With seven members in their ranks, Montreal-based TEKE::TEKE knows how to turn Japanese psych-rock into an experimental jam. Featuring traditional Japanese instruments, flute, and trombone alongside raging guitars and a pulsing rhythm section, TEKE::TEKE creates a sound reminiscent of 1960’s and 70’s era psychedelic Japanese soundtracks (old spy movies, perhaps?), with a frenetic, modern twist.
In line with their recent online performance at SXSW’21 as well as their upcoming album release, ‘Shirushi‘, Popwire spoke with Serge Nakauchi Pelletier, lead guitar and background vocals from TEKE::TEKE.
Hello from Singapore! You guys are a 7-piece band. Let’s start from the beginning, Can you tell us a bit about how TEKE::TEKE formed in Montreal?
We initially formed as an instrumental tribute band to Japanese guitarist Takeshi Terauchi for one show that was part of a local psychedelic music festival our friends organize every year. That first time we played together in front of an audience, there was such great energy in the room, among the band, and with the people, and the musical chemistry was really happening, the whole thing felt really special and we knew right away we wanted to take this project further.
We read that TEKE::TEKE was initially supposed to be a tribute band for Japanese guitar legend Takeshi Terauchi, and incorporates traditional instruments in your music. What made you decide to go towards building something new? In your own words, how would you describe TEKE::TEKE’s sound?
By the second show we did, we had already expanded our repertoire with songs from other Japanese artists of the 60’s and 70’s, and Maya, our singer, had joined the line-up. We felt at that point that if we were going to be a band, we definitely wanted to make our own music. We had a lot of ideas for the sound and aesthetic of the band and were very excited about all the possibilities, writing and playing our own material.
We like to think of our sound as a mixture of experimental, psychedelic rock, and traditional music from all over the world, with a fresh outlook, DIY punk energy, and an overall film soundtrack vibe. We also like to play with nuances of drama inspired by old school Japanese ‘Enka’, especially in the singing style and the lyrics. We like the idea of contrasts and creating effects of surprises.
Let’s talk about your debut album, ‘Shirushi’ whichis coming out on 7 May. What’s the album all about?
‘Shirushi’ is our first full-length, and is both an introduction and an invitation into the world of TEKE::TEKE. We recorded this album with total creative freedom, therefore we humbly feel it is an honest artistic statement and a very accurate representation of what this band is in all its glorious eclecticism.
There are various themes on the album including questions of identity, destruction and rebirth, perseverance, compassion, diversity, opening up to new horizons, all kinds of philosophical ideas all wrapped up into little stories or tales that Maya wrote. ‘Shirushi’ means foreshadow or signs of big changes to come. We mean this in the most humble and optimistic way possible.
TEKE::TEKE’s visuals seem to be influenced mostly by 1960s album artwork. Tell us about the album artwork cover for ‘Shirushi’, and what is your visual creative process like?
Maya does all the artwork for TEKE ::TEKE. For ‘Shirushi’, She wanted to create a powerful image of both beauty and darkness, illustrating parts of the stories told in each individual song and capture the essence and energy of the album. With that in mind, she was also hoping to bring some clues to what the songs are about, especially for non-Japanese speakers.
Maya usually either draws or paints and puts everything together by cutting it out by hand, only then does she transfer everything to her laptop to add some final tweaks.
Out of all the tracks in ‘Shirushi’, if you had to pick the 3 tracks listeners must listen to, what would they be and why?
They would probably be ‘Kala Kala’, ‘Meikyu’ and ‘Dobugawa’ as there’s a bit of everything in them that makes up the aesthetic and sound of TEKE::TEKE ; melodies, experimental noise parts, cinematic vibe, dark psychedelic balladry, and the punk energy.
Congratulations on the online performance at SWSX 2021! We loved the setup and energy during your set. How has it been since Covid for the band? What has kept you busy during this time apart from prepping the release of the album? Covid has, like everybody else, affected our calendar and shifted a few plans, but all in all, we were very lucky as we didn’t have any major shows or tours that got cancelled. The timing of it all actually worked in our favor and gave us more time to really focus on getting the album ready for release as well as creating new content like music videos and other band-related projects.
Considering your music energy feeds very appropriately to the audiophile loves, how has it been for you to play digitally rather than live at this time?
We haven’t done so many of those ‘digital’ shows. They’re obviously very different from real live shows in live venues. They feel a lot more like TV performances and once you approach them as such, it seems to make a little more sense, but they’re still not ‘real’ shows. That energy that an audience throws back at you when you’re on stage is absolutely crucial, there just isn’t a show without an audience, period. It’s another experience completely to play in an empty space.
What can fans look forward to next from TEKE::TEKE?
We’re obviously waiting to see what will happen as far as ‘real’ shows and tours are concerned, but that’s definitely in the plans. We’re also actively working on creating all sorts of band-related content, especially in the form of videos and art, so fans can keep an eye out for that by heading over to our socials.
We’re also already working on new material for our next album.
TEKE::TEKE’s debut album, ‘Shirushi‘ is out on 7 May 2021 via Kill Rock Stars.