By Carson Risser
Photos by Toyoko Iwahashi
Plenty of bands start in college. But how many can claim to have played steadily for 17 years with the same members, as TsuShiMaMiRe has?
The band formed in the Chiba prefecture of Tokyo when Mari (vocals/guitar), Yayoi (bass), and Mizue (drums) were all in the same band club. They began covering garage rock trio Blankey Jet City’s songs, and after a couple years started putting out their own music. TSMMR’s songs often combine hard rock with tongue-in-cheek lyrics, ranging “Tea Time Ska,” a slow groove about a boyfriend visiting for tea (“Darling darling darling Darjeeling”) that morphs into screamo and then ska, to “Fa** & Fafa,” from 2015’s Abandon Human, an urgent two minutes musing on the dangerous deliciousness of sodas that contain 0% real fruit.
At the beginning of 2017, it was announced that Mizue would depart from TsuShiMaMiRe. The band played their final show with their original lineup on February 10th. In an email interview, we asked Mizue, Yayoi, and Mari about their favorite memories as a band and what their plans are for the future, as Mizue pursues new projects and TsuShiMaMiRe continues with a support drummer.
Interview with the Full Band
TT: Do you have favorite memories of TsuShiMaMiRe from the past 17 and a half years?
Mizue: There are so many memories, it’s hard to choose. But, one thing is that whenever we toured, the American tours were always fun! The people I met in America, the landscapes, the customs – they all changed my inner values.
Yayoi: In 17 and a half years, we played America more than 10 times! A memory I like is ,when we first went on tour, there were no smart phones and our tour van didn’t have GPS. Looking at a map and speaking poor English, we tried to guide our driver, Brian, and went down a lot of wrong roads.
Mari: A memory I like is, talking a lot on the tour bus about things I normally can’t tell anyone. We talked a lot about love and about the band, and listened to our CD ‘Shocking’ over and over. About five hours later, I realized we had arrived in Yayoi’s hometown, Toyama, from Tokyo. (Author’s note: Toyama is more than 200 miles away from Tokyo, on the opposite shore of Japan.) During that whole time I was singing our praises: “TsuShiMaMiRe is so cool!” I think we are a happy band.
TT: What do you think makes TsuShiMaMiRe different from other bands?
Mizue: When the sounds from all three of us overlap during a show, there’s a huge impact you can’t see with your eyes.
Yayoi: We don’t make music where one person acts as the leader; instead, the members talk and share the same experiences and within that, make music together. Even though the songs are subtle, the shows are explosive.
Mari: Because we became friends in a college band club. As a band, we’re always carrying the emotions from that time. And up until now, we had spent more than half the week together. So, we spent more time together than with our families. It’s a special way to be. Because of that, Mizue’s departure feels very strange. Things like that happen a lot in bands I think, but it was something I personally had a lot of trouble believing. At first it felt really lonely, but now, I am looking forward to seeing a new TsuShiMaMiRe.
Mari~ During that whole time I was singing our praises: “TsuShiMaMiRe is so cool!”
TT: I saw the February 10th show is at Chiba LOOK, which is close to the college where TsuShiMaMiRe was formed. What memories do you have from live shows at Chiba LOOK?
Mizue: When TsuShiMaMiRe first performed at Chiba Look, we had a show where we wore handmade outfits. For example, wrapped in a bathrobe and looking like we just got out of the bath (laugh).
Yayoi: When we were still college students, and longing to do a show at Chiba LOOK, we went to the after-party of a show that our senpai’s band had played. We gave the (Chiba LOOK) manager TsuShiMaMiRe’s demo minidisc saying, “We want to play a show!” We were so tense. It’s a sweet memory of how TsuShiMaMiRe ended up being able to play at Chiba Look.
Mari: I remember when we sold our first demo CD-R at Chiba LOOK. That demo CD-R was called “Hamburger Set.” The 3 recorded songs were, “America No Hamburger” (“American Hamburger”), “Utsubyou” (“Depression”), and “Ochassuka” (“Tea Time Ska”). On the CD-R I drew an illustration of a hamburger; for “Tea Time Ska,” we included a tea bag and a paper cup; and we made hand puppets that looked like French fries; and put them in a white paper bag and sold them. I have good memories of the three of us putting these together.
TT: What do you hope the show on February 10th will be like?
Mizue: I would like to bring out all the groove the three of us have, after 17 years of history, and end joyfully!
Yayoi: I want to put on a show where everyone can forget about the everyday and completely enjoy themselves!
Mari: Like when we sold “Hamburger Set,” we will be selling a “grab bag” in a white paper bag. I’m enjoying the three of us putting these together. I hope that, remembering the joy and fun we had when we first played at Chiba Look, we will play with all our hearts.
TT: Is there anything else you want Tom Tom Magazine readers to know?
Mizue: Thank you for supporting TsuShiMaMiRe! Check out what we are up to in the future, too!
Yayoi: After 2/10, with Mari and Yayoi, and a new drummer, we will show you a TsuShiMaMiRe that will evolve more and more! We plan to write new songs and release a new album as well! Look forward to it! ♪
Mari: After 2/14 a new TsuShiMaMiRe will start to get going as we welcome a support drummer. Please look out for TsuShiMaMiRe’s activities from now on, too!
Interview with Mizue
TT: I read that you play shamisen, but also like heavy rock. What made you want to play drums?
Mizue: My grandmother and mother both love music, and when I was small, they taught me piano, singing, and shamisen. Because I loved music, in middle and high school I joined the orchestra club and became in charge of the percussion instruments. From high school onward, I started to get interested in bands, and when I entered college I joined a band club and started playing drums.
I read that you also like ‘Rage Against the Machine’, and of course TSMMR started as a Blankey cover band. Other than Brad Wilk and Nakamura Tatsuya, what drummers inspire you? Or, what musicians who are not drummers inspire you?
Mizue: I really respect Nakamura Tatsuya’s drumming, but other than him there are no players I especially want to raise up…In high school, when I listened to Cornelius (Oyamada Keigo)’s work, it really influenced how I feel about music.
TT: What do you hope for in your future?
Mizue: I hope, as the drummer Masuda Mizue, I can take on new music pursuits. I would be happy whether it’s in a band or not. I would be glad if my pursuits made it possible for me to come to America again!
Yayoi~We gave the (Chiba LOOK) manager TsuShiMaMiRe’s demo minidisc saying, “We want to play a show!” We were so tense. It’s a sweet memory of how TsuShiMaMiRe ended up being able to play at Chiba Look.
Interview with Yayoi
TT: I read that you’re from Toyama, which is known for rockabilly. Did growing up in Toyama influence how you play music?
Yayoi: In Toyama when I was very young, my older brothers and sisters danced on street corners while blasting their radio cassette player. I think that way of enjoying music you can dance to has influenced me.
TT: What is your favorite thing about playing bass?
Yayoi: Live shows and hang outs.
TT: What do you hope for TSMMR’s future?
Yayoi: I hope that TsuShiMaMiRe’s music can be introduced to different parts of the world. I hope people in various countries will hear us and come to live shows. For that to happen, I want to keep doing things that are surprising.
Interview with Mari
I read in an interview that you liked the Powerpuff Girls because they are cute and tough, like TsuShiMaMiRe. As well as cute and tough, what image do you want TsuShiMaMiRe to have?
Mari: I want us to be the sort of band that will continue to challenge ourselves to do new things while carrying our 18 year history as a band.
Do you have advice for young women who want to play rock and roll?
Mari: If you are fiercely passionate, I think you can play rock and roll. I think it’s not just about being good at playing music; your passion is important.
What do you hope for TsuShiMaMiRe’s future?
Mari: We aim to become the sort of band that can have 10,000 fans gather (to see us) play in on the huge stage at Nippon Budoukan in Tokyo. I want to present a style that we think is cool, and increase our fans more. For that to happen, joining in strength with Yayoi, I want to create cooler music and performances.
Check out the interview in Japanese here