Interview in Wonder with The GIRL
Legendary indie rocker Aiha Higurashi’s back in New York City for the first time since her seminal band Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her toured the United States more than a decade ago. You can catch her newest band, The Girl, performing with Uhnellys at The Trash Bar on May 31 and The Bowery Electric on June 1. Their album, Lost in wonder, is available on vinyl and MP3 through 6Tunes Records.
Higurashi’s been a busy musician since Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her broke up in 2002, having recorded solo and with the bands Loves and Ravolta. But The Girl, her new band with bassist Tabasa Hayashi and drummer Naoko Okamoto, is the first of these to make efforts in the States, where Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her had a cult fandom. “It’s been a while…I mean a long time!” Higurashi says via e-mail. “I just fell in love with Uhnellys at first sight, and I smell NY in them. I was planning to tour the US, so I just asked them if they felt like it. Then they said, ‘Oh yeah!’ We asked my ex-manager, Nabe [Mitsuaki Watanabe], who lives in NYC now.”
Higurashi is primarily into music from outside Japan, so she frequently dreamt of taking her bands overseas. “But it was never easy and hadn’t come true since Seagull,” she says. “But now my members are so eager to go abroad and play! And also I bet The Girl’s sound fits overseas, too. So it is now time to go! I guess.”
The Girl has a more dissonant, distorted sound than Higurashi’s previous music, inspired by her love for Sonic Youth. “But I like hip-hop, folk music, or any kinds of music,” Higurashi says. “I am greedy!”
Bassist Hayashi was a major inspiration for The Girl. When the bassist for Loves, Kentaro Nakao, fell ill three days before a show, Higurashi needed someone to fill in for him, fast. Loves’ drummer, Takahiko Akiyama, introduced her to Hayashi, a big fan of Higurashi, who learned to play the songs in 48 hours. “I fell in love with her attitude and her playing, so I asked her to do something with me,” Higurashi says. “Then she said, ‘Girls’ band!’” Higurashi liked the idea, because both she and Hayashi played in bands otherwise composed of men.
From there, Higurashi asked a friend to find a good-looking female drummer. Luckily, Okamoto’s skills matched her looks. While Hayashi shares musical tastes with Higurashi, Okamoto is inspired by different music and helps elevate The Girl’s chemistry.
The name “The Girl” is a play on “gari gari,” a derogatory Japanese term for “skinny,” alluding to the thinness of the band’s members. “And I liked the simple name, even though it is difficult to Google!” Higurashi says.
Compared to the virtuosity of Loves’ musicians, The Girl is a return to Higurashi’s punk roots. “The reason why I like Guitar Wolf, etc., is that they are so energetic and they don’t even notice people are moved by their action and passion in each show,” Higurashi explains. “I don’t ask for more technique, but for the band itself’s energy. Of course we practice, but not for being technical—not for training—but for getting closer to each other and creating unbelievable harmony and chemistry.”
Lost in wonder has the distinction of being sold in vinyl and MP3 formats, but not CD, harkening back to Higurashi’s youth, when she scoured the record shops in Tokyo for vinyl every day. “In the 90s, there were so many fabulous bands in the US and England,” she explains. “So I learned so much from vinyl. I like the smell, shape, and of course the sound! I even made Seagull’s 10-inch and singles as vinyl. So I went to see the record factory in LA to know how people make vinyl. That is why I decided The Girl’s format should be vinyl!”
Higurashi is also hard at work on a new album for The Girl and an acoustic solo album.
Regarding the NYC shows, “I feel excited, and a li’l bit nervous,” Higurashi says. “But I believe NY people like our music!”
By Victoria Goldenberg