from the show.
During the sound check, Pee-Yellow got the crowd riled up by letting everyone play his guitar and talking to everyone for a few minutes:
Soon after the sound check, the whole band returned to the stage with their full costumes on, ready to rock. They even grabbed some fans to come up on stage with them right away to start the party:
They started playing a few of their most popular songs and got a ton of crowd participation, especially on “Mad Tiger” where the whole crowd started a chant and dance for the song. They passed out little personal drums for the audience members to bang along with. The whole thing started to feel like a South American carnivale and they even started a limbo contest in the middle of the audience. Here’s a video of the fun we had for “Mad Tiger”:
Peelander-Pink showed off some of her intense melodica skills by playing “Mary Had A Little Lamb” with complete silence from the crowd and the rest of the band (and yes, that’s Fabio in the background. The venue was playing some bizarre, random videos during the whole show):
Yellow did some crazy antics where he jumped into the audience and had the crowd holding him up while he sang into the mic, which the crowd was also holding. Here’s some before and after the jump pictures:
Here’s another video for one of them performing their fun song “Ninja High School”:
Later in the set, they did “human bowling” where Yellow and Green ran through the crowd, jumped off the backs of two crowd volunteers, and flew into a set of bowling pins on the stage. Here’s a few pictures of the mayhem:
They finished off the show by performing a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” with Peelander-Pink singing in a cutesy “idol” type voice, and the results were hilarious. Here’s a video of that song:
After the show, the band met with lots of fans and everyone had a good time before dispersing for the night. The club was packed from wall to wall for the show and everyone had a great time thanks to the Peelanders, and I suggest trying to check them out if they’re coming by your hometown soon. They still have a few more dates left on the current tour, so here’s the lineup for the rest of the tour:
- May 5th – Columbus, OH
- May 6th – Columbus, OH
- May 7th – Pittsburgh, PA
- May 8th – Richmond, VA
- May 9th – Baltimore, MD
- May 14th – Providence, RI
- May 15th – Boston, MA
- May 16th – New Haven, CT
- May 17th – Brooklyn, NY
Thanks again to Peelander-Yellow and Peelander-Pink for being great hosts for the night, putting on a great show, and taking the time to talk with us!