Kemuri are a ska-punk band hailing from Tokyo, Japan. Their debut full length, Little Playmates, on Roadrunner, combines manic high energy, rad horns, positive, primarily-English lyrics, and great songwriting to create ultra-catchy songs with just enough punk bite intact. When I got the chance to speak with Fumio Ito (vocalist) late last year, I jumped at it. Somehow we got in touch through strange time zone differences and chatted for a while.
Can you tell me a little about the history of the band?
We started the band two years ago in… 1995? Then right after that we recorded six songs, then I moved to Los Angeles by myself. I was promoting the band there, passing out over two hundred demo tapes. We got a record deal and we joined a few compilations there. Then I came back and we signed to Roadrunner.
How would you compare the Japanese and U.S. scenes?
Recently, ska-punk is getting really popular [in Japan] and we have more bands comparing to… when we started, there was no one playing ska-punk, so now we have more and more bands playing the ska-punk style, with or without horns. So many different styles. It’s going to be more popular and we’re going to have more bands playing ska-punk.
Are the shows much different?
Shows? It’s interesting — the same type of people come. Teenagers, fifty percent boys, fifty percent girls. Young kids come to the shows. It’s interesting, though. It’s not so rough. People dive, but it doesn’t get rough like a hardcore show. It’s a great scene I think.
How did you hook up with Less Than Jake for that limited free split seven inch?
That was a long time ago. They came to L.A., and Less Than Jake was one of my favorite bands, so I went to go see them, and I just became friends with them. I gave them Kemuri’s demo tape and they liked it. The next day I met them again and they were talking about doing a split seven inch, so I was like “hey, let’s do it.” They’re really cool.
How did it come to be that Mike Park [Skankin’ Pickle, Bruce Lee Band, Asian Man Records] plays tenor sax on your record?
I sent a demo to Dill — he was still working for Dill back then — and he was planning on doing Misfits of Ska II and he just wrote a letter to me and we decided to join Misfits of Ska II. The same thing — they [Skankin’ Pickle] came to L.A., I went to see them, I met Mike Park there and we just became really good friends.
You’ve been over here for a U.S. tour… How’d the tour go?
Very well. We played at ten different places in California and people seemed to enjoy us very much. We had so much fun.
Is Kemuri coming back to the States anytime soon?
Yes. We’re planning to start touring hopefully in January, and we’re just going to tour for a long time, three, four months maybe?
Is Roadrunner planning any videos?
Yeah, have you seen it?
I don’t have MTV.
It’s for the song “Working Days.” It’s got a lot of Japanese scenery. It’s pretty interesting. It’s fun making videos.
Your lyrics are pretty positive, which I like. Could you explain PMA?
PMA is Positive Mental Attitude. I believe PMA helps to make your dreams come true. I know so many people saying “I have a dream but it’s not going to come true.” So it’s a message to that kind of people that with PMA if you believe in yourself anything is possible. You can make anything happen.
Sounds like the ’80s posi-hardcore outlook…
So what’s next?
We just finished touring yesterday in Japan. That was a great tour. It’s really hard to tour Japan — it’s such a small country, about the size of California. When you tour Japan it’s like one day you play San Francisco, the next day you play in Sacramento, and the next day you play in San Jose. It’s kind of like that.
We’re going to start composing for the next album. Then we’re going to tour the U.S. and Europe, so we’ll pretty much be away from home this year.
Don’t miss them when they finally make it down to this neck of the woods in April with the Ska Against Racism tour; check the calendar for the stop nearest you. And checking out Little Playmates is very recommended.