Article in Japanese Magazine “Fukuoka Now”, February 2011
Sinnocular – Gaijin Rock
There’s more than just volcanoes rocking Kumamoto
Text by Hugh McCafferty
Photos by Yuichiro Hirakawa and Nick Szasz
On an average night in a Fukuoka live house, it’s not common to see many foreigners in the crowd, let alone on the bill. You do get the odd member here and there – but a band composed entirely of gaikokujin? Surely not? Enter Sinnocular. The Kumamoto-based outfit have been playing all over Kyushu for over a year now and their anthemic brand of alt-rock is starting to attract attention both in Japan and overseas. Fukuoka Now caught up with the four-piece before a recent gig at Beat Station in Yakuin.
First thing’s first: gaijin credentials. Drummer/producer Edwin Huits hails from the Netherlands and has been involved in the professional music industry since his first gig as a session musician at the tender age of 14. Front man Anthony Coronado is a native of San Antonio, Texas, who first took to musical tinkering as a teenager, when he was left at home with plenty of free time, recovering from a major operation. Bassist Lander Sims comes from Montana in the States and, in true punk-rock fashion, had never even picked up a bass before joining the band last year (happily, though, you’d never guess it). Finally, New Yorker Walter Scarborough plays 7-string guitar and, after honing his skills in a number of jazz and rock bands over the years, is more than capable of unleashing some truly epic solos.
Although they all came here initially to teach English, they don’t like to discuss their day jobs. Walter elaborates: “We all came to Japan for different reasons, we all do different things on the side, but the one thing that we have in common is that we do the band. This is how I like to present myself – I play in this band and I’m really proud of what I do. So we try not to let our personal day jobs or activities enter into that.”
His reticence on the subject betrays the quiet intensity and sharp focus that drives the band. And, so far, their efforts have paid off well: an EP released, a full-length album due shortly, regular gigs, an online distribution deal and air-play in Japan, the States and Europe. Not bad for just over a year’s work.
What’s it like, then, for a group of Westerners attempting to navigate the scene in Japan? According to Walter, “the biggest thing is that expectations are different. In America, I would never have to go a pre-show meeting with the technical staff or bow to the sound guy or politely request that he raise the level on my monitor. So it really changes things.” “A good way to say it,” Lander adds offers, “would be, with the language barrier and everything, you have to constantly hit the ground running. Whatever happens, you have to think ‘OK, just go with it.’”
Of course, the band’s foreignness has its advantages too, according to the bassist. “Wherever we go, people are like ‘kakkoii, something new!’” “They want to hear what we sound like,” Anthony agrees and, with a self-effacing grin, adds “even if we don’t sound great on the night.”
As far as Edwin is concerned, their cultural and musical diversity gives Sinnocular a distinct edge on the competition. “One of the things that the owner of our distribution label said was that they liked us because we don’t sound Dutch, we don’t sound American – they couldn’t put us in a pigeonhole. So, they liked the fact that we sound completely different from anyone else and I think that’s an advantage we have here over Japanese bands.”
He’s certainly not wrong in his assessment of their sound. Anthony’s moody tenor brings to mind British indie-rockers Doves, while the rest of the band deliver songs that span a wide spectrum from atmospheric post-punk to ballsy stadium rock. On their debut EP, they veer from Elbow-esque, radio-friendly prog to snarling art rock (à la A Perfect Circle) to snappy, Police-indebted new wave in the space of about 25 minutes. Importantly, though, they establish and maintain their own unique sound throughout, despite the eclecticism on display.
On stage, all four members adopt wildly different, but complimentary, roles. Anthony is the sensitive, no-nonsense frontman. Lander is the light-hearted foil on bass, who reaches out to and engages the crowd. Walter is the self-assured lead guitarist, whose joyous fret-work is reflected in his various, ecstatic “guitar-solo faces” (worth the admission price alone – John Frusciante watch out). Finally, Edwin on drums is the rhythmic powerhouse that drives everything forwards.
Although it makes for great tunes, the band’s wide range of musical approaches and influences can have its downsides – as illustrated when they make long car journeys together. “We have to take turns playing music because we all listen to different things,” reveals Walter, who personally has a soft spot for a divisive combo of Megadeth and “really girly” J-pop.
Time on the road has certainly led to a few scrapes, although not necessarily always for Sinnocular. “There was one weird situation that didn’t really concern us but involved a different foreign band that we were meant to play with, Four Minutes Til Midnight,” begins Edwin. “We watched them get arrested in front of us,” picks up Walter, looking like he’s still slightly shocked. “We don’t know exactly why. We were really excited to play with them because they were a big band. We don’t know what they did, but we watched their car get searched, we watched them get taken into a van and I assume strip-searched.” To helpfully evoke a more vivid scene, Anthony adds that he definitely saw police officers donning gloves. “And then they were all put in a car and taken away. We haven’t heard from them since.” Scary stuff, but at the end of the day, Sinnocular still got to play the gig, so it wasn’t all bad news.
Beyond avoiding trouble on the road, the band have been putting together a solid body of recorded material. Their self-titled EP is available on iTunes and they are currently busy with the final recording sessions for their debut album, due in the early spring.
At the end of the day, though, regardless of how much hard work they put in, can a band so completely outside of the mainstream really hope to make it in Japan? On hearing this question, Walter straightens up and that look of quiet confidence and resolve returns. “When you get down to it, I think it’s very difficult to be a foreign band in Japan because it’s really the untreated path. People don’t really do it – but we do it. Sometimes it’s tough and I wonder ‘is this the end?’ but here we are now and we’re always moving forward. I think it’s a really good thing how far we’ve come and I’m just so excited to see what will come next.”
Original article available at: http://www.fukuoka-now.com/articles/show/4536
Press Release October 2010
SINNOCULAR JOINS DISTRIBUTIONLABEL
International Japanese band Sinnocular is pleased to announce their partnership with Netherlands based DistributionLabel to help facilitate the worldwide release of their groundbreaking self-titled EP. Thanks to help from DistributionLabel, their EP is now available throughout major online music retail outlets throughout the world including iTunes, Amazon, and many more.
Sinnocular is a four member band based in Kumamoto, Japan that is pushing the boundaries of high-octane rock both in Japan and abroad. The band’s self-titled EP has a wide variety of songs that range from heartfelt ballads about often unexplored subjects to furious no-nonsense rock that takes no prisoners. Sinnocular has put a new twist on the word international by being the world’s first Japanese high-octane rock band that has no actual Japanese members. Founded in July 2009, the band was the result of three Americans crossing paths with a Dutchman in Kumamoto City, Japan. The result is a truly unique blend from the best that American, Dutch and Japanese music has to offer.
For an up to date listing of Sinnocular’s latest concert dates, please see www.sinnocular.com
For more information, please contact:
401 Chelsea Izumi
Kumamoto City, Japan 862-0941
Press Release January 2010
SINNOCULAR TO RELEASE SELF TITLED EP IN JANUARY 2010
The new up and coming international band Sinnocular is proud to announce that their debut EP will be available to the world in January 2010. The band’s self-titled EP is a dazzling display from what may be one of the world’s most versatile and truly international bands. The songs on the EP range from heartfelt ballads about often unexplored subjects to furious no-nonsense rock that takes no prisoners.
Sinnocular is putting a new twist on the word international by being the world’s first Japanese band that has no actual Japanese members. Founded in July 2009, the band was the result of three Americans crossing paths with a Dutchman in Kumamoto City, Japan. The result is a truly unique blend from the best that American, Dutch and Japanese music has to offer.
Though Sinnocular has already played concerts in November, there are many more shows scheduled soon. The band plans on having an EP release concert in early January 2010 for their Japanese and international fans alike.
For more information, please contact:Sinnocular
401 Chelsea Izumi
Izumi 2-6-25 Kumamoto City, Japan 862-0941 email@example.com http://www.sinnocular.com (+81) (0)90 – 6 773 4731 (Edwin Huits for phone calls in: English, Nederlands, Deutsch & 日本語)
Radio Interview for Unique FM (Sunday January 10, 2010)
Newspaper article about Sinnocular’s bass player Lander Sims (Kumanichi, Friday January 22, 2010)
A special thanks to Mr. Inoue and Kumanichi newspaper for their dedicated work.