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Friday, May 26, 2011

Gellers find a new balance with 'Guatemala'


Special to The Japan Times

The story behind Gellers seems like the stuff of made-for-TV movies. A bunch of kids meet one another on the outskirts of the city, and eventually form a band. They stick together and, despite a few setbacks, release an album and tour the country as adults. There are no scripts to be found here, though.

News photo
Hardly an aside: Gellers is made up of (from left to right): Kenichi Kawasoe, Shingo Shinmachi, Shugo Tokumaru, Yukihisa Tashiro and Hinata Ookubo.

"Everyone has known each other since childhood," says Kenichi Kawasoe, vocalist and guitarist for Gellers.

Kawasoe says the Tokyo quintet formed over a shared interest in punk group The Blue Hearts during junior high school. It took a few years for the final lineup to shake out, but today Gellers features burgeoning indie star Shugo Tokumaru. The band recently released "Guatemala," a mini-album, and will play shows in three of Japan's biggest cities in late May and early June.

Many simply know Gellers as the band Tokumaru plays guitar in, but to brush them aside as just a side project would be unfair. The band released their self-titled debut in 2007, and it's radically different from any of Tokumaru's giddy pop recordings. That full-length jumped from long, messy psych freakouts such as the Kawasoe-helmed screamer "9 Teeth Picabia" to laid-back grooves such as "M" and "Pink Hawaiian Moon." The band also landed a slot on that year's Fuji Rock Festival lineup.

After that first album though, Gellers' output stalled. Tokumaru focused on his solo work and, save for a few early live dates in 2008, the band went into a hiatus. However, in 2010 they began playing shows again, leading to their second appearance at Fuji Rock with everyone in tow. "Guatemala," which was released in April, features three new songs and four older numbers recorded live. It marks a move away from the dual violent/easy-going style of Gellers' debut in favor of something in the middle. The title track sounds heavily influenced by the indie-pop of Tokumaru's "Port Entropy," but with more guitar-provided muscle. It's the group's most accessible track to date.

"Until now, our sound was loud music or songs with random quiet," says Kawasoe, adding that the result would just alternate between being awkward or comfortable. "Finally, I understand the balance. I hope to make pop songs that a lot of people can get to know."

Drummer Shingo Shinmachi offers up another reason why these childhood pals have gotten a little more focused.

"The answer is age," he says.

Gellers play Shindaita Fever in Tokyo on May 27 (7 p.m.; ¥2,000; [03] 6304-7899); Sonset Strip in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, on June 4 (7 p.m.; ¥2,500; [052] 939-3222); Namba Bears in Osaka on June 5 (7:30 p.m.; ¥2,500; [06] 6649-5564); Shimokitazawa Three in Tokyo on July 1 (7 p.m.; ¥2,000; [03] 5486-8804); and WWW with Black Lips and Vivian Girls in Shibuya, Tokyo, on July 2 (7 p.m.; ¥4,500; [06] 6649-5564). For more information, visit www.gellers.info.


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