The first thing you notice immediately about Kando Bando is that their lead singer is white. The second thing you notice is that he's singing Japanese. That's not something you come across very often in Japan, so I wanted to get the details. The following is an exclusive (and first ever) interview with Kando Bando, a talented group of guys you may very well find performing an anime theme song someday!
Shun: Guitar, Back Vocals
Taka: Bass, Back Vocals
How did you guys meet?
Steve: Well, us four besides Shiro, we played together for about 5 years in Tateyama. I first moved to Tateyama like 5 years ago, cuz [there] was like an open recording studio that I could borrow and use for free. I moved there in the beginning and you guys were like how old?
[They were teenagers. Between 13-16.]
Steve: We played for about four years as cover band pretty much, some originals but we did a lot of gigs at hotels. Taka and Naoto and me, and we had another guitar player at the time. Shun joined us like 3 years ago. At that time I was playing percussion and singing. Then about a year and a half ago we decided to ditch the cover band thing, try doing originals, and become a "real band." So we got Shiro to come down [and play drums]. Yeah, that's how we started. We've been living in Tateyama and doing our band stuff.
So when you decided to become a "real band" what kind of music were you being inspired by? Or rather what kinds of stuff were you covering before, maybe, is a good place to start.
Steve: We tried a lot of stuff in the beginning. Our first try was to go all out, like "Let's just rock!!" I think we were so excited to have a drummer and everything, so we went a little bit heavier in the beginning. Then we started slowly finding our sound and what is gonna work for us. Yeah, I dunno what we would describe it as. We didn't really have a sound, in the beginning, it was just sort of findings what we wanted to do. Everybody has different influences in this band so it's been kind of a journey trying to find what works.
What kinds of influences?
Taka: As bass? I like Flea from the Chili Peppers, Victor Wooten, Marcus Miller, but just to listen to, music that I like, I like Fall Out Boy, Panic at the Disco, those sorts of bands.
Shun: I wonder, what do I like? I'm pretty neutral when it comes to music tastes, but I mostly like '80s rock, anything '80s rocks with lots of guitar in it. I like guitarists like Paul Gilbert. Mostly the glory days of rock music; still kind of had a little hope in those days. Of course, in our band it doesn't really come out. We have a much more pop approach to anything. It's easier to listen to, in my opinion. More keyboard-centered, guitar as good back up...
Steve: Yeah we have a keyboardist, so that's been a big part of the journey, trying to figure out how to make that work in a cool way that still sounds like rock.
Shun: How to make the keyboard and the guitar not sound like they're fighting each other is the hardest part, I think.
Manager: Shiro likes AKB.
Manager: No (lol).
Shiro: I actually like metal. That's my natural tempo and playing pop is actually really interesting for me… It's a little slow for my like. But it's fun; I'm learning a lot of stuff and it's a whole new experience, being in a pop band.
Steve: What, are we a pop band? Everyone's saying we're a pop band.
Shiro: We...we are.
It strikes me as kind of pop, but with a funky groove.
Naoto: Ok me? I love all music, except rap. I can get along with most of them.
[?]: Today's a rap event, dude.
Naoto: Yes, it is... But...most music even in rock I can squeeze in keyboard when I play along with the songs. And a lot of recent songs have a lot of keyboard sounds—a little modern touch to it—but I can't really play rap.
Taka: That's fine, you don't have to!
Steve: I grew up on punk music. I was in punk bands as a teen, but getting older I've kind of changed; I like The Killers a lot, I like Coldplay. I like pretty much anything that kind of catches me off guard a little bit, that takes the music somewhere where I wasn't expecting.
Lots of our readers probably don't speak Japanese so I was wondering if you could maybe explain some of the messages in your songs, or where your lyrics are coming from.
[We start with "Eureka," which you may have listened to in the video above!]
Steve: "Eureka," that song is just about feeling good, you know? We actually wrote that song in English in the beginning and kinda translated it, but it's just about "he feels sad and I feel good," just kinda like that. But another song, I dunno, what's more of a "meaning" song?
[Brief discussion ensues.]
Track 2 on the CD you have [Note: Their latest promotional release is self-titled and came out in May of this year.] is "Ima no Himitsu." That's kind of one that we like to play a lot that we wrote recently. "Ima no Himitsu" means "The Secret of Now." Shiro and I were watching this documentary―what was it called?
Shiro: The Secret (lol)
Steve: The Secret. Have you seen it?
Steve: Well it talks about, to be happy live in the moment, live in the now. So we kinda tried to put that into a song that we felt captured the message that we took from the documentary. I think a lot of people have seen that [movie]. It's famous.
Another thing I kinda wanted to ask about is your personal backgrounds. You're a band in Japan singing often in Japanese, but you also speak English.
Steve: My parents moved to Japan as missionaries in the beginning, so until I was about 18 I lived in Shizuoka prefecture and got into my first bands there and started making music. I was home schooled and international schooled. I never really liked studying much.
So did you study Japanese? Or did you just learn it?
Well my parents tried. I have to hand it to them, they put me in—every Friday—[Japanese class]. But I think at that time I was kinda just [about having] fun with my classmates. Basically all the Japanese I understand is from interactions and friends. Haven't really studied.
Do you read?
Uhm, no. Not very well, no. I am definitely the worst at Japanese out of us five.
So have you lived in Japan your whole life?
Yeah, born [here]. Been to Texas just once. Shun was there, too. We went to go play at a show.
Is it similar situations for the rest of you guys?
Taka: Mm, kinda different.
[Shun and Shiro are brothers.]
Is it annoying to be in a band with your brother?
Shun: Not really. He's far behind; I don't have to look at him when he plays [drums]. (lol) I can fake it; it's all good.
Shiro: It doesn't really bother me at all.
Shun: If I were the younger brother there might have been problems, but since I'm the older once I think there are no problems.
Of course, we're half Japanese. We went to elementary school in Japan, so that's where we got our Japanese speaking from. And since then online courses studying English, which is where the English kind of slowly caught up and the Japanese [has been] going down at the same time. And they meet in this neutral in between area, so there's English and Japanese. That's where our kind of semi-interesting lyrics come from. They're a mix of English and Japanese. It's a little different, I guess, the way the words are lined up. Trying to figure out how people will react to it.
Naoto: Up until I was like maybe 11 or 10 years old, just kind of normal Japanese family life. After that I went to international school in Chiba where I met Taka. We were classmates for a while and then that's where I started playing piano. And yeah, kind of just picked up from there. Let's start a band!
So you all went to international schools?
Shiro: We went to public school.
[Learned English online and through movies.]
Shun: We picked up music pretty young, so right when you start music, in my mind I was like, "I'm not gonna study ever again. I don't need to be smart, I have music," but it always starts like that and later you realize and you're like, "Oh I should have studied." But there's no problem… we have people who look over the lyrics once in a while. Steve checks the English and he writes most of the English in the songs.
Taka: I was studying Japanese and English kind of simultaneously and then when I was in 10th grade I started to focus more on English. That's probably why my English is better than my Japanese at the moment.
So neither of those are your native language?
Taka: No, I would consider English to be my native language. But I studied some Japanese at least, so I can read.
[Favorite Food Time]
Steve: I actually, it's weird, but I love cheese. It's really true. I love cheese.
Is that hard in Japan?
Steve: Well I've only known Japan prices. I've only known the selection that I run into.
So do you go to the fanciest cheese shop?
Steve: No, no. I just like to eat cheese and lots of cheese. Pizza...
Shun: Compared to any other country, cheese is a bit pricy in Japan. There are a lot of reasons. I'm sure we could get into that, but never mind...
Taka: My favorite food? I don't know. I like American food. I don't even know, that's way too broad. Ketchup, mustard, whatever―cheese, hamburgers. I also like Mexican food a lot, like Mexican flavor, salsas.
[This was surprising to some of the members!]
Taka: And you [to Shun] used to cook!
Shun: Yeah, I'm into cooking. I like healthy food, if I can afford it sometimes. I like making food, anything Japanese. I don't like strong foods, like spicy foods. I like bland foods, universal. The general French, Japanese. Italian is a little strong.
Steve: What is French food?
Shun: French is just, you know…
They have cheese!
Steve: Really? When I think of cheese I think Germany. Is France big on cheese?
[We agree Steve should go check out cheese in France.]
Shiro: I like Mexican food like tacos, pizza.
Shun: Pizza's not Mexican food!
Shiro: That's true...
Steve: Mexican pizza is good… [Note: This is a kind of pizza you see in Tokyo, so it's not weird to say.]
Shiro: Yeah, the Mexican flavor. The salsa sauce. Anyways, I like that stuff. I also like sushi, rice—good rice, plain rice.
Naoto: I'm a vegetarian's nightmare.
I love anything with meat inside. Any form of steak, I will gobble that stuff, devour it.
Shun: Tell us about your love for McDonald's.
Naoto: McDonald's, I'm kind of sick of it.
Naoto: I ate it too much.
Shun: Up until recently, he was...
Shiro: He would like stack different kind of burgers, mix them, make hybrids.
Naoto: Why buy a double cheeseburger, when you can buy two cheeseburgers (which is cheaper) and just stack them?
Shun: Actually, I just made―if you go online on YouTube there's one of our songs with [Code Geass] in the back. Kind of like a semi-music promotion video for fun. The song is called "Agro-Rhythm," really anime-sounding title.
Code Geass © 2006-2007 SUNRISE/PROJECT GEASS, MBS
Steve: I think the main problem me, I can't speak for us, but it's that I don't know enough anime. I've only seen about 4-5 different ones and I like all of them. Recently we've been watching this really silly one called Gintama.
Taka: We don't watch the classic ones like Bleach or Naruto, it's kind of sad.
Manager: How about Dragon Ball?
[It comes out that their music director, Hiroki Takahashi, sang the original theme to Dragon Ball.]
Is there anything you want to answer that no one has ever answered before?
Steve: That's a good question, Jesus.
Shun: I don't know why people don't ask us like, "Why aren't you guys famous already?" They never ask us that. We've been asking ourselves a lot, but sometimes you want people to ask you from a different point of view. Cuz asking, that's like saying, "You should be famous." …I dunno, that's just kinda half-joking!
Steve: What is a question that would make people go "ahhh" if we answer. I never thought of that. You should have warned us about this question in advance!
Shun: I think, how do we see ourselves relating to Japanese? Or if we want actually to make it in Japan or if we're thinking of abroad. It's kind of a serious question, I guess. There's no band like this in Japan that has made it in Japan so far. So, there's nothing to relate to. There's like Monkey Majik maybe, that's closest.
Taka: I'm sure there is, we just don't know about it.
Shun: No, I don't think so.
Shiro: We're a pretty weird group, unique.
Naoto: We can all agree on that.
Do you see that as a challenge or?
Shun: A little bit as an advantage. I mean, I would think so. I don't know about the average Japanese, how they think, I don't know.
Steve: I see it as both, definitely. Like, the way we go about trying to get our music out is very different from how a Japanese band would go about it. For one thing, the language barrier, and I dunno about you guys [in the band], I think though, that we have more Western mindsets in general, about life. So I think it goes both ways; we are different, we are original, but I find it hard sometimes to figure out our place in Japan. But everything's always getting better.
Kando Bando is working towards an official CD debut. You can find them on Facebook and if you find yourself in Japan, catch a show! The next one as of this writing is June 21st at Quarter Note in Tamachi.