Japanther has a curious revolutionary aesthetic. While the sweaty Brooklyn punk duo spend most their time yelping about skipping school and taking fun bike rides, they occasionally reveal they “wanna wanna be a pa-a-art of something” and do vaguely radical things like play on the Williamsburg bridge or devote half their album to clips of spoken-word poetry abstractly exploring Africa’s heart of darkness. Other times, they wage quixotic wars against Canadian Music Week.
You see, Japanther was slated to play an upcoming CMW show at the Silver Dollar Room. But last week, Torontoist received a press release from the band, which (along with plugging their latest record) stated “Japanther recently had a falling out with Canadian Music Week, dropped off their bill and fired our manager. We are playing the Whippersnapper Gallery in Toronto the same night (March 11, 2010) in place of CMW. It’s going to be a breath taking, all ages, art install instead of a corporate rock event and we would like publicize the difference.”
For this alternative gig, Japanther will set up up a fort in the middle of the Whippersnapper and invite their pals from Boys Who Say No, Rich Aucoin, and Doldrums. Being the gossipmongers we are, we contacted drummer Ian Vanek, via email, to inquire about the kerfuffle. Cryptically, he explained, “When the CMW people got wind of us doing something fun at a network hub (Whippersnapper) they began to change their tune. I don’t know what it is about Japanther but people seem a little scared of what we might do next…The industry will be shaped by the artists and not vice versa.”
Hmm. Upon request for clarification, he added, “The nature of the disagreement was the notion artist vs. industry. Japanther have a long standing tradition of playing in real time and space. On bridges, under bridges, out moving trucks in Manhattan, in bathrooms…Taking risks in order to advance our chosen art forms. So when some bullies from Shelbyville tried telling ‘Jimbo’ and ‘Nelson’ howta act WE told ’em ‘eat my shorts!'”
Of the band’s ex-manager, he remarked, “He and his associates are good people. We chose to terminate our contract based on disagreements we had about when and where our group should appear.”
When asked what CMW’s organizers should change about the festival and how it is different than NXNE, which the band played last year, he replied, “I’ve never heard of or been to a CMW and NXNE still owe JAPANTHER $300 USD. REAL TALK.”
Umm. Okay. [ : NXNE publicist Rebecca Webster emailed Torontoist to clarify that “unfortunately, Japanther did not file a Tax Waiver to Revenue Canada for their 2009 NXNE appearance. NXNE did everything possible to try and help the band and their management get their waiver application accepted retroactively but were not successful.”]
So the details are a little hazy, but the gist of the drama is that Japanther refused to compromise their core values at the Music Industry Machine’s request and, like Zapatista insurgents, they’re rebelling from the grassroots, building a fort to shield themselves from the corporate onslaught while they fire back with art-punk grenades bursting with love and light and freedom and justice. Right?
We asked CMW Communications Director Bessie Bullard how it felt being a big authoritarian meanie, and she said that “the band booked an outside show on their own that conflicted with their festival showcase and decided as a result, of their own accord, to cancel their Canadian Music Fest showcase in order to proceed with the other show. There was no falling out—simply a scheduling conflict that couldn’t be resolved.”
Oh…Well, whatever. Nevermind.
Just attend the Japanther gig in the general spirit of rebellion, anyway. Don’t trust anyone over 30 and don’t think about it too hard. Oh, and be sure to buy Japanther’s brand new album, Rock ‘n’ Roll Ice Cream, available on vinyl and as a digital download on March 2!
Photos, from a Washington, D.C. Japanther concert, by sexytfitsum.