Psychoheads: Shaping the Style of Japanese Punk Rock in the 2020s

“We may be doing punk rock, but we don’t think it’s punk to do what the Pistols and Ramones did, for example, in this day and age. We believe that not only music but also various art forms are based on the times.”
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Psychoheads (@__psychoheads.__) band portrait by @s._.uji

The band Psychoheads (@__psychoheads.__) have proven since their inception that, if you have enough attitude, you don’t need money or fame to be a rock star on stage. Like Waater, their sister band on the XPEED label, Psychoheads were missing punk and rock band references of their generation that would move the genre forward. They set out to do it themselves.

In addition to their contribution to XPEED by hosting some of the scene’s most eclectic raves and parties, their powerful live sets have led them to perform at iconic clubs and events in Tokyo. Their impeccable style, as well as being one of the group’s hallmarks, has often linked them to the international fashion industry.

After their EP Lost Everything (2020), they have released this year their first album Pistol Star, sponsored by established figures of the scene such as OKAMOTO’S member Reiji Okamoto. After having shared countless nights out with them, I wanted to (finally!) do this interview with them.

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Psychohead’s bass player HIMENO (left) and vocals Hitoshi Violet (right). Photo: @s._.uji

Chorareii: First, please introduce yourselves! 

Psychoheads: Nice to meet you. We are Hitoshi Violet on vocals, Ylow on guitar, HIMENO on bass, and Takuro on drums. Except for HIMENO, the three of us met at Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo right after we entered the school and formed a band. We have been playing together ever since. 

The bass player has actually changed quite a bit. The current player HIMENO came to the party XPEED held at Club Asia on 12/25 last year, that’s how we met. Right after that event, the previous bass player quit, and we thought he was cool and sent him a DM asking if he wanted to play bass. He had never played bass before, but for us, it was more about looks and vibes, so we decided to meet him anyway. He seemed pretty cool, so he joined the band.

The first time I saw you live was at the rave PURE2000 organized by your label XPEED. Was that your first live show? Have you been playing together since 2020?

No, we started playing in Shimokitazawa live houses and other places in 2019. There we met the band Waater and their friends, and we decided to work together on events and releases with XPEED (named ‘Speed’ at that time) in December 2019.

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Psychohead’s guitar player Ylow. Photo: @s._.uji

I have a feeling that you’ve been playing a lot of parties in Tokyo, and also organizing them, that’s why I’m so happy that your first album is finally out! Tell me about Pistol Star.

We wanted to release an album after releasing the single “Pistol Star” in April 2021, but it took a long time. In January this year, OKAMOTOREIJI offered to help us, and then Giorgio Blaise Givvn agreed to join us. We started recording in February.

It took a long time to make the Pistol Star album, some of the songs were written two years ago, and some were written just before the release. I think you can see our real tension and the ups and downs of the two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the recording, we wanted to capture the momentum, so we recorded the songs in one shot, almost as if we were performing live. We were particular about the comfort of the sound, the atmosphere, and the live sound we play.

What would be the main message you want to convey with your music?

The message is that the city has been in a dark and gloomy atmosphere due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are living our lives like everyone else, and we want to find a little hope in the midst of it all (laughs).

We imagined the lives of each person listening to the song on the train or at home, so we hope people will listen to it with earphones or something like that.

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Psychohead’s drummer Takuro. Photo: @s._.uji

The single “Pistol Star” has been recorded again for the album, but this time you have used auto-tune on the vocals. Why did you decide to do it this way?

We may be doing punk rock, but we don’t think it is punk to do what the Pistols and Ramones did, for example, in this day and age. We believe that not only music but also various art forms are based on the times. 

We are in a band to play 2020s rock, and the use of auto-tune in ‘Pistol Star’ and ‘Ride!’ was one way to do that. The combination of garagey playing and autotune is new, but I’m glad we could get into it comfortably.

Tell me the bands or artists that have inspired Psychoheads.

We used to like The Libertines the best, but recently we were influenced by Nirvana and Black Sabbath. As for Japanese bands, we really like Supercar. 

We love Yung Lean and The Drain Gang. We also used to listen to Justin Bieber a lot! (laughs)

When I interviewed Waater, they told me that they started playing because they felt there was a need for a new rock scene. How do you think the Japanese scene is nowadays?

The Japanese music scene is too big to talk about, and we might not understand it yet, but from what we have seen in the club and live music scene in Tokyo, there are really no cool bands in the youth culture scene.

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“We like the beauty of the band format, and we think it is important to have four cool-looking people playing instruments side by side on stage. We thought that bands that could do that in a cool way were definitely needed in the scene.” — Psychoheads. Photo: @s._.uji

When you look at the fashion of young people on the street or on Instagram, there are many young people who like punk and rock music, but there are no current bands that these young people like, so they all look to Sid, Kurt, or in Japan, Michelle.

We like the beauty of the band format, and we think it is important to have four cool-looking people playing instruments side by side on stage. We thought that bands that could do that in a cool way were definitely needed in the scene.

I wanted to ask you about the support you have received from Okamoto Reiji, a member of the band Okamoto’s, and actually, you mentioned he was a determinant for the recording of your album. How did this connection come about?

Mr. Reiji first found our videos from PURE2000, and then we were introduced to him at a club by the photographer Yui Nogiwa. After that, Waater, Reiji, and us all hung out together, and we became good friends. He often invited us to hang out, and to events, and helped us out with advice. He is a very nice senior.

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Psychohead’s Pistol Star album cover. Artwork: @hit04violet @oftn_to_ampan. Logo: @zekkan_. Photo: @s._.uji Hair: @whyte_masnyank

All of the XPEED label members share a very special fashion sense. When I saw the Psychoheads photos for the album, they reminded me of my teenage magazine posters. How would you define your style?

Our fashion style is so fluid that sometimes it’s hard to define it for ourselves, but I think we (as Psychoheads) are pretty grungy in mindset. We don’t spend a lot of money, it’s like wearing pajamas. But we place great importance on a sense of color and balance.

We like to convey the tension of the moment and to be ahead of the times, rather than always wearing a certain fashion style. So the vibes change from season to season, but we always try to include our own rock elements.

Your live shows are very energetic, you truly act like rockstars! Would you like to live the actual rockstar lifestyle sometime? 

The happiest thing for us is to continue to express what we love, but if we get a lot of feedback and money as a result, that would make us very happy!

It would be great if people like us could carry rock on our backs, become stars, and give people dreams.

Listen to Psychoheads’ music

Follow Psychoheads on Instagram (@__psychoheads.__) and Twitter (@psychoheads_19) 

\(★∀★)/

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