The PINE*am name comes from the artful reassembly of bits and pieces of the band members’ anglicized surnames. It is also an epigram for the bandÂ¹s modus operandi: Playing Intense Neutral Electronica ad nauseAM. Unfortunately, the M.O. only tells half the story. Here is the rest:
To those lucky enough to witness it, PINE*am’s performance at SXSW 2004 heralds a new era in Japanese-American musical relations. Fans and festival badge-carrying passers-by alike shout for, praise, hug and high-five the band. The frenetic performance, the electric stage charisma, the synergy of song, movement and wardrobe, and the adorable demeanor of the three girls from Osaka, Japan snare even the most seasoned critics and rock pundits. What the audience discovers this particular evening is a formidable trio from the other end of the Pacific Ocean. A band that casts just the right balance of hook, line and sinker to snag hit after catchy hit. A band that also possesses the chops and the look to back it up.
Taeca Kinoshita (keyboards), Chizuko Matsubayashi (guitar) and Tsugumi Takashi (bass) form PINE*am while studying at Osaka University of Art in 1999. Chizuko notes that by drawing on its members’ diverse influences, the band is “striving to create a distinct sound.” PINE*am’s blend of machinated drum loops, synthesized swirls, rip-roaring guitars, back-bone bass, and three-part harmonies makes for a Buffalo Daughter cum XXXX cocktail that effortlessly ping-pongs between rock and electronica. A dusting of pop smarts and art-school invention add the finishing touches to an aesthetic that defies categorization.
In 2000, PINE*am records and releases a self-titled debut EP on Orange Records in Japan. The world swiftly embraces the record’s snappy hooks, machine-made rhythms and sweet candor. Over the next few years, the band is asked to contribute tracks to a number of European compilations – Tricatel (France), ShibuyaHot (Germany) and S.H.A.D.O. (Italy) – as well as Orange and USAGI-CHANG RECORDS in Japan. Success lands the band as far from home as Frankfurt, Germany where the band plays its European debut performance at Club Unity in 2001. Subsequent touring of Germany and Japan makes the girls of PINE*am serious contenders for the hearts of men and women across the globe. But there is one more front to conquer…
In November of 2003, three of the cutest girls this side of the International Date Line play The United States for the first time at a Ramada Inn in Los Angeles – PINE*am is on tour in support of a second Japanese release, “Playing Intense Neutral Electronica ad nauseam” (USAGI-CHANG RECORDS). Those in attendance can’t shake the trilingual songs, the spacey sounds or the striking image of the three uniformly pink and black clad performers. Those in attendance can’t seem to shake the smiles from their faces, either.
“Playing Intense Neutral Electronica ad nauseAM” evinces the bandÂ¹s incredible maturation process. The electronics and instrumentation are more playful than on the first record, the lyrics more vulnerable. In mid-March 2004, PINE*am wows the crowd at the Eenie Meenie Records SXSW Showcase, and by the end of that month, the BBC’s “The World” waxes poetic and reductive about the band’s ‘self-titled’ LP as a “thick blend of spunky techno beats, video game bleeps and pop-rock hooks that get stuck in your head.” Eenie Meenie Records signs on to sell records domestically online.
In early 2005, radar screens across North America begin to buzz again with the blips of PINE*am. Early warning signs indicate that the band will take to the great American road in May of 2005. Rumors even circulate that the band has recently completed a third release titled, “Pull The Rabbit Ears,” but the real story lies in one considerable obstacle to the making of the record: Tsugumi lives in Tokyo, Taeca in Osaka and Chizuko in Vancouver, BC. With the help of the Internet, PINE*am parlays this geographic challenge into their most sweeping, gestural and ambitious record yet.
The recording process for “Pull The Rabbit Ears” relies upon an intricate exchange of digital recordings. Demos are sent back and forth electronically across the ocean. New parts are written as the files change hands. Slowly, as the band members lay track after track, the songs begin to take shape. Tsugumi, having sharpened her producing and engineering teeth on the band’s first two records, conducts the colorful pastiche of parts into one coherent whole. From many pieces and places comes one lush orchestral pop-electronica masterpiece. A truly global process for a truly global band.
Look for “Pull The Rabbit Ears” on Eenie Meenie Records on May 31, 2005. North American audiences can catch PINE*am live in May of 2005.
1. Mackerel Sky