“We are not just a regular punk rock band,” claims Peelander-Yellow, of New York City’s anime-influenced power pop trio Peelander-Z. “We want to be your kindergarten teacher. Why don’t you go back to kindergarten with us and smile and dance and be crazy and then call ‘Peelander-Zuuui’?” Class will be in session at Reggies Rock Club this Sunday night.
Japanese musicians Peelander-Red, Peelander-Yellow and Peelander-Blue met in New York City in 1998 and started Peelander-Z. It was then a quirky, Power Rangers-themed band with all the distortion, screaming, and high-speed guitar solos that characterized punk, but their lyrics never deviated from sugar-amped positivity, and their costumes, while clearly DIY, were never black.
On the contrary, the self-styled “action comic punk” band is about fun. Guitarist and vocalist Yellow (Kengo Hioki), who speaks with a charming flair for malapropism, says, “Energetically we are crazy to a band.” Their enthusiasm matches the speed of their music and the incomprehensible whirr of their manic, heavily-accented lyrical proclamations. A verse from “Ninja-High Schooool,” for instance, goes something like, “It’s hard to learn karate chop/Yes! all day long jump kick/We can make some pork chop/After eating, take a nap!”
Peelander-Green joined the band last year after Blue had to leave. In keeping with the band’s inconsistent but detailed backstory, Blue returned home to assume the throne of Peelander planet. The band’s nominal mission on Earth is to collect smiles to bring back to their home planet–they claim to hail from the Z Area on its surface–in order to feed its people. According to Yellow, the smiles of the audience also give the musicians more energy, which in turn elicits more smiles. This is “new-style Peelander communication.”
The three current musicians, Yellow (Kengo Hioki), Red (Kotaro Tsukada, bass and vocals) and Green (Akihiko “Cherry” Naruse, formerly of the Portugal Japan, drums and smiles) perform in a variety of brightly colored costumes that mimic not only slightly disheveled Power Rangers, but also Mexican lucha libre wrestlers and Playmobil figures.
Peelander-Z is about halfway through its frantic 66-show, two-month tour, which included nine performances in three days at Austin’s South by Southwest festival. “Every show is crazy, I love it,” says Yellow. The band is promoting their fifth full-length album, “P-Pop-High School,” which was released in stores last Tuesday.
The album is intended as something of a departure from the band’s past style. Though they hang on to a loud and unpolished sound, several of the songs, such as the title track and “Let’s Go! Karaoke Party!” drop to brisk medium tempo, and there’s less distortion too. According to Yellow, the idea was to make the songs more approachable so “everyone can dance and sing along with us.”
The band is also increasing its already heavy emphasis on nonmusical performance. They have expressed interest in performing without music one day, and Yellow promised that they would be repeating the act from their music video for “Ninja-High Schooool” which contains a few minutes of antics before the band even launches into the song. “We are going to be big and fight monster and finally be friends,” says Yellow. “If you come to the show you might see the big squid.” They also plan to continue bringing the audience onstage to play their instruments or to participate in their lucha libre antics and their classic human bowling act. “We love punk rock and we love wrestling, we love Japanese animation, we love Power Rangers…If you like cosplay, like anime, Mexican wrestling…wear a mask, if you people want to do something, come with us and you can do on stage…You can scream your mom’s name!” And, Yellow asked me to warn potential audience members, “If I pick somebody, they’d better come on stage and dance with us!”
Reggies Rock Club, 2109 S. State St. April 19. Sunday, 8pm. (312)949-0121. $12. 17+. reggieslive.com