Have you ever tried Drugs in Japan? Well I have and I must say they are quite good.
The band based here in Toronto is a consistent punk powerhouse building classically inspired heavy garage-punk music for fans in today’s music scene. The trio, consisting of PO (drums/lead vocals), Aaron (guitar/vocals) and Tobias (bass) formed in the summer of 2010 as many bands do, through friends and good times. While Aaron said he didn’t specifically remember the meeting of minds Tobias disagreed with PO’s “through friends” tale saying “We met at a party and you guys were on shrooms.” I had to admit that it was the better of the two stories.
When I sat down with the band at their rehearsal space I had to ask one question for certain. Were there drugs done in Japan? Drummer, PO, explained that the name originated from a list of band names he kept and that Drugs in Japan specifically came from a conversation with some friends who were going to teach in Japan. They were hoping to do some drugs while in the country and PO responded to the idea by simply saying “You don’t wanna try drugs in japan”. So once he formed the band with Aaron and Tobias the name just seemed fitting.
While the band kids about being influenced by simply what’s easiest to play and 90’s dance music they are definitely influenced by punk bands like MC5, Dead Kennedys and the Stooges. However, they add something unique to the formula left to them by classic punk rock. The band has a particular danceability to their music as well as consistency that makes their music diverse without sounding like a bunch of completely different bands in one. Their music is definitely something you could hear spinning at local venues such as Tattoo Rock Parlour and Dance Cave. DIJ’s music has a legitimacy about it and when you sit down to talk to the band you can hear in their music, as well as speech, that they have a wealth of experience guiding their music.
When talking about the band’s sound I mentioned that even though they were older they still had a lot of angst mixed into their music. The band explained that at first they experimented but, naturally gravitated to the heavier side of the music spectrum. “It just felt natural,” said PO. The band admits jokingly that even though they are in their 30s they are “immature”. Before beginning the band, PO was on his way to being a session percussionist and was trained as a jazz percussionist. His experience in that realm of the music industry had an impact on him. It allowed him to develop and maintain the angst-driven mentality necessary to create punk music. This attitude was in response to many artists who he had to work with who he felt made emotionally dry singer/songwriter music. There are bands in the scene whose anger seems contrived in their music but specifically for Drugs in Japan the anger remains visceral.
During the interview the band and I discussed the Toronto music scene. Being in the industry for a while the band had a flurry of information for me that surprised my preconceptions. They explained how the scene in Toronto seems to rotate around electronica and electropop. They motioned that this trend may come out of the accessibility of playing a synthesizer rather than a drum kit or conventional instruments. For more traditional bands, DIJ feels it may be harder to build a career in Toronto. DIJ believes that the problem lies in the cost of being a band in a big city. The band explains that it is harder to foster a scene in Toronto because it is expensive to practice, record and buy equipment so playing music quickly turns into a job.
The band continued saying there is a need to foster a scene specifically in Toronto but a lot of the good music that comes out seems to be from the outlying cities. The band admits that sometimes playing in Toronto can have you being glossed over by the media. It’s easier to get recognized in some of the outlying cities rather than the mecca Toronto. This, to DIJ, is because the fan base gets diluted by how many events are going on in a single weekend. There’s a lot of music but you can’t go to every show. So for bands in Toronto, and in general, it is simply hard to get people out to your show specifically.
The punk scene, in specific, is hard to come by in Toronto said the band. “We need all-ages shows” Aaron says. The band expresses a need for young kids to be able to expose themselves to music making them able to explore and experiment with the music going on specifically in Toronto. I agree with the band that Toronto has lost a lot of good venues and that the all ages shows among independent music are few and far between.
While the band does not have “rockstar dreams” they have high hopes for the future. With a spot at NXNE (The Detour Bar Saturday July 16th @2am) on the horizon the band is looking to play more shows outside of Toronto and is working on new songs for an upcoming EP. However, the band is in no hurry to rush a release. PO explains “There are three types of bands; bands that spend more money than they make, bands that make a little bit of money and bands that make a shit load of money.” Currently, for DIJ, it’s just about getting from tier one to tier two. The band even let me listen to some of their new tunes and there is some great things coming from this local Toronto band. So while you may not be doing drugs in Japan you can listen to Drugs in Japan.
Do it Yourself. Do it Together.
Drugs in Japan Suggest: No breakup, The oooh Baby gimme mores, Most people, Jean is Dead, Sky of Sound, Coppleganger, Still Authors, Group_Inou