JPNS GRLS are a Canadian indierock band touring through Europe at the moment. indieberlin caught up with them after their Berlin concert last week.
indieberlin: In the UK, bring us back to that moment you were playing for such a crowd!
JG: The first thing we did was play the Hit the Deck Festival in Bristol, then the second day, in Nottingham. Both shows were really packed and incredibly well received and nobody knew who we were and it didn’t matter because they were into it immediately.
JG: I guess some had been listening to us on Spotify a lot and we won over the folks that didn’t know us already and satisfied the people who did.
indieberlin: Cool man. When we had a pizza the other night, you mentioned you’re into some artists … Father John Misty, Frank Occean… Who else are you listening to?
JG: Local natives, Jack White, the Strokes… Our drummer is really into Tame Impala.
indieberlin: Japanese girls. Where’s the name from?
JG: Really simple story. When we were thinking of a band name, Oliver (Guitar) showed us a band that he liked called Mass of the Fermenting Drugs which was a female punk group from Japan. They had a cool video and played with fervour and energy and nobody doesn’t like these Japanese Girls so as a tribute to them we called our name that. A lot of people think it’s from Weezer but it’s not.
indieberlin: Did Weezer have a song called Japanese Girls?
JG: No the opening line of El Ccorcho is ‘Goddam you half-japanese girls you do it to me every time.’ It’s one of my favourites but not what we’re named after.
indieberlin: Reassuring. Good to clarify that. Who’s your audience and how do you stand out amongst the pool of other indie pop bands?
JG: Audience? Mostly people around the age of 18 to 25 with maybe some emotional issues of some kind who want to hum and dance away their troubles and I think we stand out by having a first class live show… Connecting with people every night.
indieberlin: Did you have any concerns before touring Europe?
JG: Not really. We played tours that were not well attended and in a way, unsuccessful and pretty much one of the only things you go up against playing a new place is that there is a demand for you to be there. That was my only fear and our first four shows of the tour were 200, 300, 400 people, 100, 100 again.
indieberlin: What’s the bands musical background?
JG: Graham got drum lessons. Oliver was pretty well self taught… Oliver and I have a similar idea when it came to making music which was if I learned a theory, I won’t be trying to work against it… So he and I both put chords that wouldn’t fit somewhere to make it our own and that’s why I never went to music school… I felt like it would change the naive style in which I play…
indieberlin: And this says something to those who can’t afford music school, doesn’t it?
JG: Play a broken guitar if you don’t have the money for something good… Like Jack White played with a plank of wood, a nail and a string with another nail and he took one of his coke bottles because he has an addiction to drinking Coca Cola, as do I, and played slide guitar on it with a piece of wood pretty much.
indieberlin: How do you keep your music relevant and gage with your audience?
JG: For this next record I’ve been writing a lot about … Rather than just autobiographically talking about relationships of mine… There have been just so many crazy injustices in the world that have been making my head spin so I write about things that are relevant to me lyrically… So as far as music goes… I don’t know. We just write what we want and people dig it so far.
indieberlin: What’s been your biggest challenge as an indie garage band?
JG: Biggest challenge… Uhm. Being heard amongst the other bands. And the fact that rock n roll is not one of the biggest musical genres of right now. I think that EDM and Pop and Folk are a lot more popular right now… So that’s another thing that’s difficult is that we could be playing a headlining show somewhere with a really big rock ’n roll band with tons of likes on… whatever, and basically he’ll have to end a show by 11pm before the DJ comes on and well.. That’s what makes the money. so, yeah my answer would be that like, kinda no matter how big you get until you’re fucking Foo Fighters there is going to be a DJ playing.
indieberlin: Foo Fighters will be in Berlin soon!
JG: Yes yes. August something… End of summer. I mentioned them because I walked by their poster! Funny that you called me on that.
indieberlin: If you weren’t doing music, what would you be doing?
JG: I also cowrite and I’m an actor but if I couldn’t be doing that… Something creative. Whatever that is. I wish I could draw, be an animator. That would be a cool job. i love Toy Story and to be able to do computer animation be really cool. But really though, a bikini inspector… While testing fast food.
indieberlin: What influence has growing up in Vancouver had on your music?
JG: Vancouver made it difficult for us to be musicians and maybe that’s the reason why we stuck with it.
indieberlin: Whose been your favourite act to tour with?
JG: Opening for Dry the River in Amsterdam. Those were the nicest fucking guys.
indieberlin: If you had to form a band with three other musicians who would the band consist of ?
JG: I’m singing for this band? They fucked up. Yoko Ono, Steve Vai… No… Napolean Bonaparte, Jesus Christ, and the dog from Taco Bell commercials… No, I’m going more than three members. I want to be managed from Paul Bearer’s from WWE … It’s me, Vince McMann, Lois Griffin from Family Guy and Jimmy Hendrix. Lois on backup vocals.
indieberlin: Last question. How important is the voice memo to your creative process?
JG: That’s such a cool question. For me it’s everything. I in fact love the way it makes your little live demos sound as well. It’s so… Pure saying and I don’t know, every time I listen to the voice memo of something I’m writing it gets me really excited to keep writing that song… I know for Oliver, he’s so influenced by other artists and he’ll hear a sound and be like “I gotta channel something like that from the next album to the JPNSGRLS’ so he probably records sounds as well and shows them to me and stuff. The voice memo is integral to what I do.
Interview by Duncan Anderson for indieberlin