Kemuri are pioneers of the ska-punk genre. Originating in the United States, this Japanese-American band aren’t afraid to be a little different. Their upbeat rock tunes sung in English and Japanese have meant that they’ve got quite a name for themselves since their 1995 debut. Earlier this year they went out on tour across the UK with fellow ska band Less Than Jake, and MyM Buzz got to ask the band’s leader Fumio Ito some questions.
How did you all first meet and decide to start the band?
Fumio Ito: “Me and the bass player Tsuda met at this BBQ party by the river, we played baseball after eating BBQ. We all met through our friend’s and we enjoyed spending time together so we decided to start a band.”
You describe your music as having a positive mental attitude (PMA) – why is that?
“I was a struggling musician and I needed something to encourage myself. Positive Mental Attitude is the phrase that keeps me going to wherever I have to go. I believe a lot of people need something like this too. I also believe that each one of us has our own Positive Mental Attitude for life.”
As you first began the band in America, what was it like breaking into the Japanese music industry?
“That was a challenge. A lot of people couldn’t understand why we sang in English. We were not afraid of not being understood. We tried to do what we believe in. So it was like a small ship trying to take off to an unknown world. You know what I mean?”
After breaking up in 2007, why did you decide to get back together in 2012? What was it like to work together again?
“We were asked to be on this charity concert for people who lost their family and houses in the terrible earthquake and tsunami that happened in 2011. We didn’t know what we could do for those people but we decided to try. It felt natural to be together and we decided to start everything again for ourselves, and also for those who are having a hard time living.”
You’ve just released Ska Bravo in the UK. What was it like to re-record your best tracks and to bring all of the original members of the band back together for it?
“It felt very natural. The oldest song still sounds as fresh as our most recent song. It is funny that everything still sounds so fresh. I think we haven’t grown since then.”
This is your first tour in the UK, how does it feel to be able to be here?
“I feel very wonderful. Can you imagine a Japanese Ska/Punk band touring the UK? That’s something that not every band can achieve. I am very happy and hope to come back to the UK.”
You’re touring with Less than Jake, Mariachi El Bronx, The Skints and The Bennies. How has that been so far?
“That was so much fun and so very challenging. Everyone on the tour was so nice and so very talented. We know we have to work harder to be a part of it!”
Are there any musicians or bands that influence you? Do you have any favourite musicians/groups from the UK?
“Sex Pistols, The Police, Iron Maiden, Leatherface, Broccoli, The Slits, Madness, Bad Manners, and The Specials. Oh, so many and too many. UK bands/musicians are so great!”
What’s next for you?
“Well, I would like to come back again and have fun with the UK audience! That is what I would like to do!”
Kemuri’s latest album Ska Bravo is available to buy from JPU Records now.