I think I first heard of the Japanese indie band Tenniscoats from a friend in Glasgow. We like DIY, experimental music in Scotland and have made a name for ourselves for such concepts with bands such as Mogwai, BMX Bandits, The Pastels, Melody Dog, Teenage Fanclub and The Vaselines. Glasgow has always embodied a curious punk spirit and welcomed bands from overseas to come and join the party.
One such band was Tenniscoats, a duo consisting of mononymous singer Saya and Takashi Ueno, who have riveted audiences around the world for about two decades now. Breaking through roughly at the same time as other celebrated Japanese indie bands, including Nagisa ni te and Tori Kudo’s much loved experimental project Maher Shalal Hash Baz, Tenniscoats speak to those who wallow in heartbreak, cuteness and the simplicity and beauty of nature. It comes as no surprise then that Tenniscoats have collaborated over the years, on many occasions, with Glasgow bands and musicians, including The Pastels on the album Two Sunsets and Norman Blake from Teenage Fanclub on the album How Many Glasgow. It is a city that is clearly close to their creative hearts.
With a pretty big following in Europe and the Americas, the band spend a significant amount of time overseas, touring and making records with an ever evolving and growing merry band of musicians. Tenniscoats will play two shows on May 5 at Higashi-Nagasaki’s Mia Mia to celebrate the store’s third anniversary. I spoke with Saya as she sat in her parents’ house in Yamagata Prefecture.
What can we expect from your shows at Mia Mia?
Mia Mia is such a fun place. Many people go there and it’s so friendly. It’s in the daytime, so it should be different as most live shows are put on in the evening. Usually, we change the sets, but it really depends on our preparation.
Tenniscoats have a long and profound connection with Glasgow. Can you tell us more about that?
Do you know the other Japanese band, Maher Shalal Hash Baz? We love them. We found them in a magazine and were really excited. In Japan, they are such a great and unique band. This was before 2000. I interviewed Kudo, the main guy in Maher Shalal Hash Baz. He moved to London after that and he met Stephen from The Pastels. Stephen came across Maher Shalal Hash Baz in a record store in London and contacted Kudo. Stephen organized the first concert with Maher Shalal Hash Baz and The Pastels — Kudo’s first show in Glasgow. He then invited us because we were also fans of The Pastels.
The Pastels and Maher Shalal Hash Baz are both so great but very different. They are somehow connected, that was the most important thing. They both have a DIY style. Other bands from Glasgow also have this style. When we went there, we met many musicians even on one street. Glasgow is very modern and cool, and we met many musicians there just walking around and Stephen started talking to them. He would tell us they’re from such and such a band. It’s so beautiful there. I was surprised by the colors and the sky and people’s hearts were so warm and beautiful.
What inspires you to keep writing songs and working with other musicians?
I like every creative form. Of course, we are influenced by music, movies and live shows, but the most attractive thing for me is punk art. I like things that are different and that I haven’t seen before. For example, someone is standing on the stage, and nothing happens, but somehow people can’t stop watching it. It’s really a live show.
I’m excited by the environment. If I see photos from my past, I remember this was a great moment. I can remember the lyrics and why they were written at that particular time. We all have connections with past moments.
Your song Baibaba Bimba has been played close to 1 million times on YouTube. Why do you think people resonate with it so much?
Actually, the song was made accidentally. I also had forgotten the song at one point. In Sweden, we played that song sometimes and Andreas Berthling from the band Tape remembered it and asked us to record it.
Can you tell us more about your love of collaborations?
If we make music or spend time together in a studio with musicians that we like, we enjoy it when they have a big heart. And we begin to like each other more, and respect not only the music but also their minds.
Actually, we are currently working with Markus Acher from The Notwist. We made a band together called Spirit Fest and we released some records in Germany. We have our third or fourth album to be released later this year. Also, we went to Sweden last year and we collaborated with Tape again.
Has Japanese indie music changed over the last few years?
It’s difficult to say. I know some parts of the music scene, but there might be unknown things, like people just performing in their rooms. They can just upload music and don’t need to be part of any scene. There is so much unique music in the world, especially those just doing things alone. It’s very exciting.
We also started three years ago on a streaming site with our friends’ music. I hope to make new scenes through the streaming site because we can know about each other’s news music. The site is called Minna Kikeru. I run this site with my friends. You can find indie music from around the world and stream or buy music there.
Tickets for Tenniscoats at Mia Mia can be purchased via the coffee shop’s online store.