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Friday, Oct. 1, 2010

All-grrrl DJ collective touts a twee life


By MAHO KAWABE
Special to The Japan Times

Shibuya is not a pretty place. In fact, Tokyo's youth mecca can look downright grimy at times. But as with most eyesores, there are pockets of beauty and Sumire Taya owns one of them.

News photo
Club rules: Sumire Taya hopes to deconstruct the myth of the glamorous DJ and encourages all young women to try their hands at the decks. MAHO KAWABE PHOTO

Taya has an accessories store called Violet and Claire on the third floor of the Noa Shibuya building, and her shop acts as a de facto base for Twee Grrrls Club, a six-woman DJ collective.

"I got bored with male DJs," says Taya. "I don't like them because they're a bit full of themselves. It's hard for me to connect with them."

Taya, who is 25, first started DJing in high school. But after graduating, she set out to create her own DJ night after being inspired in London by the all-female DJ group She Set. Taya recruited five friends to join her own all-female group, selecting Moe, Yuppa, Methyl, Satomi and Sakura because of their comparable tastes in music. While the music is similar, Taya says all the women in their mid to late 20s are different. Some are new to DJing, some have more than eight years of experience.

Above all though, the DJs have got to keep things twee.

The term "twee" is used to refer to a genre of indie pop that is essentially "not macho." Twee is commonly associated with bands such as The Sundays and Belle & Sebastian. (Incidentally, the use of "grrrls" is a nod to the extremely aggressive riot grrrl feminist punk movement from the mid-1990s.)

Taya says twee things are cute and small, and cites U.S. record label K Records as being her inspiration for it. Recently, she touts The Pains of Being Pure at Heart as the act that most defines the aesthetic.

"It was a very small music scene that not many people knew about," says Taya. "The music has a crappy guitar sound, not very high scales and it didn't sound very professional. But that's why I like it."

Besides just liking the music, Taya said she wanted to bring the culture to Japan. She claims to have a modest following for her nights and sells between 400 to 500 copies of the twee-related zine she produces every three months.

Taya also stresses that she wants to deconstruct the myth of what a DJ is by taking away the glamorous aesthetic. Her sets are simple. No scratching, no Diplo-style air horns, just back-to-back mixing. Her image stands in contrast to female DJs such as the blue-haired, electro-spinning Mademoiselle Yulia.

By not emphasizing fashion and appearances, Taya says she is returning the focus to the songs: "A good DJ should concentrate on the music.

"I don't want to be like her (Mademoiselle Yulia). I want girls to see me DJ and think that it isn't as hard as they might think, that anyone can do it," she says.

Accessibility is key to Taya's future ambitions. Twee Grrrls Club is releasing an indie-pop compilation CD titled "Grrrls Talk" this month featuring tracks by The Drums, Dum Dum Girls and Lovely Eggs. Taya also hopes to introduce more people to the genre through the events she hosts like the ones that inspired her in London: cheap, small and cozy. In a word, "twee."

"Grrrls Talk" will on sale from Oct. 6 in stores. Twee Grrrls Club play various clubs. For more information on dates and venues, visit tweegrrrlsclub.blogspot.com.

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