Do you like quirky bands with their own original take on the music industry? Well look no further than Budo Grape, a Japanese pop-rock band hailing from “Neo-Nagoya” (as they call it) whose members all claim to have the surname “Grape”. Described as a high energy group with catchy pop songs, the band is comprises Quminco, Nagai, Matsui, Taichi, and 74 (Naho). First formed in 2001, the band have released six albums as well as 10 digital singles in 2015 and 2016. With the quintet set to embark on its third UK tour in November, Nagai and Quminco took some time out of their busy schedule to talk to MyM Buzz to let you know why you should go see them.
How did you each first become interested in becoming musicians? What are your earliest music memories?
Nagai: “There was a punk rock movement when I was in my mid-teens, and I was so into it. The straight, energetic music of The Sex Pistols and The Clash was not only cool to listen to, but it was something that gave me a strong feeling that I needed to start something as well. So, I started to write songs with my guitar right away. My earliest music memories are old Japanese children’s songs that my grandfather sang to me. The sound is still in my ear.”
Quminco: “I started to learn the electric organ when I was four years old. As a child, I liked to play with music using different types of sounds. Before I knew it, I started to write songs and sing. When I was in high school, I saw a sign advertising for band members at an instrument shop. This is how I started a band.”
How did you each begin performing with Budo Grape?
Nagai: “In my previous band, I was both the guitarist and lead vocalist. Instead of repeating that, I wanted to do something refreshing by welcoming a much younger vocalist. This is how we got Quminco, and this is how Budo Grape started.”
Quminco: “When I was 18, Nagai-san talked to me at the band’s practice studio. This is how it started. He told me that I could stay in my other band at the same time, so I thought it would be fun and I joined up with a casual attitude. But soon Budo Grape became the main band.”
What’s the meaning of your band name, Budo Grape?
Nagai: “‘Budo’ is a Japanese word. In English, it means grape and also samurai spirit. I’d be glad if you can think of it as not only being pop and cute but also having some samurai strength!”
Many fans in the UK haven’t had a chance to hear your music yet. How would you describe Budo Grape’s sound?
Nagai: “It’s hard to express with words. I just want to play a song right here right now, and have them listen! Budo Grape is a band that plays music with 100 per cent energy that you’ll never forget after hearing it once.”
Quminco: “Twisted pop music with both colour and darkness.”
Since your debut, how has the band and your music evolved?
Nagai: “Without losing the personality, we have a broader range of arrangement, I think. Also, for the ratio of cute and cool, it was more cute before, but now it has more cool.”
Quminco: “I think that we have more coolness and depth. It’s still interesting and original music, and it’s developed into a dancing sound, too.”
Since you’re coming back to the UK for the third time, maybe you’ve picked up some favourite UK bands? Who are your favourites?
Nagai: “Kero Kero Bonito who we met in London is a cute band. Looks like they’re getting popular. We played with a band called White Star Liners in Brighton, and they were great. I liked their CD, too. Unfortunately, they’re not active now.”
Quminco: “White Star Liners and Kero Kero Bonito. Kero Kero Bonito came to Japan and we had a live show together.”
What gives you inspiration when you’re writing new songs?
Nagai: “Unexpected things become inspiration, like a conversation with someone, words I hear on TV, a novel I’m reading or a billboard I see in town. I don’t listen to others’ music when I write songs, because I don’t want to mimic them.”
How did your fans react to your 10-song digital single project? Did you get the response you were looking for?
Nagai: “It was a good idea to release two songs every three months. There were people who had big reactions to the songs every time, and they gave me encouragement. However, they didn’t sell as well as I expected, probably because we had already announced that those songs will be on the future album.”
Between 2009 and 2012 you each worked on separate side projects before getting back together. How did you feel when you reunited?
Nagai: “I had a few reunion shows with my old band, but Budo Grape kept active without slowing down. So, I was never away from Quminco. I did enjoy performing with my old friends, but now I have to concentrate on Budo Grape and give it my best.”
Your first UK tour was in 2012. Are you excited to be back? What are you looking forward to this time around?
Nagai: “I want to do a UK tour every year! So, yes, I’m really excited to be back after three years. Each time we’ve come to visit the UK, we’ve sold a lot of CDs at the shows, so I’ll be happy if those people check out the music and decide to come back.”
Quminco: “Music fans in the UK give honest reactions. When we give them good music, right away they give back passionate cheers and dances. Music really changes the audience’s feelings so visibly. I’m excited to play the new music that we’ve created while we were away. I’m really looking forward to our reunion and meeting new people. I’m so happy!”
Budo Grape’s new album Oyatsu no Kakushibasho is set to be released on 21 December, but British fans will get the chance to buy the album early on the band’s upcoming tour!
Be sure to check them out in the UK on the following dates:
November 11 @ The Prince Albert, Brighton
November 12 @ Doki Doki Japanese Festival, Manchester
November 13 @ New Cross Inn, London
More info at: http://www.dokidokifestival.com
Budo Grape on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/budo-grape/id128156920
Budo Grape on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BUDOGRAPE