Grim_Noir Presents “ORESKABAND 101 – An Otaku Primer”

Oreskaband 2015

Recent Album: CARRY ON (EP)

Group: Oreskaband

Members: Ikasu, a.k.a. iCas (Vocals & Guitar); Tomi (Bass & Vocals); Tae-san (Drums); Hayami, a.k.a. Leader (Trombone); Saki (Trumpet); Morico (Tenor Saxophone & Keyboards)

Producer: Oreskaband

Executive Producer: Yuichiro Eto

Published by Victor Music Arts, Inc.

Reviewed by Grim_Noir

“Brassy” isn’t just how Oreskaband would describe half of their instrumentation.

At some point in almost every Oreskaband concert (usually during their cover of Tequila), several members of the band will jump off the stage and continue playing their instruments while they walk all the way to the back of the venue before returning to the stage for solos. It is an audacious and exhausting move, when you think about it. They need to survive the simple jump off the stage without twisting an ankle, perform like a marching band for ten minutes, take whatever their rowdy audience has to dish out and get back up on the stage in time for their planned musical solo performances. The gals in Oreskband make all of this look simple. Then, again, chutzpah is the default mode of this Japanese ska/reggae/punk/rock band.

Oreskaband - Stage Right

Looking back on their past, the ladies of Oreskaband have always had a confidence in their abilities that borders on the supernatural. Plenty of people form garage bands in middle school, but how many change the band’s direction to ska because they have a friend who plays trombone and wants to join the band? Even less bands get so good at ska that they’re playing club gigs less than a year later – in 2003. And if every other band in the clubs is selling CDs at their performances, then they should get part-time jobs and self-publish an album, too, right? So, when Sony A & R guys came nosing around in 2005, it was only natural to the girls that the reps should pay for their CDs. Sony Music Japan didn’t care about not getting a free CD and signed Oreskaband in 2006.

Sony would book Oreskaband to an early afternoon slot at the Fuji Rock Festival, less than a month after their major label debut dropped nation-wide. The girls weren’t phased at all: They went out and, by sheer word of mouth, drew a crowd of over a thousand people.

Oreskaband signing

A timeline of hits has followed, including anime themes for Naruto (ED 14 – Pinocchio), Bleach (ED 11 – Tsumasaki) and Naruto: Shippuden (ED 13 – Jitensha). Each groove gets better than the last; a carpet bombing of earworms continuing up to their current EP, Carry On and it’s title song’s old-school-ska ode to positivity.

Even their name, Oreskaband, is ballsy: It means “My/Our Ska Band” in Japanese. However, “ore” is a VERY masculine way of saying “my’ or “our.” It is the type of possessive pronoun samurai, sumo, and male construction workers would use. The ladies deliberately chose it to ensure they wouldn’t be thought of as “just a girl act.” Doubling down, they often perform in boy’s school uniforms or men’s baseball jerseys.

“Even for us, who are disobedient, someday the moment of understanding, the true meaning of existence will come! Let’s continue the silly story”

from Kimi Stripe by Oreskaband

The summer after they graduated high school, they performed at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, and decided to pick-up a few gigs in clubs on Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip, just because it was on the way home. While still mastering English, they topped that off by signing up for the entire 46-city 2008 Warped Tour.

Such a ballistic rise to rock’n’roll fame might sound like a movie to you. It certainly did to Orphan Black and Queer As Folk director Chris Grismer and High School Musical producers Bill Borden and Barry Rosenbush. Oreskaband’s movie debut, Lock and Roll Forever came out in 2009. It has great visual flair and a really weak script. The ladies are not actors and the results fall somewhere between The Beatles in Hard Day’s Night and the Village People in Can’t Stop The Music. What DOES shine through, however, is the musicianship, personalities and raw enthusiasm of the band.

Oreskaband - Stage Left

And that is the key to their live performances, as well. Oreskaband is usually listed as about the 11th greatest ska band in the world, but they are listed as the 6th best live act; beating out many bands that are more well-known in the U.S.. They make it look easy. They make it feel fun. And they leave everything on the stage. Every single night. For almost thirteen years.

“Who are we seeing?” asked my wife, the Clockwork_Hamma, as we stood in line to get good seats for the Oreskaband concert at Otakon 2015, this past summer. I had been playing their music for eight years, but my wife still didn’t quite “get” it. My anxiety about her enjoying the show disappeared almost immediately: Within 5 minutes, the entire 10,000 seat auditorium was dancing to a skanked-up version of the “Star-Spangled Banner.” Within 10 minutes, my wife grabbed my arm and screamed over the crowd, “I don’t care what we have planned next; we’re getting the band’s autographs after the show!” Within 15 minutes, my wife and Oreskaband’s trombonist, Hayami, were exchanging “you-da-man” finger-pointing.

Therein lies the true power of Oreskaband: They take the mildly curious and turn them into rabid fans with every performance. The band holds that mission as a very serious duty. Someday, they will conquer the world using this method. Don’t bother telling them the odds of reaching every human being on Earth. Like two certain gals from Milwaukee, Oreskaband has never heard the word “impossible.”

Carry On EP cover



* GRIM_NOIR wrote this piece: A) as an extension of his anime & manga geekiness, B) an homage to the departed PhonoGraphics podcast, C) as a favor to his friend, indie comics writer/artist David Yurkovich. Choose any two.

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