EX-Girl is a cabaret, old chum. EX-Girl is a punk band. EX-Girl (of course) is from another planet (called Kero Kero). EX-Girl comes to us from that planet via Japan. EX-Girl is three girls. EX-Girl is avant-garde. EX-Girl will make you rethink what that means.
Mostly, though, eX-Girl is a band for which live performance is an expansive (even on a small stage), theatrical, jaw-droppingly infectious and just plain wacky experience.
The genesis of the band, it would seem, was pretty straightforward. “Well, we have been friends for many, many, many, many thousands of years,” says vocalist-guitarist Kirilo. “And on a lark we entered a singing contest on Kero Kero and won. The Frog King was the judge and he decreed that we should go to Earth and form a rock band so as to obtain knowledge about the concept of ‘a musical instrument.’”
So, from a distant planet-land, eX-Girl (Kirilo and Chihiro, guitar-vocals, and Fuzuki, drums-vocals) have come to learn a little about rock ’n’ roll. And, evidently, they’ve come to teach a bit too. For their take on the rock beast is one that has its arms equally around punk rock, cutie-pop, no wave, Bertolt Brecht and whatever else they’ve decided to bring with them from the planet Frog.
They enter performances lip-synching to a grand operatic entrance march, decked out in elaborate costumes worthy of an interplanetary frog queen with enormous, fluorescent-colored — and this is the only way to describe them, really — alien breeding pods atop their dainty heads. In performance, the three stunners perform daunting, upward-spiraling, a cappella numbers and, eventually, drop the drag-show costumes, strap on the guitars and rock — really, really rock. Like long-distance kissing cousins of the Ramones, the girls work the rudiments of rock with tribal, stand-up, tom-tom-heavy drums-a-pummeling — while unwinding fantastic, surreal tales of this and other worlds.
(Sample narrative in a nutshell: X-Satan has prevented the Earth’s people from speaking the same language by cutting the connector cable in the center of the Earth and sealing it off. Earthlings enlist the help of the mole people. They can’t help either, though they try. The people of Earth ask Frog King for help. Frog King pisses on the seal, opening up the center of the Earth. Mole people have so much fun playing in the center of the Earth that they forget to fix the cable. That’s why we can’t understand each other’s words.)
Frog puppets are made to tell narratives (or, perhaps, channel the voice of the Frog King?) between songs and eX-Girl never shows a crack in the performance armor — whether walking into the venue preshow decked out in space-age matching astro garb or keeping an aloof, doll-like, alien pose after the show while interacting with curious fans.
Simply, if you leave an eX-Girl show without being moved, wigged-out (as it were) or rocked, you’ve got a spoke missing.
Likely the closest real-world analog to the Frog King of planet Kero Kero is eX-Girl’s producer-mentor-Svengali Hoppy Kamiyama (once described as Japan’s Bill Laswell, if that rings any bells). It’s through Kamiyama’s avant lens that eX-Girl’s bubble-plastic, Monster Island-punk siren song is focused into something entirely otherworldly. Kamiyama’s pedigree includes stints in an outfit called Slut with such downtown NYC fixtures as Zeena Parkins, Elliot Sharp and Marc Ribot. He was also responsible for a good number of the sounds — synthesized and vocalized — that made Japanese freak-show disco-noise-punk-funk legends the Pugs such an endearing listen.
So it is that eX-Girl is plugged (or pugged) into an underground and artistic lineage that eschews the thickly layered, self-consciously jet-set pop that too many folks have come to associate with cute Japanese girls making music. But eX-Girl is made up of cute Japanese women (yes, from another planet, but …) and they’re not afraid to skewer that image either. In fact, eX-Girl uses that stereotype and tweaks it beyond recognition (much as the Pugs did with their front woman).
So when eX-Girl name-checks Diamanda Galas, Devo and other punk-fringe luminaries, it’s not without reason. What they leave out are the overt nods to two other outer space evangelists: George Clinton and Sun Ra. Simply, without Ra’s freeform explosion and space-is-the-place mythology, eX-Girl (and many other outfits, of course, including Clinton himself) would be nearly inconceivable. In Clinton, eX-Girl has an aesthetic, DIY freak brother. Not that there’s very much that’s overtly funky about eX-Girl, mind you …
Space may be the place, but eX-Girl is not above dealing with real-world reactions to its music and the perils and pleasures of touring America.
When asked about the difference between Japanese and American reactions to their sound, Kirilo summarizes the findings of many rock ’n’ road researchers: “They seem pretty much the same. They all drink a lot of beer. And we like our fans who now (after two U.S. tours) sing Kero Kero songs with us.”
And on the topic of their last trip to Detroit (a knockout show at the Gold Dollar), her response is even more earthbound: “We were very confused by strange American custom for taking away van, but club and audience were very fun. We look forward to next show.”
Long live the Frog King and all his minions.Chris Handyside is a freelance writer for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]